Is Sony playing games with the energy efficiency of its PS4?

Is Sony playing games with the energy efficiency of its PS4?

When Sony announced the long-awaited launch of its new PlayStation 4 game console with great fanfare this week, it highlighted a lot of the cool new features and games that will be ready when the box hits the market this holiday season. But the big media event concluded without anyone knowing:

First: What will the PS4 look like and how much will it cost?

Second: How will its energy use compare to its seven-year-old brother the PlayStation 3? Will it consume around 75 watts during game play, like the current PS3, or more like the whopping 190 watts it used when first introduced?

With Sony still finalizing the hardware and software behind this exciting new device, we thought it would be an opportune time to dust off and update our wish list for their design team. Because game consoles are similar to high-performing computers, it’s important to make sure the devices are energy efficient and only use as much power as is required for the task at hand. The decisions Sony makes will really add up because almost 75 million PlayStation 3 consoles have been sold to date — and you can bet Sony hopes to sell even more PS4s. 

Here is what we hope to see when the PS4 hits the shelves later this year:

1. Easy game saving and good auto power down

Today some users deliberately leave game consoles on to preserve their place in the game. Others simply forget to turn them off when they turn off their TV (sound like anyone’s kid or roommate?). If a user never turns off a PS3, it amounts to $50 to $100 of wasted electricity each year, or the equivalent of a new refrigerator’s worth of annual electricity use, depending which version you purchased.

Based on coverage from the launch announcement, it appears Sony is primed to do the right thing here, which is great. The PS4 will be able to save your place in the game to dedicated memory, meaning users can turn the device back on and resume play almost instantly from where they left off without having to reload the game, possibly from the very beginning. 

We are also hopeful that Sony will ship its new models with an auto power down feature enabled so the device automatically goes to sleep after periods of extended inactivity and only uses a trickle of power (e.g., 1 watt or so), rather than continuing to consume near full-power levels (around 65 watts) like the PS3 does if left on. Until recently users had to go into the menu to activate this important energy-saving feature and the menu was very awkward, requiring them to choose something called “special circumstances” to achieve the desired energy savings. 

2. Power scalability

We challenge Sony to take advantage of the latest chip and graphics (CPU and GPU) architectures that ramp power up and down depending on how much processing the task at hand requires. During game play, the PS4 can fully utilize its eight cores and advanced graphics processing unit to offer rich gaming experiences, and ramp it down to a fraction of that power level when performing tasks with lower graphics requirements, such as navigation or movie play. 

The recently launched Nintendo Wii U streams HD movies for less than 30 watts as compared to the PS3’s 65 watts. Is Sony up to the challenge of having the PS4 use even less power for viewing movies than Nintendo’s new model?

3. Network standby

With the ability to download content when the console is asleep, and to wake the console up remotely for remote play, we call on Sony to implement this “network standby” functionality in a way that sips — rather than gulps  power. As mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones only need a fraction of 1 watt to receive email and update other content, we look forward to Sony implementing similar technology in the PS4 to ensure network connectivity does not weigh in on users’ electricity bills.

Sony, we are counting on you to make the right decisions as you lock down your design and trust that Microsoft is intently watching all of this and will also incorporate innovative energy efficiency features into their successor to the Xbox 360, which is rumored to come out later this year. Game on!