The new generation of gaming consoles uses about as much energy in standby mode as playing games

PS4 Game controller
Public Domain PS4 game controller, Wikimedia

A few years ago, green blogs used to write a lot more about 'vampire power'. It doesn't have anything to do with the popularity of Twilight and True Blood, but rather, it describes how various gadgets keep sucking power even when you're not using them and think that they're turned off.

Why does it matter if my stereo or television keeps using a few watts while it's turned off? Because things tend to spend a lot more time off than on, so even if you use something that uses 100 watts for one hour a day, if it spends 23 hours in standby mode, stealthily draining 5 watts per hour, that adds up to 115 watt-hours, which is more energy than the thing consumed while in actual use. 2 watts here, 4 watts here, and this all adds up to a load on the power grid that is equivalent to many power plants, and all that energy doesn't really provide a service that makes anyone's life better.

Gaming consolesNRDC/Screen capture

Consoles suck... a lot of power

One device that is guilty of this is the gaming console. The 4th generation of consoles came out this year, and the NRDC took a closer look at how much power they use doing various things, including being idle.

Gaming consoles energy useNRDC/Screen capture

As you can see above, we're talking about a pretty massive amount of energy.

Gaming consoles energy useNRDC/Screen capture

Notice here the second set of bars from the top, the connected standby mode. That's how the console is most of the time when you think it's turned off. The Xbox One is doing particularly poorly here because it constantly must listen for people to give it voice commands to turn it on. So even in the middle of the night or when no one is home, it must listen, and that uses around 15 watts of power...

Gaming consoles energy useNRDC/Screen capture

The only console of this generation that does better than the previous generation is the Wii U. Unfortunately, it's also the one that has been kind of a flop and isn't selling well...

Gaming consoles energy useNRDC/Screen capture

This graph makes obvious just how much electricity the standby mode uses. If you add to that video playing, this is more total electricity than what's used to actually play games...

Consoles energyNRDC/Screen capture

Another problematic thing when it comes to energy-efficiency is that newer consoles are also billed as video devices. They can stream Netflix and play DVDs/Blurays, but compared to other specialized video streamers like the Apple TV or dedicated Bluray players, they use vastly more power.

To improve things, the NRDC has a few recommendations for the console makers:

  • Reducing Xbox One power draw when in connected standby with voice command enabled.
  • Reducing PS4 power draw in standby with USB ports live (when no device is charging).
  • Reducing Xbox One TV-mode power, and giving users the option to watch TV when the console is off or in a very low-power state.
  • On both the Xbox One and PS4, reducing video-streaming power to levels closer to that of a dedicated video player.
  • Allowing users to opt out of "Instant On" and voice-command features in Xbox One's out-of-the-box setup menu, so they use this high-energy-consumptive mode only if they choose to.


The new generation of gaming consoles uses about as much energy in standby mode as playing games
Consoles suck... a lot of power.

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