Environmental group still not happy with Microsoft’s Xbox One energy-saving option

Microsoft’s recent decision to allow new Xbox One users to choose between energy efficiency and ease of use during initial setup was partly instigated by criticisms from an organization called the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But the NRDC is still not entirely satisfied with Microsoft’s apparent volte-face on this environmental issue, which the non-profit action group claimed costs up to $250 million a year in unnecessary energy bills.

Writing on the NRDC’s blog today, the organization’s senior scientist Noah Horowitz said, “It may be premature to conclude that [the new setup option] will result in the desired energy savings and also avoid the associated pollution.”

Xbox One owners can choose between a mode that downloads updates in the background, and which allows the “Xbox On” verbal command. This comes with a 12.5 watt energy cost. The alternative is for updates to download only when the console is fully switched on by the user, with no verbal switch-on support. This uses just 1 watt, according to Horowitz.

Previously, users had to find the toggle in settings, and make the change if they wanted to save energy. Now they will have the option at start-up, something the NRDC called for, and which Microsoft announced last week.

But Horowitz is not happy with the proposed option screen (pictured above), which Microsoft shared during its announcement.

“With this design, most users are likely to select the Instant-on mode because of the negative language such as ‘slower start-up time’ and ‘get interrupted for updates’ used to describe the Energy-saving mode,” he wrote. “It’s also unclear whether Microsoft will ship its new consoles with the Instant-on feature already highlighted as shown above, which would require an extra step to choose energy savings instead.”

He added that the energy savings should be included as a benefit of choosing the environmentally friendly option.

“There’s no mention of the respective standby power levels for the options which translates to an extra $33 to $75 (depending where you live) of electricity use over the typical five year life of a console, which is enough to buy an extra game or two,” Horowitz said.

He called for Microsoft to “provide neutral text to describe the Energy-saving and Instant-on options, and, if users don’t make a selection, default to the Energy-saving setting.”

Polygon has contacted Microsoft for a response.

To switch to energy-saving mode, go to the Xbox One’s home screen, press the menu button, select Settings, and then Power and Startup. The energy-saving mode option is there.