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Philips' Eco TV: The Prius of televisions

We test the so-called Eco TV for power consumption, and indeed it sips juice at a truly miserly rate.

The 42PFL5603D is the new energy-efficiency champ. Philips

It's official: The Philips 42PFL5603D consumes less power than any HDTV we've tested, regardless of screen size. The so-called Eco TV earned our nod for Best in Show at CES by hugging trees harder than any flat-panel HDTV yet. We based that decision partly on a Watts Up! power meter Philips had set up in its booth, which showed the 42-inch LCD sucking down electricity at a miserly rate between 60 and 80 watts (check out the video).

As proven by our somewhat more rigorous power consumption test, the Eco TV deserves a place next to your Prius, your low-flow toilet valve, and your almost-watched copy of An Inconvenient Truth. The display set new records among all of the HDTVs whose power use we've tracked, scoring an average of 91.23 watts in the default picture setting, 67.29 watts in the power saver mode--that's right, barely more than a standard incandescent light bulb--and just 0.33 watt in standby (we suspect standby consumption is even lower than that, but our equipment can't measure that low). Comparing against other HDTVs' default modes, the closest competitor was a 27-inch LCD at 105 watts. In the Philips' screen size class, by comparison, the closest 42-inch plasma measured 188.26 watts and the closest 42-inch LCD measured 134.04.

In default picture mode, we estimate it will cost just $28.69 in electricity to run the 42PFL4603D for a year--about $6 less than its closest competitor--while power saver mode brings that cost down to $21.28. That estimate assumes a cost of 10.6 cents per kilowatt hour and a picture-on time of 8 hours per day, both national averages.

The bad news? The Eco TV uses a novel variable backlight to achieve its low wattage numbers, turning the light output down in dark scenes. Most other LCDs keep the backlight, and thus power use, at a constant level regardless of screen content. We haven't has a chance to test it thoroughly, but initial indications are that the fluctuating backlight harms picture quality, flashing subtly but distractingly enough to annoy careful watchers, especially in transitions between light and dark scenes. We'll have the complete story when the full 42PFL5603D review posts later next week.