Sony's New Bravia TVs Watch You to Save Power

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Sony has taken energy saving to the next level in a series of forthcoming TVs that automatically switch off the display when there's no one around.

The Bravia VE5 line sets, which will go on sale in most major markets worldwide, are equipped with a small sensor underneath the display that keeps watch of the room to ensure someone is there. If all the viewers leave the room it cuts power to the LCD (liquid crystal display), only to switch it back on when someone returns. Sony says this results in a 50 percent reduction in energy consumption during the time the display is switched off.

Other circuits in the TV remain on and sound continues to be heard. However, if no one reappears in 30 minutes the set is switched to standby mode.

In general use, the VE5 televisions consume less power than their predecessors. The 40-inch and 46-inch models draw 129 watts and 153 watts, respectively, compared to 217 watts and 263 watts, respectively, for the V1 sets that were launched this time last year.

Sony is also featuring a "low-energy switch" that harks back to the days of analog tube sets. In those TVs a mechanical on/off switch completely cut power to the TV set, but modern flat-panel sets continue to consume power even when they're turned off via the switch on the set.

The power consumption in this state is minimal at around 0.06 watts, but its not zero. The low-energy switch on the new Bravia TVs rectifies this and results in zero power draw.

Sony has also cut power consumption on its J-series TVs, which are only sold in Japan. In the middle of 2008, the company launched the JE1 set as a "green" TV. The 32-inch model consumed just 89 watts of power when in use. The new J5 set reduces this further to 84 watts.

TV makers like Sony are able to reduce power consumption by improving the design of the backlight and screen. In LCD (liquid crystal display) TVs, a light panel typically remains continuously on while the set is in use, providing light that shines through the screen and allows the image on the LCD itself to be seen. This is one of the most power-hungry components in the TV set, but new designs allow the backlight power to be adjusted to suit the picture and more efficient engineering means less light is lost, and most can shine through.

Sony's focus on power consumption in these models is partly an answer to increasingly environmentally aware or cost-sensitive customers. Lower power TVs are both cheaper to run and result in a lower total carbon footprint because they draw less power.

The VE5 models exceed the new EnergyStar 3.0 specification.

The VE5 will go on sale in North America later in the first half. Prices and precise launch plans have not yet been announced. In Japan they'll hit the market on Feb. 20. The 40-inch model will cost around ¥210,000 (US$2,307) and the 46-inch model will cost ¥280,000.

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