(Editiorial Note: Below, The Perfect Vision Video Editor David Birch-Jones takes stock of today's TV technologies, explaining how EnergyGuide label can and do influence picture quality, examining the state of 3DTV thus far, and offering insights on the LED-vs.-Plasma question. --Chris Martens, Editor, The Perfect Vision).
We’ve been noting the addition of yellow Energy Guide stickers on some of the 2011 model year TV review samples we’ve gotten a hold of, including the Samsung D8000 plasma reviewed in this month’s issue of The Perfect Vision.
The yellow stickers give a somewhat useful indication about a TV’s power consumption cost, and there are tiered sizing ranges so that similarly-sized sets are compared, which only makes sense. The label notes that the usage time per each day over the course of a year is assumed to be five hours, which seems reasonable—some people don’t watch a lot of TV, but with others, it seems the TV is on day and night. California and Florida consumers might wince at the 11 cents per kilowatt-hour energy cost assumption (in the summertime here in sunny Southern California, the top tier rate jumps to over 30 cents per kwh). On the website, the government admits that the estimated annual cost might not be very accurate, given electric rates variability around the country and over the course of the year, but they had to have some sort of kwh cost baseline.
What’s cause for concern is that TV makers self-report their data to the Federal Trade Commission’s Energy subdivision (www.ftc.gov/energy), and manufacturers are provided with specific testing protocols via the Department Of Energy. All is fine and good so far, but in two instances so far this year, we’ve seen evidence of odd behavior that can most likely be traced to the new TV energy cost labeling requirements.
A Panasonic Viera plasma set was the first 2011 TV received for review that sported the new sticker. The review noted that in its size range, the Viera’s energy cost was at the extreme bottom of the pricing range for that size tier, which was rather odd because plasma TVs aren’t nearly as energy efficient as their LCD and LED flat panel counterparts. Upon getting the set installed and setup, it appears the reason that the Viera scored so well was that the set’s default picture settings (Home usage mode, Standard picture mode) produced a ridiculously dim picture that measured roughly a third of the commercial movie theater brightness standard, rending the set virtually unwatchable unless viewed in pitch darkness, and even then it was still visibly dim.
That’s a concern because many consumers are loathe to fiddle with picture adjustments, instead leaving the set in the default out-of-the-box home mode picture settings. With a 3D display, there’s automatically an additional brightness penalty when viewing 3D content, especially with active shutter 3D glasses (the brightness hit with passive polarized glasses is quite a bit less though).
With the Samsung D8000 plasma reviewed in this month’s issue of The Perfect Vision, the label showed the set scoring fairly low in the cost range for the size tier. The set’s active energy management employs a front panel ambient light sensor and adjusts picture brightness according to viewing conditions (not a new concept, as sets with similar features have been available for some time now). The problem there, as noted in the review, was an unfortunate byproduct of the energy management, with noticeable blips in picture brightness randomly coming and going, even though the set was first viewed in the evening here with a very low ambient light level in the test area. Fortunately, the active energy management feature can be shut off, which cured the problem.
Going forward, we’ll be paying closer attention to the EnergyGuide label scores and will report on any energy consumption or energy management issues as we found with the Panasonic and the Samsung sets. And, it’s one more reason why the “Recommended Settings” presented in The Perfect Vision’s video equipment reviews should always be consulted if you decide to buy one of the TVs we cover.
From a sales standpoint, 3DTVs have sold quite well since they were first introduced a mere sixteen months ago. Industry sales figures for the first twelve months of availability show that the adoption rate of 3D sets was significantly greater than for DVD, HDTV and even Blu-ray. While active shutter glasses 3D technology was the only way to go in 2010, this year we’ve seen volume TV makers including Vizio, LG and Toshiba introduce 3D sets that use the same inexpensive type of passive polarized 3D specs that you’d find at your local 3D movie theater.