Sunday, April 5, 2015

Comcast's New "Power Save" X1 Boxes Still Waste Tons of Energy

Energy-wasting cable boxes cost families an extra $100 a year each, so when Comcast sent me a new X1 box, I was eager to learn more about its new "Power Save" feature.

The first disappointment: "Power Save" arrived turned off. I had to go into the power settings to tell it to go to Power Save after a certain number of hours. How many customers will ever do that? 10 percent?

But what's even more confusing is figuring out what Power Save actually does. From Comcast's Power Save FAQ:
Your energy saving depends on the specific X1 set-top box type (DVR or non-DVR), how much time the device is in Power Save mode and what power-saving activities are going on behind the scenes (such as scheduled recordings). Because of these variables, we can't say exactly how much energy your set-top box saves in Power Save mode, but to maximize your energy savings, you should always put your set-top box in Power Save mode as soon as you are done watching TV.
Notice how Comcast carefully avoids making factual claims about how much energy is actually saved - if any. 

OK, time to put it to the test. My old Comcast box registered 86 degrees in a 75 degree room. How does the new X1 box do when in use?

82 degrees in a 67 degree room. Not much better. And after it had been in Power Save mode all night (with no DVR recordings or any reason to be active):

Even though the room was down to 62 degrees and it had been in "Power Save" mode for several hours, the Comcast box still registered 78 degrees, not much different than when in use.

Comcast's "new" boxes don't seem any better than the old ones at sucking tons of vampire power, turning lots of your money into waste heat.

UPDATE 8/6/15: One other thing that's bugged me after several months of use. To save money & energy, I have the box and my TV plugged into a power strip that I can turn off. But the Comcast X1 box takes several minutes to start back up - even longer than my computer. And that long wait isn't because of fantastic performance - the box is painfully slow to respond to the remote and move between menu screens.

The bottom line is that while this box delivers flashier graphics, in terms wasting energy and slow performance, it's no better than the old boxes it replaced.

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