The Digital Foundry team over at Eurogamer.net 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?