Matthew Garrett (mjg59) wrote,
Matthew Garrett
mjg59

My previous entry was somewhat misleading in one respect - the discussion of the power consumption of a downclocked processor. The problem is that nowadays, halving your CPU frequency doesn't halve the power consumption (see the figures in Arjan's slides from OSCON last year, for instance). I'm assuming that this is due to the cache size on modern hardware being sufficiently large that it dominates the power consumption of the processor. Dropping the frequency doesn't reduce the amount of power required to keep the contents of the cache alive, so the saving is less than you'd expect. Deeper C states disable the cache and save much more power.

So, if halving your speed means everything takes twice as long but doesn't even halve your power consumption, what's the point in having P states at all? There's a certain amount of latency and power involved in moving between C states, and if the choice is between rapidly cycling between full speed and C4 or just sticking at low speed and maybe dropping into C1 or C2, then executing code at the lower performance state may be beneficial. The ondemand governor takes this into account by looking at the amount of load on the processor over time, so if this doesn't hit a threshold value it'll assume that you're better off staying at the lower performance level.
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