Like all electronic devices, game consoles consume electricity. And more than you think! The point on the question with the flagship models of the market: the Xbox Series, the PS5 and the Nintendo Switch.
In a context of acute energy crisis, it becomes more important than ever to control the electrical consumption of the electronic devices we use on a daily basis. In France, the Government has already launched a major communication campaign to encourage citizens to adopt eco-responsible actions to reduce their consumption and limit the risk of power cuts this winter with the shutdown of certain nuclear power plants. Especially since, without even mentioning the impact on climate change, the price of electricity has soared in recent months since the conflict in Ukraine: as noted by the Government on its official website, it rose, on the wholesale markets, from €50/MWh at the start of 2021 to €700/MWh during the summer of 2022 to reach nearly €1,000/MWh in September. And the situation is not going to improve anytime soon, with price increases announced for individuals in 2023.
And if we naturally think of household appliances and heating systems, we must not forget all the other electronic devices in our homes that consume electricity in a less visible way. This is particularly the case of game consoles, which are more greedy than one might think at first glance. To get to the bottom of it, the British media Eurogamer, in partnership with hardware experts from the Digital Foundry, decided to compare the actual power consumption of the leading models on the market: Sony’s PlayStation 5, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and S, and Nintendo’s Switch. Measurements were made under different scenarios: when the consoles are off, in sleep mode, on the home menu, streaming on Netflix and, of course, in game. And the differences are quite dramatic, with some stunning results.
To understand and put them into perspective, however, two important details should be noted. First, the Nintendo Switch is not completely comparable to other models, as it is a semi-portable model that runs on battery power. Next, testing on the PS5 was done on the first version of the console – released at launch. Since then, there have been two revisions, and the latest is much more energy efficient.
Xbox, PS5 and Switch: an off console still consumes power
First surprising result: even when they are completely off, the consoles consume energy. Admittedly, the quantity of energy absorbed is rather negligible on an individual scale. But it is not zero! European regulations also stipulate that electronic devices of this type must not consume more than 0.5 W in “off” mode. The PS5 does pretty well with 0.1 W, followed closely by the Xbox Series X and S, with 0.2 W. The case of the Nintendo Switch is a little different since it is the only party console that recharges when turned off. Its consumption then oscillates between 0.1 and 3.5 W, depending on whether it is officially off or in effective charge.
If these results seem rather reasonable, it should be taken into account that, more often than not, the machines are put in sleep mode when the players are not using them – whether by forgetting or to resume their game more quickly. Thus, in standby mode (without downloading in the background), the PS5 consumes 3.3 W, and the Switch 3.5 W – but again it recharges. The Xbox Series X consumes 7.4 W, and the S model 7.6 W. When the consoles are in standby mode with a download in the background, however, it is more complicated. Indeed, the Xbox Series has two sleep modes: standard mode and power saving mode. The latter turns off the console but wakes it up once a day during off-peak hours – between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. – to check for updates and install them if necessary. Even if the consumption is equal, the cost is therefore lower. As a result, the X model consumes 28.7 W and the S 21.7 W when they are downloading in the background. For their part, the PS5 consumes 44.3 W and the Switch a small 5.9 W in mode. Which still makes a hell of a difference!
Energy consumption: the PS5 is the most greedy console
If the PS5 held more or less at the same level as Microsoft’s consoles when idle, that’s a whole different story in action! On the main menu – when players pause the game and then go about their business – the Sony machine consumes 57.4 W, then 47 W after 10 minutes. It’s the opposite effect for Microsoft consoles, with 41.8 W then 45 W after 10 minutes for the Xbox Series X, and with a constant 28.3 W for the Xbox Series S – quite a difference! On the Nintendo Switch side, it consumes 7.8 W on the main menu. To Note that the PS5 and Xbox all have customizable sleep timers, which apply to games, media viewing, and consoles left on standby.
Many gamers use consoles to stream movies and series because they sometimes have better audio output options. But viewing then consumes more energy than going directly through the application. Here, the measurements were carried out with Netflix – it should however be noted that the platform provides an image quality which differs according to the subscription. Results: 80 W for the PS5, and 44.8 W and 44.5 W for the Xbox Series X and S. This option is not available on Switch. Finally, you have to test the energy consumption in game. The tests were carried out on Overwatch 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 (in Performance mode) – the latter is more energy-intensive. The average is 200W and 227W for the PS5, 160W and 180W for the Xbox Series X, and 62W and 82W on the Xbox Series S. For the Switch, the consumption is only 7.25W for Overwatch 2 – Cyberpunk 2077 is not playable on it. The Nintendo console therefore emerges as the big winner – lower performance obliges – while the PS5 is very energy-intensive – but the machine has since been improved – as soon as it is necessary to perform actions that require a little power, such as downloading, streaming and game phases.
There are many tips to reduce the consumption of your console a little. The most radical – but somewhat restrictive – solution is simply to unplug it completely when not in use, at least when going on vacation for example. Otherwise, you absolutely have to remember to turn it off, and not just put it on standby – the difference in consumption is quite significant. A few extra seconds during start-up aren’t going to spoil the fun of playing, and yet they have a real impact on a large scale. For those who do not play online at all, it is recommended to disable the Internet connection on the console, which drains energy unnecessarily.
There is also a rather important and yet very easy to lighten consumption point: the instant start. Indeed, there are two modes to turn on your console. For Xbox Series X and S, there’s Instant Start Mode and Power Saving Mode. The first allows you to turn on the machine in a few seconds but consumes between 11 and 13 W, against only 0.5 W the second. You just have to wait a little longer to launch the console – but still less than a minute (see our practical sheet). Ditto on PS5, which consumes 13 W for instant start, instead of 1 to 2 W. Counting the number of times you turn it on, it’s really worth it – and the cost!
Energy consumption must really become a criterion in the choice of a console so that manufacturers are forced to work on this point for a marketing argument. But remember all the same that PCs consume much more energy than consoles, sometimes double – if not more – because of their graphics card. Just look at Nvidia’s latest creation, the RTX 4090, which absorbs a monster electrical power of 450 W all by itself…