Your Samsung smart TV might not be as energy efficient as tests claim

Samsung’s smart TVs might not be as efficient as they appear in energy tests.

This is because, under testing conditions, a mode kicks in that dims screen brightness and therefore skews the results. There’s no allegation that Samsung has broken the law, only that the tests may be misleading consumers.

This issue is under the spotlight following news that Volkswagen fitted software to its diesel vehicles to produce less pollution during testing than in real-world driving.

According to unpublished tests by EU-funded research group ComplianTV, Samsung’s “motion lighting” feature reduces the sets’ brightness – and hence power consumption – under test conditions. In real-world conditions, however, the feature doesn’t always kick in, and hence the sets have higher power consumption, leading to higher fuel bills and carbon emissions.

The ComplianTV report doesn’t single out Samsung. However, the project manager of the organisation’s product lab told the Guardian: “Samsung is meeting the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law.”

The report states: “The laboratories observed different TV behaviours during the measurements, and this raised the possibility of the TV’s detecting a test procedure and adapting their power consumption accordingly. Such phenomenon was not proven within the ComplianTV tests, but some tested TVs gave the impression that they detected a test situation.”

Samsung claims the “motion lighting” feature is designed to give better picture quality, and that it reduces screen brightness in response to different content, such as fast-moving films and sports, and slower-moving content such as weather reports. The company denies that it’s designed to boost performance only during testing.

“There is no comparison [between motion lighting and the VW scandal],” a Samsung spokesperson told The Guardian. “This is not a setting that only activates during compliance testing. On the contrary, it is an ‘out of the box’ setting, which reduces power whenever video motion is detected.

“Not only that, the content used for testing energy consumption has been designed by the International Electrotechnical Commission to best model actual average picture level internationally.”

The ComplianTV study results were presented in London this week at a Royal Society meeting sponsored by the Energy Saving Trust.

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The European Commission has pledged to outlaw “defeat devices” – for instance, those designed to “game” test results.

“The commission is proposing specific text to clarify that [the use of defeat devices] is illegal and that products found to behave differently under test conditions cannot be considered compliant,” a spokesperson said. “The commission will investigate whether this practice is used in other product sectors.”

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