The European Union is about to ban most the best tvs you can buy. And if you think that could not affect you, think again.
At the time of publication of this article, a revised restriction on the energy consumption of televisions will come into force on March 1, 2023 in the 27 European nations that make up the EU. If nothing changes between now and then, there won’t be a single 8K TV that can be sold in the EU. The rule will also affect a couple of 4K OLED TVs, 65-inch QD-OLED TVs, and at least one high-performance 4K QLED TV.
In short, most of the best TVs you can buy today can’t pass the new energy efficiency restrictions and will be effectively banned.
When I first heard about these headlines, I was dismissive. But as I dug deeper, I realized that this problem is not something we should just shrug our shoulders about. While it may seem like this issue will only affect EU consumers, it is likely to have a ripple effect across multiple industries in many nations. This move has some huge implications, which I’ll detail shortly, but first, how did we get here?
Several years ago, the EU developed what it calls the Energy Efficiency Index, or EEI for short. To determine the energy efficiency of a screen, the commission analyzed data from screens that were sold between 2012 and 2017. That is, televisions that are now between 7 and 10 years old. I’m curious about the methodology used to determine these efficiency numbers and am looking into them for a future article, but for now the bottom line is that the television industry as a whole felt that the numbers the commission came up with were sound and fair and that meeting efficiency standards was manageable. Therefore, televisions have met the standards for several years.
8K TVs, by the nature of how LCD panels work, consume much more power than 4K TVs.
But these efficiency standards were developed for HD and 4K televisions. When the EU decided to update these standards a few months ago, it not only increased the efficiency requirement, meaning that HD and 4K TVs will have to consume less energy than now, but it also decided to copy and paste the energy efficiency standard. for 4K TVs to apply to 8K and micro-LED TVs.
Therein lies the problem. Either someone in the governing body doesn’t understand the fundamental science behind how TVs and screens work, or they just don’t care. The fact is that 8K TVs, by the nature of how LCD panels work, consume much more power than 4K TVs. And in fact, several 4K TVs consume enough power that while they passed the requirement before, as of March 1, 2023, they no longer will.
According to a detailed report by FlatpanelsHD, it appears that no 8K as currently manufactured has a low enough EEI to pass the currently proposed standard. Some 65-inch 8K TVs are just over the line, while others would have to see their ISS cut in half to pass. It also appears, based on current ISS numbers, that neither Samsung S95B QD-OLED either Sony A95K QD-OLED wouldn’t happen, nor would Samsung’s QN95B 4K QLED TV.
It’s not like 8K TVs are going overboard, either. Many 8K TVs on the market exceed the limit by 300%, so they are nowhere near compliant. There is also no quick fix for this.
I spoke with Chris Chinnock, who runs the 8K Association and recently wrote an article on this topic. He points out that an 8K TV panel has four times as many pixels as a 4K TV panel. And because of the way LCD panels work, it’s significantly more difficult for light to pass through the small opening of those tiny pixels. The harder the light is to get through, the harder you have to push, and that means increasing the brightness of the TV’s backlight system, which as you can imagine requires a lot more power.
Because 8K TVs necessarily need a lot more power to be as bright as 4K TVs, let alone a bit more, as is expected from the premium TV category, significantly reducing the power consumption of 8K TVs would require reinventing the LCD panel as we know it. for decades. That can’t happen overnight, if it can happen at all.
So what can be done? One idea that has been floated is for TV manufacturers to institute a kind of “EU picture mode”. The way the EU rule works is that the TV only needs to pass the efficiency standard in its preset default picture mode for an SDR signal, one that is set at the factory and would therefore be the default setting ready. to use. Homeowners could still change their TV’s picture mode to a power-hungry bright option at their discretion. But, in this proposed scenario, the TV’s out-of-the-box picture quality would be unacceptably dim.
Given consumer behavior, such a solution is not only inelegant, but also likely to be disastrous. Imagine consumers buying a TV based on the fantastic picture quality they saw on a store screen, taking it home, setting it up and turning it on only to get a picture that is nothing like what they saw at the retailer. They might even think the TV is defective and send it back!
To avoid rampant returns, sellers might warn their customers that when they bring their TV home, they’ll need to follow a long list of instructions to keep their TV looking good. Still, in my experience, getting new TV owners to adjust their picture settings has always been an uphill battle. From my point of view, an EU picture mode doesn’t seem like a real solution at all.
I would say that the state of the art in 8K and 4K TVs is not the problem. The problem is the arbitrary way the EU is updating its rules. This new standard needs to be reviewed and revised. But unfortunately, sources close to the commission responsible for this standard are not interested in reviewing their decision. That seems pretty childish, doesn’t it?
There are better ways to address the amount of electricity that televisions consume.
To be clear, I have no objection to efforts to reduce energy consumption. As a passionate, tree-loving composter and recycler who supports wind and solar energy and drives a small electric car in the super-green state of Oregon, I consider myself a conservation advocate. I agree that televisions should work as efficiently as possible. I would very much like it to lower energy consumption during an energy crisis.
But there are better ways to tackle the amount of electricity TVs consume. I would propose implementing something similar to Netflix’s “hey, are you still watching” feature, where users would be asked to click a button on their remote every hour to confirm that they were actually watching TV rather than have it working? background or accidentally left on while out and about. Given that users can set their TVs to be power hogs anyway, perhaps taking steps to prevent unnecessary energy waste would be a more successful move.
As we have seen recently, the EU’s political decisions have a way of spreading beyond its borders. The EU’s recent decision to institute USB-C as its standard charging port will change the look and feel of your next iPhone. Apple’s hand has been forced: soon all iPhones and iPads will have moved away from Lightning ports in favor of USB-C.
California emissions standards are another example of the tail wagging the dog. Automakers don’t make one model of car for Californians and another for the rest of the US. All cars must pass California emissions standards off the production line, whether they’re headed to California or Connecticut.
Whatever TV makers need to do to make their TVs marketable in European countries will likely apply to TVs sold in North America and beyond. Whether intentionally or not, the EU is making decisions that will affect the look of your TV for years to come.