The environmental cost of games consoles
[bild1]The meter spins at an astonishing rate when you're using a games console. Forgetting to turn off your Microsoft Xbox 360, for example, is equivalent to plugging in five empty refrigerators. A study by the American environmental protection organisation National Resources Defense Council presents some up-to-date figures on the issue. According to the study, the PS3, Xbox 360 et al. consume a total of 16 billion kiloWatt hours of electricity per year in the United States alone, equivalent to the total energy consumption of San Diego in California.
The number of households in the US with a games console exceeds 40 per cent. According to a Bitcom survey, a quarter of all households in Germany have a non-portable console, with one survey finding that 71 per cent of households with children own a games console. German power prices, however, don't keep pace with the low US ones used in the NRDC study – 10 US cents per kiloWatt-hour.
The NRDC table is headed by Microsoft and Sony. The PlayStation 3 is the worst for energy consumption, at around 180-190 Watts – although the latest 2008 model uses just 120W when idle and active according to measurements made by the editorial team of heise online UK's German sister magazine c't.
The Xbox 360 comes in second at just under 120W. Nintendo's Wii is dramatically lower, with a power consumption of just 16W. One thing which was conspicuous from the US tests is that the consoles do not have effective energy-saving functions. Energy consumption when active is almost the same as that when idle.
|Power consumption in Watts|
|Sony PlayStation 3||2006||1.1||181.0||188.6|
|Microsoft XBox 360||2005||2.2||162.0||172.0|
|Sony PlayStation 2||2000||1.7||24.2||24.2|
|Nintendo Super Nintendo||1991||1.5||5.4||7.3|
Both Xbox 360 and PS3 have auto-off functions, but, according to the authors of the study, it is hidden away in obscure sub-menus and is deactivated by default. Interestingly, there were also differences between games. In some games energy consumption even went up when the game was paused. On the PS3, the variation in power consumption between games was as much as 20-25W; on the Xbox 360 it was 10-15W. Games which could be played straight from the hard drive reduced energy consumption by around 30W.
Overall, according to the report, for the current generation of consoles 11 million kiloWatt-hours per year could be saved just by including an effective auto-off function – that corresponds to saving 7 million tonnes of CO2, roughly the amount emitted by three 600 megaWatt power stations in one year.