Microsoft's decision to base Xbox One on Windows 8 wasn't made lightly: This PC-based platform shares a common kernel, virtualization and platform capabilities and presents a familiar and well-understood face to developers. But the Windows 8 tie-in has other advantages, too: It's what powers Xbox One's multitasking capabilities. And it provides the console with advanced power management features similar to those on smart phones and tablets.
I wrote about Xbox One's multitasking capabilities previously in Xbox One: Multitasking. Today, let's take a look at power management.
If you're familiar with the Xbox 360, you know that it basically has two power modes: On and off. You powered on the console with the controller, or by pressing the power button the device, and you shut it down when you were done. Otherwise, the device would power off on its own after a configurable period of time. Though anyone with an Xbox 360 probably never waited for that because of the noise and the heat.
Xbox 360's lack of sophisticated power management is tied to its roots as a traditional console that was designed to do one thing at a time and essentially give as much of the system's resources as possible to whatever is currently running. (Like a game.) It's not completely dumb in that it can do things like download items in the background (unless you're playing on online game or accessing an online service like Netflix) and pop-up various notifications. But it's essentially a single tasking machine by design.
The Xbox One, like Sony's PlayStation 4, is a lot more sophisticated, and it benefits from both the underlying design of Windows 8 and years of experience with power management on PCs, tablets and smart phones. As previously discussed, Xbox One can both multitask and even display two different user experiences at the same time. And like mainstream Windows 8-based devices, it supports advanced power management capabilities.
More specifically, Xbox One supports two power management modes. These are:
Instant-on. The default everywhere except the overly-regulated European Union, Instant-on works like Connected Standby on Windows 8-based PCs and devices. That is, when the system is "off," it's really sort of on—in a deep sleep mode—and can poll for and download any system, game or app updates in the background using just a tiny bit of electricity.
Energy-saving. In this mode, which is sort of like hibernate on a PC, the Xbox One is actually fully off when you power it down. This means you cannot automatically download updates in the background, but you can also not use your voice to wake up the machine. The console also wakes up more slowly.
You configure Xbox One power management in Settings, Console, Power & Startup. Just toggle the Power Mode option to switch between the Instant-on and Energy-saving modes.
Here, you can also see a few other options related to power management, including console auto-off (after an hour of inactivity by default), and, if you're using Instant-on, options that are only available in this mode. Humorously, that "Turn off" option will actually just put the console to sleep, and not actually power it all the way down. I believe you need to rip out the power cord to accomplish that.
My advice is to leave Xbox One in Instant-on mode. And if you do live in the EU, be sure to enable it while uttering a curse word in the direction of Brussels.