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PS3's standby and off modes, (virtually) separated at birth

As useful as information found on the Internet can be, it can also be frustratingly myopic, resulting in moments when you have to take matters into your own hands.

As useful as information found on the Internet can be, at times, it's also frustratingly myopic, resulting in moments when you have to take matters into your own hands.

Recently, my fiancee pleaded with me to start turning my PlayStation 3 off when it's not in use. Since the red standby light was on, she contended, the unit must be drawing significantly more power than if the unit was simply switched off via the power switch on the back.

Having just tested a couple dozen monitors as part of a CNET power consumption project, I felt I knew a bit about this and explained to her that the difference between standby and off was minuscule at best and that the savings for a whole year would be less than five bucks at the most.

That "1.5434" number represents the wattage average for the PS3 in standby. Pay no attention to the other numbers! Eric Franklin/CNET

She remained adamant, and since I couldn't prove my point outright at that moment--and didn't feel like an argument--I let her win and said I'd start switching it off.

Unfortunately for her, I sometimes see compromising as losing--and I hate to lose.

So the next day I pursued the matter, as standby was too important to me to just give up on. Having your PS3 in standby lets you turn it on from the controller. The laziness in me couldn't let this slide, so I told my fiancee I'd prove that when the PS3 is on standby it draws, at the most, only slightly more power than when it's off.

I looked around the Internet for evidence to support my claim, but for the life of me I couldn't find a site that stated unequivocally that off and standby on the PS3 were close. Plenty of sites had numbers for the PS3's standby mode, but none--that I found--had any info on off mode. This surprised me, as I knew (from reading through plenty of gaming forums) that there are plenty of PS3 owners who switch off their consoles when not in use, and this info would be of use to them.

During the week, I procured a CNET house PS3 and tested it with the Chroma 66200 digital power meter, a high-end device that measures power consumption.

Now, for story purposes, this would be the perfect spot for a dramatic twist, a great place to reveal that "to my surprise, the PS3's standby mode drew significantly more wattage than its off mode," that I was "wasting a significant amount of money by keeping it in standby," and that "the crow I had for dinner that night tasted as I expected it to: frustratingly tough and bitter."

Well, sorry, but there are no surprises here. The cost of running a PS3 in off mode vs. standby for 365 days equaled a difference of $1.53 based on the 2008 $11.35 cents per kilowatt/hour national average. Point proven. Information now out on the Interwebs. (Note: I'm sure some people will be able to point to places on the Net where this info already exists. I didn't find it.)

Basically, it takes only a small amount of power--virtually the same amount the PS3 draws from the wall when off--to illuminate the PS3's red standby light and keep it in a state where it can be turned on via the controller.

My advice to those wondering how to treat their PS3 when not in use would be to put it in standby if it's only going to be off for up to a couple of days. The benefit of being able to turn it on and off from the controller is just too appealing to pass up. For some, however, $1.53 per year may be a deal breaker, and if so, as far as I know, there's no harm in switching it off after each session. Unless you count the harm in disappointing your lazy side. Still, turning it off completely--via unplugging, switching off the power strip, or using the PS3's switch is likely the most energy efficient way to go.

Although the ability to take one for the team can be a strength in any relationship, don't underestimate the power of being completely Rorschachian when it comes to compromise. Sometimes, there's no satisfaction like being proven right and getting your way.