Microsoft Xbox One of the Biggest Household Energy Vampires?

Wondering what one of the biggest energy vampires that might be lurking in your home is, the one that sucks around 10 watts of power continuously when you are asleep? It’s the latest Xbox game consoles - with the “instant-on” option enabled.

Photo: Noah Horowitz

Wondering what one of the biggest energy vampires that might be lurking in your home is, the one that sucks around 10 watts of power continuously when you are asleep? It’s the latest Xbox game consoles - when the “instant-on” option has been selected. Left unaddressed, this extra energy standby power use may add up to around $100 million in energy waste by early next year, in the U.S. alone, and create climate-warming pollution that could have easily been avoided.


We had hoped for an announcement by Microsoft about how they had fixed this problem at this month’s big E3 gaming conference, but no such luck. While Microsoft is often a leader in the sustainability space and claims they are working on it, it has been more than 7 months since the Xbox S and X consoles were launched, and they haven’t made any firm commitment that things will be any better by late fall (when console sales begin to spike for the upcoming holiday season).

Instant On vs Energy Saving

When a user first goes to set up their new Xbox, they are asked to pick either the "instant-on" or "energy-saving" option. As I’ve written previously, most users will be quite satisfied (and have a good user experience) when they select the energy-saving option. When turned off, the user’s place in the game is saved so they can start playing just where they left it when they return. The console can also wake from standby mode to check for and download any software or game updates. Sadly, Microsoft does not mention these benefits when it presents the user with the choice of selecting between the instant-on vs energy-saving options.

With energy-saving selected, the console will only use around half a watt of power in standby compared to the 10 watts Microsoft reported for the Xbox S and 13 watts for the Xbox X when instant-on is selected. With the energy-saving setting the console restarts in about 15 seconds. Microsoft’s online user guide contains outdated information from its earlier consoles and incorrectly states that the consoles take 45 seconds to restart.

With instant-on selected, the console restarts in 5 seconds or less. We think most users would be just fine having to wait an extra 10 or so seconds with the energy-saving option, especially if they realized that it would use 20 times less energy in standby mode than with instant-on. Plus over an assumed five year lifetime of the console, the user who goes with the energy saving option will save around $50 on their electricity bills. A large percentage of users probably select the instant-on setting as the fastest console startup descriptor sounds quite appealing. The only remaining reason for a user to select instant-on is if they plan to buy and install games from their mobile device. And this functionality is not really about instant-on after all, but rather remote access.

Our Ask: Update the User Settings

With a few lines of code, Microsoft can quickly update its user interface and change the way users are asked to set up their consoles. We encourage Microsoft to ship their consoles with the energy-saving feature enabled by default, just like they already do for the units they sell into the European market to comply with local regulations. This way they can take advantage of the great engineering that’s already inside these consoles, where they draw under 0.5 watts in standby and deliver a solid user experience. And for those users that insist on the additional functionality of the instant-on setting, Microsoft can include it in the settings menu and allow the user to select it after the initial startup.

Let's hope Microsoft gets this right very soon so we can all shift our attention to playing games on these consoles, rather than worrying about how much energy they are wasting and all the extra pollution that is being caused while the console is not being used.

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