In a nutshell: Standalone streaming media players from companies like Apple, Roku, Amazon and Google have become commonplace in households around the globe. In fact, streaming recently beat cable for the first time to claim the largest share of TV viewing to date. With more streaming devices in service now than ever, one may naturally question their energy use. How much juice do they consume when in use or while sitting idle, and how much will it cost you?

How-To Geek recently used a smart plug to measure the wattage used by five popular streaming devices including a Roku Ultra, Chromecast Ultra and Chromecast with Google TV. For the Fire TV 4K and Apple TV 4K, they used sources from the Internet.

Device TV On Idle
Apple TV 4K 3.03w - 5.58w 0.30w
Chromecast Ultra 1.5w - 2.0w 1.5w
FIre TV 4K ~4w ~1w
Chromecast With Google TV ~1.0w - 3.0w 1.0w
Roku Ultra ~3.0w - 4.5w 3.0w

Results reveal that the Roku Ultra and Apple TV 4K are comparable in terms of energy usage while active, but the Roku Ultra is by far the biggest "vampire power" consumer when idle at 3.0w. All other devices tested consumed 1.5w or less when not in use.

Keep in mind that your mileage may vary depending on the type of content you stream. For example, streaming a flick in 4K HDR from Netflix is going to require more power than watching a 720p stream on YouTube.

To attach a dollar figure to the data, the team set a baseline electricity rate of $0.18 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and assumed four hours of active use along with 20 hours of idle time per day for each device. That's a bit higher than the national average of around $0.15 per kWh for August 2022 according to Save on Energy, which also shares electric rates by state for those interested in further tuning the numbers. How-To Geek's estimates are as follows:

  • Apple TV 4K: Around $1.44 per year
  • Chromecast Ultra: Around $2.41 per year
  • Fire TV 4K: Around $2.36 per year
  • Chromecast with Google TV: Around $1.83 per year
  • Roku Ultra: Around $4.87 per year

The Roku Ultra is by far the most expensive player to operate due to its high idle power consumption. Despite going toe to toe with the Roku Ultra while in use, the Apple TV 4K has the lowest idle power consumption of the bunch and is thus the cheapest to operate over at full year at around $1.44. Each of the others will set you back just a few bucks annually to leave plugged in.

Few are going to bat an eye at the roughly $5 it costs to keep a Roku Ultra plugged in year round, but costs could start to add up for penny-pinchers that have multiple streaming devices in their homes and if they use them for more than four hours each day.

Even still, a streaming box is likely to consume far less energy than a traditional cable set-top box.

Image credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters