A recent report says that Microsoft’s Xbox One is an energy pig, drawing more than twice the power of the PlayStation 4 while in standby mode. But Microsoft says that it will continue to improve Xbox One power consumption. And it already offers an option that will partially address this concern, though enabling it will severely impact the console’s ability to stay updated.
“When we first started working on Xbox One a few years ago, we set out to build upon all of the things that made Xbox 360 great, and also address some of the things our fans found frustrating,” the Xbox Wire staff writes in a blog post explaining Xbox One power management. “We sought to improve how Xbox One updated the system, apps and game content and also how the console consumed power.”
It did so using a feature called Instant On (Connected Standby), works as it does in the Windows PC world, by putting the console into a special standby mode instead of turning it off. While in standby, the console can slowly download system and app updates even though it essentially appears to be “off.” And when you wake up Xbox One, it will be fully up-to-date.
“When factoring in the monthly system updates, new features in apps and games and automatic mobile purchase downloads, the Instant-on setting easily saves users countless hours of needlessly waiting,” Microsoft correctly explains. “Instant-on also revolutionized the way you can control your entertainment with voice commands that allow you to power on the console with a simple request: ‘Xbox on’.”
There’s just one problem: Xbox One still consumes electricity when in standby mode. And the costs rack up. So Microsoft also offers an “energy saving” mode that saves customers an estimated $6 to $15 annual energy costs in the United States. (U.S. customers spend $6.50 to $15.50 per year for Instant On, Microsoft says, and $0.26 to $0.62 per year for the energy- saving mode. EU prices are much higher.) But when in this mode, instead of Instant On, the Xbox One can’t download updates. So you will need to install any pending system or app/game updates after you power up, as you do with the older Xbox 360.
Microsoft says that it has also improved Xbox One power consumption over time, just as it did previously over different generations of the Xbox 360. And it claims that it has already reduced the power consumed while Xbox One is using Instant On by a third since launch. Going forward, it will configure new consoles so that the user explicitly chooses between Instant On and the energy saving modes during setup. Existing users can change their power management usage in Settings, Power & Startup.
Microsoft’s post was triggered by a report by the National Resources Defense Council which says that both the Xbox One and PS4 use dramatically more power than their predecessors. (Curiously, the Wii U is alone in consuming less power than its predecessor, the Wii.
“The Sony PS4 and Microsoft Xbox One consume two to three times more annual energy than the most recent models of their predecessors,” the report notes. “NRDC projects that together, these three brands of new consoles will use roughly 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually in the United States alone, once all previous-generation consoles in use have been replaced by new ones.”
Focusing just on the Xbox One here, we see the following data in the report:
Xbox One is the most inefficient current-generation console overall. The Xbox One consumes 233 KWh/y on average, while the PS4 181 kWh/y, and the Wii U 37 kWh/y. Xbox One’s annual energy consumption is roughly 30 percent higher than the PS4’s on average, and more than six times higher than the Wii U’s.
TV viewing impacts energy consumption. The Xbox One spends more time switched on due to its TV viewing mode, NRDC says. “In this mode, the console is used in addition to the current set-top box to access cable or satellite TV, adding 72 watts to TV viewing.”
Better while on, worse when off. While Xbox One consumes more power than PS4 when in standby, it performs better than the PS4 when used for gaming or video streaming.
You really pay when you don’t use the Xbox One. Nearly half of the Xbox One’s annual energy is consumed in connected standby, NRDC says. “The console continuously draws more than 15 watts while waiting for the user to say ‘Xbox on,’ even in the middle of the night or during the workday when no one is home,” the report explains. “If left unchanged, this one feature will be responsible for $400 million in annual electricity bills and the equivalent annual electricity output of a large, 750-megawatt power plant.”
A Roku or Apple TV is much more efficient. Xbox One is “very inefficient” when playing movies, NRDC says, and it uses 30 to 45 times more power to stream a movie than a dedicated Apple TV or Google Chromecast device.
NRDC makes a number of recommendations to Microsoft for improving energy consumption but the Microsoft blog post only addresses one concern: provide an opt-out to Instant On in the initial setup menu. Beyond that, however, NRDC recommends that Microsoft provide a passive HDMI pass-through so that users can watch TV without turning on Xbox One, significantly reduce power consumption in TV mode, allow controller charging over USB while the console is in Instant On, and reduce the energy consumption of Instant On with Kinect-based voice control. It’s worth reading.
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