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Tech Culture: Inside the CNET labs
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Tech Culture: Inside the CNET labs

5:16 /

For our last show of the year, we head into the CNET labs to show you how our editors test consumer electronics for energy efficiency.

[ Background music ] >> Mark Licea: Hey I'm Mark Licea and we have a special end of the year show this week where we tour the CNET labs and show you how our editors test their products for power consumption. The Green Show starts now. ^M00:00:12 [ Music ] ^M00:00:25 >> Hey I'm here in the labs with our senior editor David Katzmaier he reviews HDTVs for CNET and he's gonna tell us how we test for power consumption. So David what is the first step when you're testing these TVs for energy efficiency? >> David Katzmaier: Actually one of the first steps is dictated by the Energy Star protocol is to warm the TV up. So TVs kind of fluctuate you know if you don't warm up for a little bit so we use an hour long warming period to get them kind of fired up. We just turn them on with whatever they out of the box with their default settings and let them run for an hour. >> Mark: And what kind of technology is involved in the testing process? >> David: We use a relatively sensitive power meter. It's a chronometer we plug the TV right into it and it measures the wattage and a lot of other different factors but watts is really what we care about so we just plug it into this meter, the meter measures things automatically once per second kind of gives us an average afterwards. There's a specific disk that we use to test this. We use the same disk every time and there's also in addition to the Energy Star protocols we actually test for a calibrator which posts calibration settings so we set up the TV to a specific light output which equalizes the power you know above and beyond the regular default settings. We also test the power saver mode on the TV to see how proficient that is. >> Mark: And how do you determine and energy rating for each TV? >> David: Well every TV has a range of good, fair or poor and we pretty much divide all the TVs we've tested right down in the 33%, 32%, 33% so the bottom 3rd gets a poor, the middle 3rd gets a fair and the top 30 gets a good. >> Mark: So what are the biggest factors in determining power consumption? >> David: There's 3 major factors. There's screen size, course the larger TVs use more power. There's technology, the plasmas use more power than LCDs and there's a lot of variation between those categories; different types of LCDs use more or less power. LEDs very efficient for example and also the picture setting itself so how bright you set the picture which is often determined by the picture mode. >> Mark: And how does all of this information translate to how much you pay annually? >> David: That's a really good question. Actually people think that TVs consume a lot of power but actually the annual number is relatively low. For example even the least efficient type of TV the plasma in the 46 inch range calibrated for a dark room which is relatively dim is only going to use about $65 per year with average energy costs. Course there's a lot of fluctuation with screen size and technology between those, some TVs use you know as much power as a 60 watt light bulb. >> Mark: have you noticed any changes from the manufactures end to be more green? >> David: Yeah actually the TVs have been getting a lot more efficient year over year, even the plasma's have been getting more efficient. But again these new technology introductions like LED and getting the LCD TVs to be a lot more energy efficient have been really kind of improving it a lot. >> Mark: Great! Thanks for that. Next let's head over to Dan Akerman in the computer lab to talk about how they test laptops and desktops. ^M00:03:05 [ music ] ^M00:03:10 >> Mark: So Dan you're gonna tell us how all the power testing magic happens here in the lab so give us the run down. >> Dan Akerman: Well what we started doing is taking every desktop and every laptop that comes into the CNET labs and hooking them up to a power meter much like this one then we take the machine and we run it through a whole bunch of different usage scenarios that kind of mimic what you'd actually do with the machine during the course of a year. We test it while it's off because you know it's still drawing some current from the wall. We test it while it's asleep cause your machine spends a lot of time asleep. We test it while it's kind of idle just sitting here and then we actually run a whole bunch of programs we call that a load test and see how much power draws when it's actually doing the stuff that you do with your computer all the time. So then we take this data and we actually work that into the review so any review you look up on CNET is gonna have that number and a comparison to other similar systems you see which one uses the power. >>Mark: So what's a typical price range for a laptop or a desktop? >> Dan: Well you can start at well under $5 if you have a very energy efficient machine or if you have a big gaming rig whether it's a desktop or a laptop it can go $20-30 even more but it's still not a lot considering you're using a machine for a full year. >> Mark: And what's the difference between testing laptops and desktops for power consumption. >> Dan: When talking about power consumption we actually do run the same tests on desktops and laptops. We run a slightly more involved load test when we're testing gaming machines because you're gonna use those to play games which is more intense than you know surfing the web. >> Mark: And what about products that use recycled materials or less packaging. >> Dan: We'll we're seeing a little bit of that but kind of at the beginning of that road in terms of computers, desktops and laptops. We obviously have seen a couple of manufacturers let you send your old product back when you buy a new one so they'll recycle your old laptop or desktop and of course we're seeing some guys move away from the traditional Styrofoam packaging, the packaging with more sort of more cardboard parts in it and we're even seeing a handful of systems starting to hit the market that have a guarantee percentage of post consumer recycled content in them. >> Mark: We also test monitors for power consumption but the process is very similar to the way we test HD TVs. And that does it for 2009. We won't have new episodes at the Green Show until mid-January and I want to thank everyone for writing in with your support and feedback on the show. Happy Holidays and until next time I'm Mark Licea thanks for watching. ^M00:05:11 [ Music ]

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