It's been almost three years since Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth made it OK to talk about carbon as if it were a currency, and for big business to impress you with its "green" credentials. Combine this with mandatory Energy Star ratings and suddenly you have a swag of TVs crawling out of the soil and onto shop floors — dripping with energy-saving smugness. Sony is one of the first companies to truly capitalise on the current mood and build a TV from the ground up designed to reduce its "footprint". But, is this the televisual equivalent of the— all care and no performance?
For a TV that mixes it with the big boys price-wise, the WE5 is a plain-Jane in the looks department. In fact, it's downright retro with its two-tone cosmetics. Some could argue this is the least "Sony-looking" television the company has released since theback in 2005. Yet, while it may not look that good in the photo, in the "flesh" it's a little more attractive. If you look hard enough, you can still see some Sony design elements, though, such as the "floating glass" design condensed into what we like to call a clear "peekaboo" slot above the stand.
If you've seen one Sony remote you've seen them all, and while the latest version is friendly it's not necessarily "user friendly". For instance, if you want to enter picture settings there isn't a button for that: you'll have to press the Home menu button and navigate the XMB to access "Picture".
Ever since Sony launched its LCD range it has been on the cutting edge of backlighting technology, introducing the first LED-backlit television back in 2004 in addition to the well-received Wide Colour Gamut CCFL (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamp). The company is up to its old tricks and has invented a new type of light — called the Hot Cathode Fluorescent Lamp. The lamps themselves are quite thin — only the thickness of a pencil — and Sony claims they use up to 40 per cent less energy than a Cold Cathode.
This new backlight forms the basis of the television's "green" credentials, but there a couple of other touches that help the unit save you money on your electricity bill. The most obvious one is the new "Presence Sensor" mounted in the centre of the bottom bezel. It's essentially a motion detector, and can be set to intervals up to 60 minutes — if it doesn't detect any movement it will turn the screen off. It gives you a warning on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen before it does this, but it could get a little annoying depending on how long you set the sensor for and how "inactive" you are while watching TV. You may find yourself waving to yourself every 60 minutes if you like to sit in front of the TV with Mount Rushmore-like stoicism. Or, you can just turn the feature off. The final feature, and probably the best example of "greenwashing", is the Energy Saving Switch. It's essentially an on/off rocker switch, like they have on most appliances — including the last few TV ranges from Panasonic. While you could argue that many TVs use some power when in standby mode — that is, when the little red light comes on — most new TVs use less than a Watt.
But what has been the net effect of Sony's green gizmos? To first set the scene, the Australian Government introduced a voluntary Energy Star rating system for televisions in April, and Sony has been quite forthcoming by providing star ratings on most of its new range. Up until last week, thewas the best-performing model we'd seen so far with a 4.5-star rating (out of a possible 6). It's now been bettered by pretty much every one of the Samsung TVs.
Amidst all of the Sony's Eco features it's easy to lose track of some of its "ordinary" television features, which includeand 24p support, DLNA streaming and a Picture Frame Mode.
One unusual thing about the WE series is how its ports are organised. We applaud Sony for installing two HDMI slots on the side of the device, as it makes plugging in portable equipment much easier, but is there any need for an Ethernet port there as well? Further connectivity is catered for on the rear by a further two HDMI ports, two component inputs and three composite connections. PC users also get a VGA port as well.