New energy guidelines stump CE designers Junko Yoshida (12/13/2008 12:53 AM EST) URL: http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=212500174 MANHASSET, NY - Do "green TVs" matter? If you ask the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the answer is a resounding yes. A recent CEA consumer survey shows that a majority of consumers answered that energy efficiency is the number one feature/performance/concern in choosing their next television. While such high environmental consciousness among consumers might surprise some cynics, the real clincher of the green TV debate today is the lack of flat panel TVs that can actually meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved Version 3.0 Energy Star TV program Requirements (Energy Star 3.0) that just went into effect on Nov. 1st. The new Energy Star 3.0 standard slashes the current standby power requirement from 3 watts to 1 watt or less. Moreover, Energy Star 3.0, for the first time, places requirements on active-mode power consumption. Energy Star 3.0 demands 149 watts of maximum allowable on-mode power watts for a 37-inch screen TV, 208 watts for a 42-inch TV and for a 50-inch screen 318 watts, according to calculations done by Steve Sechrist, editor/analyst at Insight Media. The same maximum on-mode power consumption guidelines are applied to any TV regardless of display technologies. Based on the published numbers, said Sechrist, none of the 37-inch LCD TVs on the retail shelf today can meet the new standard. In contrast, 7 out of 10 models of 50-inch plasma TVs offer published on-mode power watts compliant to Energy Star 3.0. Sechrist said, "Interesting from a screen efficiency view, the larger screen size performs better in watt/square inch." Real-life laboratory tests (vs. published numbers) appear to show an ever harder reality. While declining to name names, Doug Bartow, strategic marketing manager, advanced television segment at Analog Devices Inc., said, "We tested eight HDTVs that were on retail shelves over the last eight to ten months. And only one passed these new max active power consumption guidelines." The new maximum active power consumption guidelines imposed by Energy Star 3.0 are likely to spark new discussion on display technologies used by flat panel TV designers, Bartow speculated. Plasma TVs, for example, face close scrutiny, because they consume more power than LCDs. But even LCD TVs can be problematic because of backlights that need to be turned on all the time. Beyond the choice of display technology for flat-panel TVs, what will truly stump TV designers is Energy Star 3.0's 1 watt or less standby mode requirement, predicted Bartow. The 1 watt requirement is a huge challenge when advanced consumer entertainment systems need to support the Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) function. CEC, a part of the HDMI interface standard, is a single conductor wire or bus technology designed to carry IR-remote and control commands between interconnected HDMI devices. For the bidirectional link over a HDMI cable to properly function -- in sending and receiving CEC commands, "A TV needs to be ready to wake up or it must monitor the CE bus at all times," Bartow explained. Insight Media's Sechrist observed, "Most designers would normally use the SoC to monitor the CEC command, but with new Energy Star compliance, it blows the 1 watt budget." Both Sechrist and Bartow expect a digital TV chip that keeps a portion of the chip awake to monitor activity on the CEC bus. But its problem is that it requires "a re-design" of the digital TV chip, said Bartow. Alternatively, Sechrist said, TV designers can buy a separate CEC controller chip. This will cause "not so much a power issue but add component cost, board space and time." He estimated that a microcontroller and/or a clock source will consume less than a quarter of a watt. "This will also be an 'add-on.' If there is not enough left over in the power budget, the solution may send designers back to the drawing board. That blows the launch time." Of all the available CEC controller design options for CE systems, ADI will offer a family of HDMI interfaces integrated with a CEC controller. The company will initially launch deep color HDMI transmitter integrated with a CEC controller and buffer -- designed for high-definition audio/video devices. The EPA's Energy Star guidelines will be applied to a broad range of consumer electronics devices ranging from ATSC-to-NTSC digital converter boxes, DVD products (including Blu-Ray), A/V receivers and external power adapters (such as wall-printed transformers that power digital photo frames, radios, calculators, desktop LCD monitors and others). ADI's Bartow said the company's new deep color HDMI transmitter, designated as ADV7510, features "robust CEC controller software that is tolerant of ambiguity" of slightly different timing commands implemented in different systems by different brands. The typical standby power consumption for ADV7510 is "less than 0.6mW," according to Bartow. Sechrist said that ADI, by integrating a CEC controller in the HDMI interface chip, solves several design issues at once for system vendors. ADI's solution comes with "a CEC buffer; already low standby power consumption of the HDMI interface; no additional board space is required; the CEC control software is included; plus integrating CEC feature in the HDMI interface is no cost added to the interface pricing." The ADV7510 deep-color HDMI transmitter is available in production quantities now, according to ADI. It's priced at $7.59 per unit in 1,000 piece quantities. 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