The United States’ Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC for short) doesn’t accept how (both models of) the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X draw too many watts.
The two next-gen consoles each draw 160 to 200+ watts of electricity when used, which is higher than their predecessors and more power than a 60-inch TV, the NRDC claims. They published a lengthy report on the topic, and you can read it here. While they praised the platform holders for making the new consoles reduce their power consumption in their respective rest modes, they pointed out that the Xbox Series X’ Instant-on mode (which is enabled by default) is a mistake on Microsoft’s end.
„Based on modelling NRDC performed through 2025, this one seemingly inconsequential decision by Microsoft could result in the equivalent of one large (500 MW) coal-burning power plant’s worth of annual electricity generation and cost new US Xbox owners roughly $1 billion on their electricity bills. Given that there is very minimal user benefit from Instant-on, it’s surprising that Microsoft — which publicly announced that ‘by 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative… and launch an initiative around the world to help their suppliers and customers reduce their carbon footprints’ — does not ship its consoles with the energy savings option enabled by default (and perhaps remove the ‘instant on’ choice during the initial set-up). Such a change could happen almost overnight with just a few lines of new code,” wrote senior scientist at the NRDC Noah Horowitz.
NRDC estimates that roughly two-thirds of users kept the default Instant-on mode enabled on their Xbox, and due to that, they are „poised to waste almost four billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in the US alone through the end of 2025 when in standby mode and not being used.” Horowitz says that’s approximately three million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. They clarified that the power consumption of the consoles is particularly high when playing next-gen games, but „significantly lower when playing games designed for older consoles and are backwards compatible.” (For example: Astro’s Playroom – 180-200W on PlayStation 5; NHL 21‘s PlayStation 4 version: 80-104W.) However, the Xbox Series S was praised for drawing less power than the other three consoles also highlighted as a positive, as it drew lower power levels while playing a game than the other three next-gen consoles (Xbox Series X/PlayStation 5 Standard Edition/ PlayStation 5 Digital Edition).
NRDC pointed out that streaming a film or a series also result in high power consumption. particularly when switching from playing a game to streaming a show: „This may save a few seconds, but 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. We have repeatedly urged Sony and Microsoft to include a dedicated low-power chip for video playback in their consoles, and this request is even more important today given the potential for long hours of ‘binge-watching’ via the console.”
NRDC called for Sony and Microsoft to conduct studies on how players use energy-saving options on their consoles and „generate a public-facing report on national game console energy use, which hopefully will drive future energy reductions and carbon savings. Such a study should also take into account the energy and related carbon emissions caused by the increasingly popular cloud-based gaming, where much of the computing is happening off-site in energy-intensive data centres.”