Time: Most people use their eyes to judge the best flat-screen televisions. Michiyuki Sugino, deputy general manager of audiovisual systems for Sharp, says people should also use their hands.
Touch an ordinary set and you’ll feel the heat given off by electronic components at work. This warmth is energy that is being wasted, Sugino says, and for consumers, hot spots mean higher electric bills.
But lay your hands on one of Sharp’s new 32-in. D Series Aquos TVs: “The biggest surprise for consumers is when they touch the TV front and back,” says Sugino. “It’s cool. They can feel the difference.”
But will they care? Japan’s leading consumer-electronics companies sure hope so. The global recession is weakening demand for LCD and plasma TVs. This means Sharp, Panasonic and Sony are desperate to defend their market shares and are racing to come up with features to distinguish their products from those of their competitors.
The marketing catchphrase in Japan is now “eco-TV”: flat-screen sets that, like the new Sharp Aquos, are environmentally friendlier because they use less energy and cost less to run. “[Eco-functions] are a premium that consumers will pay for,” says Emi Nagahara, a product planner for Sony’s TV business group.
“It will be a standard” for all LCD TVs, she predicts. (See Japan’s greatest designs.) Using a variety of technological tweaks, manufacturers are achieving substantial power savings with no sacrifice in performance and picture quality.
Sony, which entered the eco-TV market last summer, developed a more efficient backlight for its new Bravia VE5 series that uses nearly 40% less energy than conventional LCD TVs. Further gains are made through additional features, including a sensor that halves the energy the TV uses by turning off the screen when no motion is detected nearby. The sets are also equipped with a light sensor that adjusts the backlight to ambient room light and with an energy-saving switch that cuts all power to the set as if it were unplugged. (Even when turned off, conventional sets waste small amounts of electricity if left plugged in.)
Other manufacturers are launching green TVs of their own. This month, Panasonic — the No. 1 maker of plasma TVs, with a 40% share of that market worldwide — started selling in Japan its 42-in. Viera V series plasma set, which uses 48% less power than the product line’s previous generation. On Feb. 20, Sharp launched its Aquos D Series in Japan, which uses 45% less energy than last year’s model. Cool to the touch, this model has improved power-saving components, including a modified backlight.