News Article

Wii U Is The "Greenest" HD Console

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Not literally, obviously

The Digital Foundry team over at has been doing a fair amount of work with Wii U since it launched, for the most part putting multi-platform titles through their paces on the system. The results, with Trine 2: Director's Cut being the exception, are that the system has often fallen slightly behind its rivals, though it's important to recognise that launch efforts rarely make the best of any system due to developers familiarising themselves with the infrastructure.

Still, the latest results are more focused on a less-championed strength — power efficiency. As those who've owned an Xbox 360 or PS3 will know, consoles churning out HD games can use a lot of electricity, generate serious heat and occasionally sound like an aeroplane taking off. Naturally, re-models of those systems have improved efficiency, but Digital Foundry explored the power consumption of Wii U in comparison to an Xbox 360S and a PS3 "Super Slim" to see how it stacked up.

Much of a system's power efficiency seems to come down to the size of the CPU and GPU chips and their own related efficiency in delivering performance at low power, while basic design of the casing, fans and ventilation are also important. While an initial look at the Wii U's casing raised suspicions of potential issues, the tests show that the bonding together of the CPU and GPU into a single assembly — alongside solid general design — allows Nintendo's system to easily perform on less power than its contemporaries.

Wii U is remarkably efficient to the point where you can barely feel the heat when you rest your hand against the casing - something we can't say about the 360S or even the new PlayStation 3 "Super Slim". Its overall power draw is actually lower than many laptops (in fact we wouldn't be surprised to see Wii U console battery pack attachments launching at some point for mobile gameplay) - a remarkable state of affairs considering that its gaming performance easily beats those same notebooks.

...We find that the Wii U is drawing around 32 watts of power during gameplay and despite running our entire library of software, we only ever saw an occasional spike just north of 33w. The new PS3 uses 118 per cent more juice under load, while our 2010 Xbox 360S was even less efficient, requiring 139 per cent more power for gameplay. We understand that Microsoft has revised the design of its console since it first launched, but the main CPU/GPU combo processor still uses the same 45nm process, so we don't expect to see any major game-changing efficiency gains. All consoles show a drop in power-draw when engaged in media playback (we tested an HD episode of Dexter streamed via Netflix), lower even than running the front-end menus of each device.

Consistent power consumption when switched on is another benefit, but cautionary notes were made regarding the fact these results may be possible due to the much-debated CPU limitations, while those anticipating developers discovering more graphical power by using more juice may be disappointed.

One thing that did stand out from our Wii U power consumption testing - the uniformity of the results. No matter which retail games we tried, we still saw the same 32w result and only some occasional jumps higher to 33w. Those hoping for developers to "unlock" more Wii U processing power resulting in a bump higher are most likely going to be disappointed, as there's only a certain amount of variance in a console's "under load" power consumption. Also interesting were standby results from each console - 0.5w was consumed by all of them, but Xbox 360 and PS3 did spike a little higher periodically, presumably owing to background tasks that run even when the console is not operating.

So there you have it, your Wii U is using relatively little power which is good for your electricity bill, the system's long term stability and, well, the World. What do you think of these results?


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User Comments (30)




Nintendo is the bestest. They are saving the World with a WiiU? (don't see how this is good for the World but it's pretty cool).



Ferethor said:

Great News, I was surprised when after playing Nintendo Land for hours and my hand didnt get warm on the console. <3 my Wii U.



Dogpigfish said:

Most people don't think about their electric bill, there you have it; Nintendo continues to be the best deal.



The_Fox said:

Like I said in the forums, this is just something I assumed would happen. If the Wii U was less efficient than 7 year old technology that would be deeply troubling.



Rapadash6 said:

I'm a bigger fan of efficient console designs with modest graphical power than I am of unstable ones that are considered cutting edge, graphically. I can only imagine how much energy the next Sony or Microsoft console will consume, considering this is only a secondary concern for them. Like I've said before I'm still impressed that Nintendo was able to get as much power out of the Wii U as they have in such a relatively tiny case.



Wonder_Ideal said:

This is nice to know. I heard it was supposed to be quite efficient, but this is better than I expected. Rock on Ninty!



Molotov said:

He Basically Told Us That The Wii U Is Underpowered And Can Never Be Overclocked/Fully Optimized To Even Reach The Same Potential As Its 6/7 Year Old Competitors. Yeah, Another Win For Nintendo.



Skotski said:

@Molotov Goodness are you ever happy? Not saying you have no point, but it almost looks like you're a troll. Almost. Pretty close.
It's as if, unless a nintendo console or handheld is as powerful as a PC and as popular to 3rd parties as the 360 and as cheap as the original Wii, it can never be good.
What exactly are you looking for in this site? News to hate or are you honestly hoping for something that desperately that you wade through all this sub-par news you see here?


Back on topic: That's coo.
Glad I'm not taking too much energy from every place I plug my Wii U into (I take it with me out of the house - it's rather convenient for a home console).



Lobster said:

I love that it's good on my electric bill and I didn't even stop to consider how that would affect the system's long term stability. But it makes sense. Sometimes a 360 seems like it's TRYING to shake itself apart. Rather scary. No wonder the RROD was so prevalent in the old days. So far I've only noticed the Wii U once, when I turned it off. I went, "Oh! It was making noise."



IAmSpike said:

"Clearly, Nintendo is the answer to global warming."

Best thing I've heard all day



krunchykhaos said:

@Molotov are you serious? Or..what? Nintendo makes systems that are dedicated to just gaming IE gaming console unlike the other two which are more weak gaming pc's. Upon research on what chips the WiiU is using you'll see why architecture is changing specifications that we're used to seeing. (High clock speeds etc). If you knew anything about what is actually under the hood you'd know that it would take a true artist and a stroke of genius to make a system weaker than the ps360. If you're waiting for a graphics leap that'll blow your mind than youll be disappointed in the wiiu as well as the xbox and ps4. Less talk more research.



SMW said:

Predictable considering Nintendo's track record. Quite amazing how it ranks compared to PS3/360. Just shows that Nintendo is still all about efficiency. Thats one of the big issues I have with PS3 and 360. Just uses too much power!



Henmii said:

This is really surprising! And really good news, especially since according to Greenpeace Nintendo did do pretty bad the past 2 years! Maybe they have taken their advice?



Pj1 said:

What about if the Wii-u game pad is connected to the power? is that taken into account?

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