In terms of overall capabilities, both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are a good improvement over the previous generation. But, one thing that's not been talked about too much is that with these increased capabilities have come higher power requirements - and the differences are somewhat staggering.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, both of the "next-gen" consoles can draw up to 2 or 3x the power of the previous generation. That's a massive leap, given it's generally expected that future consoles will be faster, but more power-efficient. So, what's responsible?
The biggest reason is that both consoles will be regularly used for non-gaming content, and for those purposes, the power requirements are far too high. To stream a movie, for example, both the PS4 and XBO could draw between 30~45x more power than a dedicated streaming device, such as the Apple TV or Chromecast.
The Xbox One is especially guilty in this report, thanks to the fact that it draws a lot of power in its "Always listening" mode. Kinect is constantly waiting for your beckon, and because of that, the console will continually suck 15W out of the socket. That seems minor in the grand scheme, but given we're talking 24/7 operation, it adds up. In fact, the NRDC estimates that this simple feature will be responsible for $400 million in annual electric bills. Given we're talking about a console mode that's effectively "off", that seems ridiculous.
The NRDC lays out a couple of suggestions for both Microsoft and Sony, and most of it hinges on vastly reducing idle or standby power and includes the ability to use a "TV mode", something that doesn't even seem possible. We'll see how both companies will respond, if at all.
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