Playstation 5 – Report on game console energy consumption dings Microsoft for failure to tweak power-saving settings
Energy consumption by the new Xbox gaming console could cost new owners of the Microsoft device more than $500 million on their electricity bills over the next five years, according to a new report by the National Resources Defense Council.
The NRDC points out that the Xbox Series X/S is capable of drawing less than 1 watt with its “energy saving” setting selected, but the units are shipped with the legacy setting of “instant on” highlighted instead. This distinction only saves a user five to 10 seconds when restarting a console, but, in further driving home its point, the NRDC says it could result in the equivalent of one large (500 MW) coal-burning power plant’s worth of annual electricity generation.
NRDC measured the power consumed by the Xbox Series S and the new PlayStation 5 while playing a game, streaming video, and when not being actively used. While user set up and operation is key, NRDC’s Noah Horowitz did applaud Microsoft and Sony for improving the efficiency of the new models.
“To their credit, both the Xbox Series S/X and PS5 consoles were designed to consume very low levels of power when not in use (referred to as standby or rest mode) and are shipped with “auto power down” enabled (this hasn’t always been the case),” Horowitz wrote. “In addition, both console families have standby power levels of 1 watt or lower, with the ability to quickly restart and return to one’s place in a game or movie.”
The report dinged both companies for the energy consumed when consoles are used to stream television and movies, which can be seamlessly done by switching from a video game to a built-in app such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. While it saves a few seconds, the console will draw between 30 and 70 watts — about 10 to 25 times more power than a streaming device like Apple TV, Roku box, or Amazon Fire Stick to watch the same show.
NRDC said it has “repeatedly urged Sony and Microsoft to include a dedicated low-power chip for video playback in their consoles,” and that the request is even more vital in an era when so many people binge watch via console.
Microsoft’s very public commitment to be carbon negative by 2030 is called out in the report, as it relates to the console energy findings. Since July, the company has levied an internal carbon tax on emissions created by its suppliers and by its customers’ use of its products, dubbed “scope 3 emissions” by those who tally carbon footprints. Microsoft was already charging itself for scope 1 and 2 emissions associated with its own business operations, including travel and electricity. The taxes help pay for its sustainability programs.
A Microsoft spokesperson told GeekWire on Friday that users are given a choice during console setup between the two power modes: energy saving and instant on. And that to ensure players can select the option they prefer, they are not opted-in to either power mode by default.
NRDC’s Horowitz argued that removing instant on as a choice “could happen almost overnight with just a few lines of new code.”
“At Microsoft, we are committed to sustainability and as we begin a new generation of gaming with Xbox Series X/S, we’re continuing to explore how we can reduce our environmental impact across the product life cycle — from conceptualization, design, production, and packaging, to what happens once our consoles are in the hands of consumers and at their end-of-life,” the company spokesperson said. “As part of this commitment, we are evaluating additional methods to highlight the benefits of energy saving mode, but have nothing further to share at this time.”