A while back I did a post lambasting plasma TV's for their dramatically higher energy usage compared to LCD and laser TV technologies. I was notably called out for not mentioning the fact that, while it is true many large-screen plasma are huge energy hogs (I used 540 watts in my calculation in that post) plasma technology has taken leaps and bounds in the past year.

Nowhere was this more evident than at last month's CES show. On display were ultra-thin, ultra-smart and darn efficient plasma screens, like Sony's Bravia TV's which shows up to 40% savings over last year's comparable model, and the prize-winning line of new thin Plasma TV's from Panasonic (the one pictured above). 

This big leap in efficiency might come in part a result of Energy Star's new 3.0 energy guide for televisions (PDF). The new standard clears up the confusion about how to test the TV's energy usage, requiring that the TV be 'on' -- yes I know, it's amazing but the previous standard did not require the TV be powered up, testing in standby mode was enough. It sets maximum limits for both normal and hi-def resolution screens and requires limits for standby power consumption.

The winner may be Panasonic's NEO series. It uses a power-saving device called 'infinite black.' Now almost common in the 2009 lineup at CES, this feature essentially powers down in response to the image, the color black using zero energy. This and other features allow the TV to use about half the energy of a comparable hi-def TV.

According to CNET tests, there are some big-screen Plasmas out there now that use much less than the EnergyStar standard. For instance the 60" Panasonic TH-58PZ800u uses just under 200 watts!

For a constantly updated list of different models and how much energy they consume, check out the CNET Quick Guide.

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