Friday, 03 April 2009 06:56

Give your gaming a green tinge

See all those little red lights on your electrical equipment?  Remember all those “black balloon” adverts?  Feeling too lazy to flick the switch at the point after a gaming session?  If so, there are a couple of new products about to hit the Australian market that might save your hip pocket as well as your ever-polluting soul.

If you believe some reports, electronic equipment such as gaming consoles waste the equivalent energy consumption as that of San Diego in the US.

By comparison, during game-play the Wii uses one seventh the power of a PS3 and one ninth of an Xbox 360.  Which is great and all, and manufacturers should be encouraged to build more efficient, cooler and lower power consuming gaming beasts for the next generation.

But the other hidden black balloon producing menace is stand-by power.  Again, according to some reports, stand-by power in an average home is responsible for up to 12 percent of the electricity bill .

So what to do about it?  Well the most obvious thing to do, is to switch off the device at the power point.  If you are already doing this regularly, great, read no further. 

The rest of us, who are either too lazy, have an entertainment system with neatly hidden power supplies or awkward requirements for some equipment to be on all the time, may be interested in the following new product.

TrickleStar is a relatively new company, promoting a couple of devices aimed squarely at saving you bucks and the world’s energy by eliminating much of a households stand-by power usage.  There will be a number of factors, depending on your household electrical set-up that will determine how effective such a device will be for you.

Both TrickleStar devices are designed for aesthetics as well as functionality.  Both employ an Apple-esque rounded white design, with a tinge of fluorescent green.  The design is based around the Universal TrickleStar hub which houses the smarts; power-surge protection and wall mount points.

Out from the hub power is connected to the wall socket, from the other end there are two cords; one is the slave connection, one the master.  The master connection controls when power is allowed to anything connected to the slave connection.  The slave connection in both TrickleStar products is always a female grounded power cord.  The second, master connection, defines the two basic TrickleStar designs. 


The easier of the two devices to discuss is the TV TrickleStar:  Designed for the home entertainment complex, the master connecter is the same as the slave, being a female power cord designed to be plugged into the TV.  The slave connection is then used to “power” a power board.

The idea is, when you switch off your television, anything connected to the slave will also be powered down.  So game consoles, amplifiers, sub woofers, DVD players and so on will no longer be drawing juice. When the TV is switched back on, almost immediately the power board plugged slaves will return to stand-by.tricklestar31.jpg

Some thought needs to go into this, obviously you don’t want devices such as the VCR or PVR powering down when you switch the TV off, so these need to be plugged into a separate power source.

For me, with multiple game consoles hooked up, and with all the power-cords neatly tucked away from site, the TV TrickleStar is an excellent solution. 

The PC TrickleStar requires a little more thought.  The master connection on this model us a USB connection to your desktop computer.  There is no driver software required; the PC TrickleStar simply works off current detection in the USB port.  Other than the USB master connection, the PC TrickStar works much the same as its TV orientated sibling.

More thought needs to go into how you set your power boards, with devices such as wireless routers, modems and scanners that may have jobs to do when your PC is not powered up.  These will require a separate power source to the one controlled by the TrickleStar.  Note , the PC TrickleStar will work with your Mac as well.


Our test PC TrickleStar came without a trimmer.  The trimmer allows a little sensitivity manipulation for the master connection, adjusting the wattage detection.  Though for the TV model, the default setting worked a dream, the USB connection on my PC was obviously drawing enough wattage, even with the PC powered down, to not trip the TrickleStar sensor. 

Upon further investigation the PC TrickleStar worked fine on most test machines, but had a couple of issues with one box requiring a check of the USB Hub settings in Hardware Manager to ensure “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power” is set in the Power Management properties.  Failing this, it may be time to play with motherboard jumpers, but this is rare.tricklestar11.jpg

TrickleStar have announced a forthcoming third product for the market:  The PC TrickleSwitch gives further granularity to powered devices by providing a manual PC accessory device On/Off and to supply power to devices as and when required thus significantly reducing the amount of standby power consumed when a PC is on.   It works in-line with the PC TrickleStar.

All up, the TrickleStar product is a great idea for saving a significant chunk of energy and therefore household budget. 

But it will depend entirely on how your electronics are set-up.  If you are Folding@home on your PS3, or searching for extraterrestrial intelligence whilst your PC screen-saver is up, then this might not be for you.  This device, and others like it, is aimed at consumers of stand-by power unnecessarily. 

At an Australian RRP of $119.95 for the TV TrickleStar, and $79.95 for the PC TrickleStar, the other consideration will be financial.  Will the connivance and power-savings ultimately have the TrickleStar pay its own way in your household?

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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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