In case you haven't noticed, "green" is big business. One way for HDTV makers to cash in on the public's craving for efficiency is to label a TV "eco-friendly." Sony's KDL-VE5 series does just that, but unlike a lot of so-called green electronics, this TV can actually save power in a new, potentially very effective way. That's because it incorporates a "presence sensor" that can automatically turn the picture off when it detects nobody's watching. Amazingly, the feature worked pretty well in our tests, and we hope to see similar automatic turn-offs in future televisions--as long as irate couch potatoes don't flood Sony's customer service call centers to complain of malfunctioning TVs. Otherwise the Sony uses about as much power as a typical LCD--it's nowhere near as miserly as the LED-backlit Sharp's LC-LE700UN series, for example.
The KDL-VE5 also offers very good picture quality for a standard LCD, but on the downside it charges a hefty premium over the step-down KDL-V5100 series--the only major differences between the two are styling and the VE5's presence sensor. If you're prone to forgetting to turn the TV off, however, the KDL-VE5 might be able to make up the difference in a few years.
The VE5's main differentiating feature is the ability to sense your presence and, if it detects you're no longer in the room, turn off the picture until you return, saving significant amounts of power. A small motion sensor in the middle of the silver speaker bar monitors a 45-degree arc directly in front of the television, out to a distance of about 10 feet according to the manual, and when it fails to detect movement after a specified period of time--you can set it for 5, 30 or 60 minutes--the picture goes dark (the sound remains turned-on, however) and power consumption drops to about 51 watts. That's at least half, depending on your other settings, of the VE5's normal power use. If the sensor detects movement again within 30 minutes the TV turns back on. If not it shuts off completely, cutting power use down to nearly 0 watts.
The picture quality of Sony's KDL-46VE5 is solid for a standard LCD, with relatively deep black levels, accurate color and good video processing. On the other hand we'd like to see better saturation, more neutral colors in dark areas, and an improvement in uniformity.