If you have an Xbox One in your home, you might want to check out its energy output. Last year the National Resources Defense Council put out a report detailing how much energy the major consoles use, and it’s pretty significant. The PlayStation 4, Wii U, and Xbox One all use more than their previous-generation counterparts. Sony has fixed one of its issues (switching off USB ports after the controller is charged). It’s the Xbox that is the focus this week, after NRDC senior scientist Noah Horowitz published a blog post about one easily solvable issue with the console.
The Xbox is never really off. Its Instant-On mode means that users can use voice commands to wake the console up. This is its default mode, and users have to navigate through a series of menus to change it. More importantly, they have to know that they can change it. While Microsoft did make Instant-On mode draw less power (18 watts to 12.5 watts), the main issue is that users aren’t given the option to change to a more power-savvy mode during setup. At least, in the United States—European shipments have this mode deactivated as the default due to laws in place to prevent precisely this type of problem. Users are given the option to activate it during setup if they choose to. Instant-On is a neat feature and one that many enjoy.
This is a big deal because the voice activated Instant-On mode is responsible for 40% of the Xbox One’s annual energy consumption. In fact, it could be worth as much as $250 million each year—more energy (just in standby mode!) than all the homes in San Francisco consume annually. This may not make a huge dent in your personal wallet (most users calculate the cost of operating the console as about $20 a year), but it really adds up when you consider all the consoles as a group.
Horowitz points out that Microsoft is making an effort to reduce its energy consumption overall. In 2012 the company pledged to be carbon neutral. The company has investments in wind power. However, the Xbox One energy problem is a major concern with a readily available solution, one that Microsoft apparently hasn’t jumped on as of yet. Even the United States military is aware of the issue, as a new position called “energy unit manager” has been assigned to patrol for energy leaks, including idle gaming consoles. (The Marine Corps Times specifically named Xbox One as the culprit.)
To change modes on your own, go to the Home Screen, press the Menu button on the controller, select Settings, then Power and Startup, and select the energy-saving power mode. Other ways to save energy: this one is pretty obvious, but don’t leave your consoles idle in the home menu when they’re not in use. This is the most power-hogging mode of all, and we all know we shouldn’t leave consoles on like this, but we can slip up sometimes when we’re busy or distracted. Second, know that most consoles have a sleep/standby mode and a truly off mode, and standby does suck up some energy, albeit very little. The trade-off there is that the console will perform background operations in standby mode, some of which may be well worth the energy usage.