Group Says Latest Game Consoles Can Be Power-Hungry Streaming Devices

A recent report focusing on the latest generation of game consoles suggests these high-powered machines offer impressive standby modes, but can gobble up energy depending on how you’re using them. The Natural Resources Defense Council says while Microsoft’s new Xbox lineup and Sony’s PlayStation 5 consoles make it easy to stream from services like Netflix or Disney+, they can consume anywhere from 10 to 25 times more power than a dedicated streaming device.

The report, published last week, focuses on the recently released Microsoft Xbox Series S and Series X, as well as Sony’s PlayStation 5 with and without an onboard disc drive. Hands-on testing relied on a Series S and both versions of the PS5 and the group’s findings show this latest generation of game console can consume around 160 to 200-plus watts of power when running games designed specifically for those systems.

The power story changes a bit when these new consoles are running games designed for previous-generation consoles, aka backwards compatibility. Thanks to efficiency improvements in their more current hardware, the new consoles can run those older titles often with better performance while still consuming less energy than the consoles they replaced.

As for streaming, we’ve noted that these new game consoles have far more than enough horsepower at their disposal to serve as capable streaming devices. However, the NRDC’s data suggests that all-in-one convenience might come at the cost of higher energy bills. The group estimates using a new Xbox or PlayStation console to stream Netflix or similar services could require 10 to 25 times more energy than if you used a dedicated box like, say, a Roku Ultra or a Chromecast with Google TV.

For example, the Xbox Series S, which is intended to be cheaper and less powerful than the Series X or PS5, needed roughly 31 watts to stream from Netflix and 41 watts for Amazon Prime during the NRDC’s testing. The more powerful PS5 used around 68 to 70 watts for the same services, and it’s possible the Series X would require similar power.

That all being said, the NRDC did praise both Microsoft and Sony for improving efficiency when these new consoles are not in use. The new machines can consume less than 1 watt when they’re in so-called standby or rest modes, although the group did recommend Sony and Microsoft look into ways to further improve their respective energy-saving options.

Overall, it’s not all that shocking that machines boasting high-end gaming hardware consume significant energy, but it is interesting to see how it all can add up, especially if you’re aiming to save money on your energy bill. The Xbox Series S/X and PS5 are certainly very capable streaming devices — even if certain features, like 4K output through the PS5’s Disney+ app, are still missing. But if energy consumption is a concern (and you have the budget and HDMI availability to allow for it) a dedicated streamer might be a sound investment.