How Come Batteries in a Game Controller Lose Power Much Sooner Than Batteries in a TV Remote, Even While Not in Use?

This is probably something that infuriates you. Nobody likes changing batteries constantly. Surely you can assume a game controller uses more battery power than a TV remote while in use, but what about when they’re sitting idle? The logic behind this is explained below in the top-rated answers we gathered from the internet.


A TV remote is a usually one way communication and uses IR. The remote emits a signal when a button is pushed and the TV receives it. It’s like using smoke signals.

A game controller communicates through Bluetooth which is active two way communication. Just by keeping it on and idle, it’ll consume power. And controllers can also do other things, such as transmit audio, rumble, etc.


A TV remote is typically made in such a way that every button is an “on” button for the remote itself. Meaning it uses absolutely no power when you’re not pressing any buttons. So the reason is the same as for a flashlight — when not in use it doesn’t do anything.


The important thing to note is that Bluetooth is connection-oriented. Devices establish explicit connections with each other, and then either device can talk to the other over the established connection.

Now, because devices want to connect as soon as they can, they have to constantly be trying to connect, meaning at regular intervals they’re sending out a signal just asking “anyone else nearby speak Bluetooth?” This uses power.
Of course, devices can get around this by either giving up and going to sleep after a while, which means the user will have to “wake up” the device before it tries connecting again.

Another reason controllers might draw more power is that electronics just always draw a little bit of power, even when they’re completely off, and more complicated electronic with more components are going to draw more idle power. And since a controller is much more complex than a remote, it draws more idle power. On top of that, since the best way to prevent this idle power loss is to physically disconnect the battery, IR remotes can just use every single button as a physical disconnection, so the battery is only even connected to anything when a button is pressed. In a controller, a bunch of components need to be on continuously, even when no buttons are being pressed (like the Bluetooth radio). So, to counteract the idle power draw, controllers come with on/off switches, which can be used to physically disconnect the battery from the electronics and saving power.


Establishing the connection and leaving it connected with game controllers and Bluetooth headphones are a very important point. In the case of game controllers, it’s crucial that whatever action the user performs is communicated with very little delay, in the case of a PS4 controller connected to a PC, this is in the region of ~1.5ms, over 500 actions per second are possible.

If we compare this to a standard Bluetooth remote (such as that with a fire TV or virgin media v6 box), it’s acceptable to have a delay of a hundred milliseconds or more, so connections are made on demand, conserving a lot of battery.
(Modern controllers do not have physical on/off switches. Most of my BT devices do not, but my Bose external speaker will enter “shipping” mode if not used for a couple of weeks do stop idle power draw, requiring a USB connection to “boot” it again.)


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