PS5 vs Xbox Series X: With great power comes greater electric bills

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Which console wins?
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It turns out the new PS5 and Xbox Series X both use tons of power. This is according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a not-for-profit organization that advocates for environmental rights. 

Per the organization's findings, annual energy costs will increase for PS5 and Xbox Series X over the previous generation of consoles for owners. The NRDC estimates that Americans with the Xbox Series X can cumulatively expect to pay over $1 billion towards electricity bills over the next five years. 

The Xbox Series X and PS5 draw between 160 and 200-plus watts of electricity during use, which is higher than the previous generation. It varies between titles, as more graphically intensive games will hit higher wattages. Unsurprisingly, previous-gen games played via backwards compatibility can go as low as 80 watts.

When comparing both the PS5 and Xbox Series X, there are some slight differences. The Xbox Series X can draw less than one watt of electricity with its energy-saving mode enabled. Unfortunately, units in the U.S. ship with "instant on" enabled, which draws more power. 

According to NRDC: "Through 2025, this one seemingly inconsequential decision by Microsoft could result in the equivalent of one large (500 MW) coal-burning power plant’s worth of annual electricity generation."

(The NRDC didn't specify how many Xbox Series X units would need to be sold in the U.S. to reach that level of energy consumption.)

Switch to save energy

If Xbox users were to switch to energy-saving mode, it would allow for greater environmental benefit, the NRDC said, although doing so would add an additional 10 seconds of load time when activating the system.

Interestingly, streaming content via Netflix or Amazon Prime on either the PS5 or Xbox Series X can draw 10 to 25 times more electricity than using other streaming devices, such as an Amazon Fire Stick. 

This is because both Sony and Microsoft have opted to allow gamers to quickly switch between streaming content and gaming content. That means games have to continue to run in the background while Netflix is being watched. 

The NRDC said it had "repeatedly" urged both companies to include a dedicated low-power chip for video playback, a request which seemingly went ignored. 

In terms of energy consumption, the Xbox Series S used the least amount of power when streaming content, between 31-41 watts. The Xbox Series X came second at 40-53 watts. And the PS5 drew the most load at 68-70 watts. 

The European way

The NRDC is advocating that Microsoft, at least, send out an update making energy-saver mode the default for the Xbox Series X and S, as is already the case in Europe. 

Doing so would potentially save four-billion kilowatt hours of electricity in the US. And of course, if consumers chose, they could switch back to "instant on" in the settings menu. 

The NRDC was quick to point out the statement Microsoft made in January of 2020 regarding its commitment to being carbon negative by 2030. Not only would this move save Xbox owners $500 million in utility bills, it would prevent three million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. 

The report did praise Sony's rest mode, during which consoles used less than one watt when in standby. Wakeup time from rest mode is longer on the PS5, however, lasting between 10-15 seconds. The PS5 also ships with rechargeable controllers, which forgoes having to replace batteries. 

But the PS5 could improve on powering down faster after a user finishes streaming a movie. It seems that the Xbox is smart enough to know when a movie has finished, and will quickly power itself down. 

The PS5, on the other hand, will continue to remain on for at least an hour before going into a lower powered state. The NRDC encourages Sony to find a solution. 

Imad Khan

Imad is currently Senior Google and Internet Culture reporter for CNET, but until recently was News Editor at Tom's Guide. Hailing from Texas, Imad started his journalism career in 2013 and has amassed bylines with the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN, Wired and Men's Health Magazine, among others. Outside of work, you can find him sitting blankly in front of a Word document trying desperately to write the first pages of a new book.