It's an inconvenient truth that our love affair with that flat panel television in the lounge doesn't sit well with a desire to live a more environmentally responsible existence. Fortunately, TV vendors are now coming to the party with "eco-friendly" models that address bad-for-the-planet (and pocketbook) power consumption issues with the big screen beasts.
Sony's first foray into eco-consciousness comes in the form of the Bravia WE5. Available in 40- and 46-inch screen sizes (AU$3199 and AU$3799 respectively), the WE5 hits the market in May with an as-yet voluntary energy star rating of five stars (out of six) — the highest we've seen so far on the Australian market.
Much of its savings in power consumption come from its use of a Hot Cathode Fluorescent Lamp (HCFL) backlight. Sony claims its HCFL backlight panel uses up to 40 per cent less energy when compared to conventional cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) LCD TVs like the Bravia W4500 model it replaces. A marketing spiel touting that the WE5 consumes less power than two 75-Watt light bulbs — which may be more of an indictment on the inefficiencies of incandescent bulbs — is a pretty impressive ploy.
The W4500 (left) uses twice the power, but has noticeably greater contrast than the WE5 (right).
(Credit: Ty Pendlebury)
And how many households wrestle with "the TV's on, nobody's watching" issue? To combat this waste, the front of the WE5 panel incorporates a Presence Sensor that detects when there is no longer motion in the room and automatically turns the picture off (but leaves the sound on). According to Sony, this instantly reduces power consumption by 50 per cent. If motion is again detected, the picture comes back on. Alternatively, if the Presence Sensor detects no movement after a specified period of time, the set is switched off completely.
The WE5 furthers its green cred by featuring an "energy-saving switch" on the side of the set — also called an "off switch" — to minimise standby power, an Eco pre-set mode, and the use of lead-free solder and reduced packaging.
Lest you're worried about the picture quality, it's still got 1080p full HD capabilities and something missing from its much publicised US counterpart, MotionFlow 100Hz technology.
We only had a quick look at the media launch, but the contrast seemed slightly poorer than its more power-hungry forebear. Sony didn't include a contrast ratio in the spec sheet, so we'll have to see when we get this model in for testing whether the HCFL backlight actually does cause contrast ratio to suffer or not.
Of course, there's a price premium to be paid for the new HCFL technology too. It remains to be seen if consumers will be willing to fork out an extra AU$300 or so for better power efficiency.
The WE5 is certainly one of the best performers energy-wise on the Australian market and kudos to Sony for setting the pace for others to follow. Surely these kinds of technologies and features will become more widespread down the track, but if power conservation is on your list now, this is the model to check out.