Game Consoles & Energy Efficiency–Level Failed?

According to a new issue brief from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the latest-generation game consoles will use enough electricity to cost US consumers $1 billion annually, despite incorporation of some energy-saving design features, such as better power scaling and transitioning automatically to a lower-power state after an extended period of user inactivity. A significant portion of that cost (around $400 million) will be spent when the consoles are in “standby” or sleep mode. The amount of electricity used by these consoles is equivalent to the amount used in all household within the city of Houston, TX, the fourth largest city in the US.

With funding from the US EPA, NRDC followed up on its 2008 report on the energy use of video game consoles, performing laboratory tests on the most popular consoles, including the Nintendo Wii U, Sony PlayStation 4, and Microsoft Xbox One. Follow this link to access the updated issue paper, available on the NRDC website. Results show the Sony PS4 and Microsoft Xbox One use two to three times more annual energy than the most recent models of their predecessors. The Wii U consumes less energy than its predecessor (the Wii) while providing higher definition graphics and processing capabilities, thanks largely to is low power use in connected standby mode.

Other key findings include:

  • The new consoles consume more energy each year playing video or in standby mode than playing games.
  • While the new versions are more powerful, the two- to three-fold increase in energy use is due to higher power demand in standby and on modes and, in the case of the Xbox One, more time switched on due to its TV viewing mode. 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.
  • The Xbox One draws less power than the PS4 in on mode. However, the Xbox One consumes a lot more energy when not in use (connected standby mode).
  • Nearly half of the Xbox One’s annual energy is consumed in connected standby, when 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 PS4 and Xbox One are very inefficient when playing movies, using 30 to 45 times more power to stream a movie than a dedicated Apple TV or Google Chromecast.

NRDC recommends improvements that console manufacturers could make to reduce the energy consumption of game consoles, and at the end of the aforementioned issue brief, they provide tips for gamers to make changes in their new console settings to reduce energy consumption in the meantime.

Author Pierre Delforge notes in his blog “Testing was performed on launch units with system updates up to mid-April 2014. The effects of any system updates and hardware improvements released after that date are not reflected in the report. We just heard from Sony that new PS4s sold with the 1.70 software version released on April 30, 2014, reduce the default auto-power down time from two hours to one, and include a TV screen-dimming feature. We applaud Sony for these energy-saving improvements and encourage them to implement our other recommendations as soon as possible.”

See the ENERGY STAR Game Console Version 1.0 Recognition Program information at While this program is in effect, there do not seem to be any certified game consoles currently listed on the ENERGY STAR web site (

See also ENERGY STAR’s information on ‘Standby Power and Energy Vampires,” as well as the “How Vampire Power Works” over on the How Stuff Works website.


Leave a Reply