The convenience of the Xbox One is costing you money.
If you have your Xbox One in “Instant On” mode, it’s likely adding a significant amount of energy consumption to your electricity bill, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council environmental group. This is because Microsoft wants players to have the ability to turn on their Xbox One system with just their voice. The NRDC points out that each console has problems with energy consumption, but it finds that Microsoft’s box is particularly wasteful in this area. An NRDC study found that these gaming systems can consume around 10 billion to 11 billion kilowatt-hours annually just in the United States, which is enough to provide electricity to every home in Houston for a year.
“Even when it looks like your Xbox One is off, it’s still drawing significant amounts of power continuously waiting for you to say “Xbox on” around-the-clock,” NRDC director and senior scientist Noah Horowitz writes in a blog. “[This includes] when you’re sound asleep or when your video game-loving child is at school.”
Microsoft provided the following statement in response to the NRDC:
“We designed Xbox One from the ground up to maximize computational power per watt,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “We have a scalable architecture, which means it uses only the computing capacity needed for a task. When it’s ready to respond to ‘Xbox On’ it uses about 12 watts, and in its lowest power state, Xbox One uses a ½-watt. We encourage our fans to visit Xbox Support for written instructions on setting their Xbox One power mode.”
Horowitz goes on to write that the NRDC has repeatedly asked Microsoft to address the “Instant On” feature in the Xbox One, which was a key selling point for the console. It enables you to turn your system on instantly with your voice without having to find the controller or walking up to the box itself. In order to do this, the Xbox One needs to have a constant current of power running through its audio processing core.
“Microsoft refuses to fix this easy-to-solve problem despite repeated requests by our organization,” writes Horowitz. “In the meantime, imagine the energy dollars likely being wasted right now in the more than 7 million Xbox One consoles sold in North America thus far.”
It’s not like Microsoft is completely ignoring this issue. It has managed to reduce the power consumption for “Instant On” from 18 watts to 12.5 watts. But that’s not enough for the NRDC. The environmental group wants Microsoft to make the alternative option to “Instant On” — which completely shuts down the power of the Xbox One and disables the capability to power it on with your voice — the default. Currently, the power-hogging voice-capable mode is the standard when you first boot up the system, and the setup process does not give new owners the chance to switch.
This is exactly the opposite in some other countries.
“Xbox Ones purchased in Europe arrive with the power-wasting ‘Instant On” deactivated by default,” writes Horowitz. “And it presents gamers with the choice of turning on this optional feature during the initial setup if they really want to. That is a much more rational and environmentally responsible approach. And one that Microsoft should adopt worldwide.”
While the NRDC is primarily focused on Microsoft, which it views as the greatest offender, the organization is also keeping an eye on Sony and Nintendo.
Horowitz says that Sony has made some progress with its PlayStation 4. That system, after a recent update, now shuts off the power to its USB ports after the system’s controller is finished charging.
We knew all along that these new consoles would need a lot of power. While the Xbox One has an “Instant On” feature, the PS4 has something similar called “Standby Mode.” This enables the console to download updates and software in the background while mostly turned off.
These are convenience features that many gamers have asked for. And that’s probably why the NRDC is trying to ask the manufacturers to make changes because many gamers would rather have their system ready to go at a moments notice and spend a few extra bucks on their electric bill than have to sit through install screens.