Xbox 360 Slim Most Energy-Efficient Design Yet, Wii Still 5X Better

Game console hardware updates usually mean several things: Smaller, sexier designs; quieter fans; less weight; more memory and less electricity consumption. This is definitely the case with the new Xbox 360 Slim, which is great news for anyone interested in saving energy and increasing efficiency. Of course, with more pipelines for digital content and movie distribution, consumers are already using less plastic and gasoline to get their games (the PSPgo is a great example). The real opportunity, looking forward, lies in improving the efficiency of the gaming system hardware and consoles themselves.

The new Xbox 360 Slim (or “Valhalla”) system is top-of-mind right now, because it looks great, and is smaller and lighter than its predecessor. Hopefully, it will be less prone to the red ring of death!

What you may not know is that it also has a smaller energy footprint — significantly smaller. The Xbox 360 Slim uses half the electricity of the original design sold from 2005-2007, and that includes gaming use, dashboard, and system idle. This means that high-end games such as Red Dead Redemption will draw only ~85 watts of power, down from ~170. It also means less heat and overheating problems. If, however, you’ve got a more recent-model 360 (from 2007 onward) your system is probably using 115W for high-end games. But let’s face it –who has had the same Xbox 360 for the past three years?

I was at the Zero Hour launch event of the first Xbox 360 held in the Mojave Desert, and I recall being impressed with the system architecture. In retrospect, the desert may not have been the ideal place to premier such a heat-prone system, and that’s why they launched at night. It was beautiful and functional — there’s no doubt about that — but 360s have always been loud, hot and unreliable. I felt cheated when I saw the size of that huge power brick hanging off the back. No wonder the system looked so good; half of it was outside!

Considering that the original Xbox never got a facelift, the Xbox 360 Slim is a welcome improvement and a step forward for Microsoft. The power supply, while considerably slimmed down, is still external and large. Sony, as a comparison, launched an improved PS3 Slim in September 2009 that takes 35% less power than the original and is also quieter. So the Xbox 360 Slim is Microsoft’s way of keeping up and stepping ahead, with 50% less power consumption. Keeping in mind that most people have the newer 360s, which aren’t nearly as power-hungry, is this win for Sony?

One of the most amazing improvements to the Xbox 360 S is less “vampire” power consumption. When the system is turned off, the new model takes only 0.6W of power, compared to2.0W-2.8W for the older models. This is thanks to an updated 135W power adapter (the older ones being 150W and 175W). It may only add up to a few dollars a month for most households, but even that is huge incrementally, given that 40,000,000 Xbox 360 systems have been sold worldwide as of April 2010. That’s a colossal $40M of wasted vampire power alone.

Overall, a “thumbs up” to Microsoft. The new design has a cooler running system with less noise (45-50 decibels down from 50-55) and it saves energy. Before you rush out and upgrade however, consider how old your current system is. You may already be hovering at ~110W with most games, and it’s pretty wasteful to toss a whole system out for a ~20W gain.

For more statistics and tests on the new Xbox 360 Slim and older models visit AnandTech. And if you’re really concerned about power use and want to optimize your gaming for the sake of the environment, consider choosing a Wii! Since it was launched in November 2006, the Wii has used 10x less electricity for games than either the Xbox 360 or PS3. “1 UP” Nintendo!

NOTE: In researching this article, I also learned that most stand-alone DVD players consume far less power for movies than the Xbox 360 or PS3 — so a Wii plus DVD might be the perfect fit if your TV is connected to a hamster wheel.