8K TVs—It’s a crime that they are so stunning

EU energy consumption regulations to take effect March 2023 that will make the sale of new 8K sets illegal in EU.

Viewers crave resolution. After all, who wouldn’t prefer watching their favorite film or TV series in 8K if given the choice. Well, those in the EU may not have that choice come March 2023. That is when new TV energy consumption regulations are due to take effect that prohibit the sale of new 8K sets in the region.

It’s not as if this ban occurred overnight. The regulations were established a while ago. The problem is that the energy-level designation for Ultra HD and Full HD TV sets were based on televisions being sold at the time. And the level established for 8K was the same set for Ultra HD. Now, however, that has become a big challenge for the industry because whether you are choosing an LCD or one of the very few OLED 8K sets that are sold, 8K sets use more power for the same brightness of display as Ultra HD, and more power yet is consumed while processing the 8K signal.

As a result of this pending situation, the 8K Association has issued a call for action pertaining to the regulations.

The 8K Association is a non-profit of key companies working within the 8K ecosystem whose mission is to ensure a bright future for 8K. In one of its newsletters, the group pointed out that according to the regulations, a review meeting is supposed to be held before the end of the year, prior to the mandate goes into effect, But as far as the 8K Association is aware, there is no review date established, the newsletter further states. On the face of it, then, new 8K sets may not be introduced after March unless they meet the power requirements.

A hot topic at IFA

This was a hot topic at the IFA show among TV brands and panel suppliers. I did hear a rumor that one TV brand had been able to get the certification, but not in a straightforward way. When the EU power regulations were first developed, the Commission wanted to minimize the power levels in use within the home. At that time, sets were typically shipped in “vivid” or “demo” mode with high brightness and saturation. This was to ensure the biggest impact in store if the sets were used for demonstrations.

However, this mode typically used more power than regular viewing modes, so the Commission mandated that the out-of-box setting was to be used for the energy test. This gave a disincentive for brands to ship in vivid mode, and as far as I am aware, they switched their shipping modes. This had the desired effect of reducing energy consumption because many less tech-savvy consumers did not adjust their sets but left them in their out-of-box condition.

EU’s new energy label lists both SDR and HDR consumption. (Source: Label 2020)

The rumor I heard was that one maker has been able to meet the March regulations by the simple expediency of shipping the sets with a low brightness mode. This, combined with a FALD backlight, keeps power consumption to a minimum, but doesn’t really seem to be “in the spirit of the regulations.” The regulations specify that a TV set must be tuned to “not be less than 220 cd/m² or, if the electronic display is primarily intended for close viewing by a single user, not less than 150 cd/m².”

However, if you have an HDR set with 2,000 cd/m² of peak output, that’s a lot less than the full brightness.

(It’s been a while since I had looked at the regulations, and was intrigued to see that the Commission specifically outlaws firmware that detects the test conditions and alters its behavior accordingly. I remember a big TV brand getting in trouble for this in the US a number of years ago!)

Another comment I have heard from those on the manufacturing side was that the EU has been making increasingly stringent demands in terms of power consumption. However, those demands have tended to be matched by changes in technology, from CRTs to LCDs and then from CCFL backlights to LEDs. LED backlights have also switched from global backlights to some form of dynamic backlighting. However, in the last few years, there has not been such a significant change that could deliver the better efficiency that the Commission would like to see. TVs take a measurable share of the EU’s power consumption (3% was referenced in the original 2009 regulations), so it’s reasonable to try to reduce this, but it’s hard to do it if there are not technological breakthroughs.

Regulation review before Christmas

If you look at the regulations, you can see that the Commission is obliged to review them before December 25, 2022.

I contacted the Digital Europe trade association, based in Brussels and recognized by the Commission as a competent body in representing the industry. I asked if there was an official statement on the organization’s position on the 8K issue, or whether they knew of regulations. Despite an acknowledgment of my inquiry, I had received no material response as of press time.

Place on the market

Meanwhile, the regulations state that makers cannot “place on the market” sets that do not meet the regulations. Normally, as I understand it (and I’m no lawyer qualified for interpreting EU law), this means making products as a manufacturer. Channels will be able to sell existing inventory, but makers will not be allowed to sell them anymore, even existing models that were legal before March 2023.

TV prices are currently on the way down as panel makers try to fill their fabs and ease the problems of the current Crystal Cycle, so this Christmas might be a very good time to buy an 8K set. Although there is not much native 8K content, almost every review of 8K sets that I have seen in the last few months has highlighted that “even if you don’t care about 8K, this is a great TV.” 8K TV is going to develop, you can count on that.

This story was reproduced with permission from Display Daily.