Sony with its PlayStation 3 and Microsoft with its Xbox 360 have come a long way since 2008; but not in the way you might imagine.
According to a study done by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental advocacy group, the two companies have significantly reduced the power usage from both of their main consoles. When they were first introduced into the market, PS3 and Xbox 360 each consumed roughly 180 Watts of power during game play, which equates to two refridgerators. Since then, Sony and Microsoft have reduced this 50 percent to approximately 90 percent.
The Natural Resources Defense Council says the video game companies have done a good job improving energy efficiency and getting it to a more respectable level (Nintendo's Wii only uses 25 watts per game play). However, the organization says there is still more work to be done. In particular, systems have to get better at revving down power during menu mode. According to the study, the consoles use 80 percent as much power in menu mode as when they are actually playing.
Making consoles use only as much power as required by the task at hand would significantly reduce the annual energy use and electricity costs of video game consoles without any impact on their performance, Noah Horowitz of Natural Resources Defense Council said in a blog post.
Even worse than menu mode according to the Natural Resources Defense Council is the video game console power usage in sleep mode. When video games aren't in use, unless they are completely turned off, they are still using full power. There is a feature on both Sony and Microsoft's consoles that can cause the console to consume lower power usage in sleep mode, but the organization says this feature comes disabled.
Users need to know about this option and physically go into the menu and turn this feature on. You can probably count on one hand how many people have done this. It's mind boggling that this important feature is still designed as an opt in, rather than shipping devices with this option enabled and allowing consumers to instead opt out should they want to, Horowitz said.
The Natural Resources Defense Council says leaving a video game console on while not playing it is wasting $50-100 per year. The organization also said the consoles are using up too much power when display movies. While both companies have made concerted efforts to make their consoles more entertainment friendly, it isn't necessarily environmentally friendly.