Big Brother Consoles Are Also Energy Hogs

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When I first heard about the latest Xbox model, my biggest concern was that it was always watching, waiting and lurking. Okay, maybe “lurking” is an overstatement, but you know what I mean. It’s very Orwellian, and I was completely creeped out knowing that the console—and conceivably someone out there—could be seeing what I do in the privacy of my own living room. The good news is that Microsoft (manufacturer of the Xbox One) reversed the always-on DRM policy pretty much right after they announced that its always-on feature was awesome. The camera only watches you when you want it to … for now. The problem is that the Xbox One is still always listening and it pulls power consumption rates that make this console anything but green.

POWER SAVING SETTINGS THAT PEOPLE IGNORE

So here’s my issue with the Xbox—and don’t worry, I’ll get to the PlayStation 4 in a minute—although there’s a power saver setting available, how many people will go through the trouble of switching the settings? Ian Steadman over at “New Statesman” pointed out that the Big Brother-like watching habits of Microsoft’s newest console don’t bother a lot of people. He also drew the “Minority Report” connection that I immediately thought of, which does little more than elevate the creep factor. Remember that scene when Tom Cruise is trying to get away from the antagonists of the film and all the advertisements are flashing up on the screen, specially suited to each individual’s tastes? That’s what the Xbox can (and does) do.

So, because so few people have issues with a machine watching and listening to them, it’s not unbelievable that most people will just leave the power-sucking feature on—the one that allows the Xbox to sit around, even in the middle of the night, waiting for you to say, “Xbox on.” And the freaking Xbox website even discourages the “save energy” setting. In a bulleted list, the site states: “Save some energy, but: Get interrupted for updates: starts in 45 seconds, start up with the power button.” I love (read: hate) the verbiage here.

They might as well say, “Sure, only use ½ a watt in this mode, but it’s so inconvenient that we know you don’t really want to do this anyway.” Because we can’t get up off our butts to turn the console on with the power button and we have to wait for what seems like an eternity, but is only just 45 seconds for the system to come up. Seriously? If you want the convenience of “Instant-On,” then you only have to wait two seconds for the console to come on. Great. Because saving 43 seconds when I’m planning to sit on my butt and play meaningless video games is what I’m really worried about.

WATCHING TV WITH THE XBOX ONE IS A BAD IDEA

So I’ll admit that I’m not an Apple kind of gal, but there’s something to be said for Apple TV: it uses about two watts to stream an HD movie. Watching the same movie through the Xbox One will cost you 72 watts. Although 72 watts doesn’t seem like much—isn’t it kind of like a light bulb? —The fact that you can accomplish the same tasks with less impact is what’s important here. Plus, almost half of the energy consumed by the Xbox is used when it’s in standby mode. That’s just wasteful.

WHAT ABOUT THE PLAYSTATION 4?

I told you I’d get to the PS4. Although it doesn’t watch you or listen for your commands like an electronic minion, the newest PlayStation’s USB ports are always active, causing the PS4 to consume a total of 181 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year. It should also be noted that watching a movie with the PS4 is even worse than watching one on the Xbox One; the PS4 uses 89 watts for an HD movie. Shame on you Sony. It’s time for an energy-conscious design.

Interestingly enough, the Nintendo Wii U actually consumes less energy than the previous generation Wii, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The Wii U consumes 37 kWh/year rather than 40 per year. Overall, it’s the best choice of the three from an energy consumption standpoint.

I know I’m throwing a lot of numbers around here. Just bear in mind that one CFL light bulb uses just 13 watts. I know I’m very conscious about turning lights off in unoccupied rooms, but it turns out leaving several lights on in an empty room is better for the environment than having one of these suckers plugged into the wall. To put it another way, the energy from all three of these consoles used across the US (the Xbox One consumes 289 kWh/year) would be equivalent to the electricity used to light all of the homes in Houston, Texas, for the year.

It’s unclear how—or if—Sony and Microsoft will address this power consumption issue, but one thing’s for sure: if conserving energy is a priority for your home, I’d steer clear of these energy hogs.

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Megan Winkler

Eco-nerd, solar power enthusiast, DIY diva and professional coffee drinker, Megan has written everything from courses in healthcare and psychology to interior design and cooking advice. She has a master’s degree in military history, owns two chainsaws, is a collector of strange trivia and a world renowned Pinterest pro. She is constantly looking for better ways to do things.

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