I just got my power bill for Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, and while I was ready for a big number after switching from oil to a heat pump, I'm wondering if my PS4 and Xbox One weren't the real culprits. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, I can expect to pay $150 in the next five years on the Xbox One alone.
[The lede paragraph has been corrected; the original version of this story mistakenly gave the power bill figure as one year. It is five.]
Every so often the NRDC likes to remind us how much power our video game consoles actually consume. The dawn of a new console generation is a good time to remind us again and, big surprise, the Xbox One and PS4 use a lot more juice than their predecessors.
As presently configured, the consoles "may still use up to three times more energy than their most recent predecessors" because they're running more sophisticated games, they're streaming video, and they're using more power in their standby modes—the Xbox One in particular. The Xbox One's utility as a cable TV box also adds to the power suck.
The NRDC isn't out to condemn our fun, though, and notes that "Sony and Microsoft have done a lot to make sure the energy use of these devices was not even higher." Examples of that include more efficient power supplies and multi-core processors that can back down the power usage when they're managing tasks that don't require full power. "The new models also allow for charging the USB controller and headset from sleep mode, eliminating the need to keep the console on just to charge accessories." That's a big step up, and in fact I use my PS4 to charge my PS3 peripherals in this way.
Still, the NRDC's analysis concluded that the Xbox One "uses more energy per year than the Ps4 due to its very high connected standby power level," in part because it has to be ready for someone to come in to say "Xbox on," to power up on voice command. "This 'always listening' feature is responsible for almost half of the Xbox One's annual energy use and consumes more electricity annually than the 50-inch TV to which it might be connected," the NRDC noted, in all boldface type.
All told, the introduction of the Xbox One and the PS4 into the United States' energy ecosystem means we'll be using 10 to 11 billion kilowatt hours of juice each year—that's an annual bill of $1 billion alone—just to power the things. That's enough power to run all of the households in a city the size of Houston—the fourth-largest city in the U.S. The last time we ran one of the NRDC's analyses, consoles only used as much electricity as a city the size of San Diego, the eighth largest municipality in the U.S., with about 800,000 fewer residents.
What needs to be done? Well, the NRDC notes that Sony's standby mode consumes 8 watts of power, while laptops in standby can also charge two peripherals at an energy cost of 1 watt. Microsoft, says the NRDC, needs to figure out how to drop the power use of an Xbox One in standby. "There is no reason they should consume over 100 kWh per year, mostly in the middle of the night waiting to hear someone's voice asking the console to wake up," the NRDC writes.
New PS4 and Xbox One Game Consoles: A Mixed Bag for Energy Efficiency [Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog]