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Samsung TVs – energy efficiency over picture quality

Samsung TVs are being sold to you with a poorer picture so they can use less power, a Which? investigation has found.

We want our gadgets to use less power – it’s good for the environment and our electricity bills. However, a Which? investigation has found that Samsung TVs appear to be deliberately set up to reduce their energy consumption in order to achieve a better energy label rating. And this comes at the expense of optimum picture quality.

Analysis of energy data for the Korean giant’s TVs reveals that they use almost 40% less power in default ‘standard’ mode compared to when we calibrated the sets to give you a better picture. Read on for more.

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Is Samsung cheating tests?

Last year, media reports suggested that Samsung TVs were using a feature called ‘motion lighting’ to detect the playback of a video sequence used for energy label testing. Supposedly, the TV would then reduce the backlight brightness automatically in order to use less power and, so it was alleged, achieve a better energy label.

Which? and its European consumer partners investigated this by assessing Samsung TVs with the motion lighting feature (from lower-end to high-end sets) using the same video testing sequence and comparing it with an alternative test scene. We found virtually no discernible difference in power consumption between the two scenes, indicating that Samsung is not in fact ‘cheating’ the test in the way VW was found to be doing with car emissions.

However, during the course of the investigation we found a much broader pattern of Samsung shipping its TVs with a default picture that uses considerably less power, and this makes the picture look poorer than it could be.

Browse all of our Samsung TV reviews.

We put you in the picture on energy use

We analysed data from 785 TVs from Samsung, as well as LG, Panasonic, Philips and Sony from 2014 and 2015 (including models ranging from 32-inch to 55-inch). We tested their default ‘as-delivered’ picture and then did the same after calibrating the picture settings.

In startling results, Samsung TVs were found to use on average 37% more power when set up with our optimized settings compared to the default ‘standard’ mode. With some TVs, this would have meant them receiving an energy label up to two levels lower than was actually awarded. Moreover, Samsung’s as-delivered picture on its TVs was rated on average 20% worse than after we optmised the settings.

As you can see in the graph below, Philips TVs used 18% less power in default mode, with a 21% worse viewing experience, while LG TVs used just 4% more power with our optimized settings. However, Panasonic and Sony TVs actually used 8% and 9% less juice after we calibrated the sets, so they could, in theory, get better energy labels than they currently do.

Samsung responds

After we contacted Samsung about our research, it said: ‘The standard setting of our TVs delivers the optimal picture quality and energy efficiency for general home viewing conditions. This does not account for personal viewing preferences or the specific home viewing environment of the TV.’

Asked about the effectiveness of TV energy labels, Samsung added: ‘We believe that the energy labelling system offers an important and useful guide for consumers when comparing the energy efficiency of TV models. We are very proud of our energy saving technology, which is helping our customers to save energy every day.’

Which? expert view – ‘Energy efficiency shouldn’t cost you a great picture’

Andrew_Laughin_ipadWhile we’ve found that Samsung isn’t actually cheating the energy label testing, there seems to be a clear pattern of its TVs being set up to use considerably less power in default mode, even if this means sacrificing optimum picture quality (based on our testing, at least).

So where does this leave you if you own a Samsung TV? Well, don’t worry. We publish optimised settings for all TVs we test online and the good news is that even if you use them, it won’t add much to your energy bills. For example, an average Samsung 55-inch TV will cost you £28 a year to run with our picture settings, compared to £19 using the default ‘out of the box’ set-up.

While TV energy efficiency has improved immensely since the days of power-hungry plasma sets, we feel the drive to get an attractive A+++ energy label shouldn’t come at the expense of your viewing experience.
Andrew Laughlin, Which? TVs expert

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