Do 3-D Displays Draw More Power?

Most industry observers would agree that 3-D capability and low power consumption are high on the list of new features for TVs. Even if consumers are not yet clamoring for them, these capabilities are among those that manufacturers are pushing in order to differentiate their products. Might it be possible, however, for one new feature to cancel out the other? Does the addition of 3-D make an environmentally friendly unit less so?

In many cases, yes, according to Paul Gray, Director of European TV Research for DisplaySearch. "It is very clear that with the current generation of 3-D sets, you have a significant loss of brightness," he says. (For more on this phenomenon, check out two of this month's features: "Evolving Technologies for LCD-Based 3-D Entertainment" and "Two New Technology Developments in the LCD Industry." In the case of LED-backlit units, this loss of brightness generally means that more LEDs will need to be used. And, as Gray notes, "more light costs more power."

Consequently, here is a case in which plasma has a potential edge over LCD technology because it emits. Both Samsung and Panasonic have 3-D-ready TVs based on plasma, in addition to their 3-D LCD units, and LG recently unveiled a 180-in. plasma 3-D TV prototype at the IFA show in Berlin.

To better understand just how much of a power penalty 3-D means to commercial TVs, industry observers such as CNET have started objective testing. CNET did a comparison in July ( that included mostly plasma sets and showed that they did indeed use approximately double the wattage when in 3-D mode, as opposed to 2-D mode.

However, it would be premature and perhaps incorrect to say that 3-D TVs are going to be massive power gobblers. "If you go back a year ago," says Gray, "there was all this wailing and hand-wringing about CEC power regulations." Now, he notes, many sets are already well below the power consumption levels specified for 2013. (For more data, see Gray's blog at While 3-D does increase power usage, this is a hurdle that manufacturers will most likely clear – especially if and when new 3-D regulations are set. "Engineers still have scope to bring power-consumption improvements," says Gray.

– Jenny Donela