EU about to ban the most energy-efficient TVs

The same rules that have driven truly powerful vacuum cleaners off the market are about to ban most 8K TVs, as well as some high-end 4K TVs.

Surely, when you’re shelling out over €1000 on the purchase of a high-end TV, you don’t think that it might exceed the European Union’s agreed average consumption for TVs, empirically calculated by analysing consumption data for LCD TVs sold between 2012-2017. Not to mention the fact that technologies have changed radically in recent years, with traditional LCD screens giving way to QLED, and then MicroLED and OLED augmented displays. Resolutions have also increased, from 720p – 1080p as was “normal” in 2012, with 4K resolution representing an absolutely normal fit for a TV purchased in 2022.

Apparently, no one explained to European politicians a basic feature of LCD technology on which they based their “reckoning”. Namely that, in the absence of other optimisations that dramatically improve efficiency, the power consumption of LCD screens increases in proportion to the resolution used. And as the number of pixels increases 4x from Full HD to 4K UHD and 4x from 4K to 8K, it is easy to see how the latest generation of TVs can consume significantly more energy than the “average” solutions marketed 10 years ago.

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As a result, the most advanced models of micro-LED 8K TVs could soon be blocked from sale in the EU, with the authorities seemingly ignoring the fact that they are only niche products anyway, representing a tiny fraction of all new TV sales. The problem is that quite a few well-equipped 4K models are also likely to be blacklisted.

Unfortunately, the consequences of this restriction could also be felt by consumers who aren’t necessarily looking for premium TVs, with the power consumption limitation hitting directly at retailers’ practices of “taking the eyeballs” of visitors who cross the threshold of retail stores by applying exaggerated brightness settings. Until now, this practice has been perfectly excusable, since the TV comes out of the box with the same exaggerated brightness settings applied straight from the factory. The problem is that simply introducing an ECO profile, to be selected by default when the TV is first switched on, might not be enough to grant the required EU energy efficiency ‘label’. Rather, other ‘tweaks’ might be needed such as setting the screen to a non-native resolution (after the model of battery life constrained smartphone devices), capping the refresh rate and the maximum selectable brightness. Thus, unlocking the relevant settings could mean carefully navigating menus with advanced settings, leaving many unhappy consumers behind. At least some of them might simply return the newly purchased TV, on the grounds that it does not meet the expectations formed when watching it in the shop. In the end, the problem is as much for end consumers as it is for TV manufacturers who have to adjust their products to rigid consumer criteria based on generations of outdated products.

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