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Samsung denies VW style TV energy efficiency test fixing

What's out-of-the-box?

by Mark Hodgkinson Oct 2, 2015


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    Samsung denies VW style TV energy efficiency test fixing
    With the current brouhaha surrounding the car industry and emissions testing, the spotlight has been turned on Samsung with an allegation that their TVs use less energy during test conditions than in real world use.
    The story first made the mainstream press in The Guardian, who cite testing carried out by CompliantTV, an organisation supported by, but not part of, the European Commission’s Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE). The implication was that Samsung has equipped their TVs with some kind of ‘defeat device,’ in order they appear more eco-friendly. Before we get in to the nitty-gritty, we need look at one of the criteria for ComplianTVs testing methodology:

    Measurements shall be made with the Automatic Brightness Control function, if such a function exists, made inactive.

    ComplianTV, themselves, acknowledge that ‘Automatic Brightness Control’ options were sometimes hard to find and, probably more pertinently, to correctly identify. We’ll come back to that later but it’s important to note.

    Testing is carried out using a ten minute video sequence of varying brightness levels, intended to simulate typical broadcast material. It produces an overall Average Picture Level (APL) of 34 (out of 100) and is undertaken in the out-of-the-box picture mode, with the above caveat noted, and in the TV's ‘Home Mode,’ where such an option exists.

    So far, so good but an, as yet unpublished, test made by ComplianTV apparently produced results showing Samsung TVs consistently used more energy when monitored with real-world material than they did with the test sequence.

    The study apparently found that Samsung’s Motion Lighting – which is enabled by default in all the TVs we’ve reviewed in the last couple of years – reduced the overall brightness of the TV and, therefore, power consumption, under international electro-technical commission (IEC) testing conditions. When measured under ‘real world’ conditions - meaning with Motion Lighting Off – energy consumption was higher; no surprises there, then.

    "The IEC test does not involve any changing of the TV settings; they are tested with the settings as they are when they come out of the box, and that’s exactly how our TVs arrive."

    Following tests in February 2015, a ComplianTV report, which it should be pointed out didn’t explicitly name Samsung stated:

    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.”

    Take note of the somewhat vague wording but in an interview with The Guardian, Rudolf Heinz, the project manager of ComplianTV’s product lab, was somewhat more pointed in saying:

    Samsung is meeting the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law,” so there is no accusation that Samsung is doing anything to contravene regulations, more that Motion Lighting is a deceptively labelled processing feature.

    Our extensive experiences with Samsung televisions would indicate that Motion Lighting is nearly as much a motion enhancement feature as it as an energy saving one, although Samsung doesn’t deny it is designed to cut consumption. The feature uses algorithms to detect the rate and frequency of on-screen motion and then adjusts the back light up and down accordingly; when there is lots of movement on-screen, the backlight is reduced with little to no on impact on the viewing experience, but it will not activate, at all, when there is little to no motion detected. Samsung also uses a black frame insertion technique, similar to that used in cinema projection to compensate for the motion blur many see with the technology, but this is separate and distinct from Motion Lighting, which we know many of our forum members are big fans of.

    Samsung are naturally keen to defend their position and have refuted any inference of wrong doing. Speaking to AVForums earlier, Stuart Graves, head of Samsung's UK QA lab told us

    ComplianTV did a test and came to the conclusion our TVs were identifying the test footage used as part of the regulations but that’s simply not the case.

    Graves further defended Samsung’s position by stating, “The IEC test does not involve any changing of the TV settings; they are tested with the settings as they are when they come out of the box and that’s exactly how our TVs arrive."

    As we’ve already said, Motion Lighting is an out-of-box pre-set, as are some of the Eco-Settings that we generally turn off to improve picture quality. We’ve been vocal in the past about manufacturer’s mislabelling various picture controls but the storm in a teacup here revolves around what CompliantTV qualify as a non-out-of-the-box setting and what Samsung clearly state is.

    Returning to the Volkswagen scandal, there is another fundamental difference here; all the Samsung eco settings are fully on display to the end user and can be easily enabled or disabled. Samsung is also very good in providing on-screen descriptions as to what each individual control does and even builds electronic user manuals into the TVs for added consumer convenience.

    In response to the Guardian’s story, the EU has promised to outlaw any potential use of defeat devices within televisions if indeed they exist:

    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.”

    To state the AVForums position, we would say that out-of-box settings are never optimal for picture quality, in any case. We would advise people to use the Cinema mode – or similar - which would defeat any tests, yet be just as efficient as the factory set modes. We would also assume that if a preset is named eco, or similar, and designed to help with energy use, it would also pass any tests for that; but we would never recommend such settings are used by end users as it restricts picture quality.

    So what do you think folks: do you find Motion Lighting beneficial on your Samsung TV and has Samsung got any case to answer?

    Sources:
    The Guardian
    ComplianTV

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