Plasma TVs killing the planet? Excellent customer service. Xbox 360 vs PS3.
A few days ago, I posted a link to a news story which said that Australia plans to ban the sale of plasma TVs because of their power usage requirements. As an owner of a plasma screen, this seemed a bit excessive to me and sounded more like what a supporter of LCD displays would list as one of the “crimes” of plasma. It is true that a 50″ plasma screen uses an enormous amount of energy, some 350+ W. More and more people have large screen plasma TVs in their homes, and this obviously causes problems in terms of energy conservation. However, I was sceptical that it was only plasma TVs causing the end of the world as we know it. I had a feeling that that similar sized LCDs aren’t much more energy efficient than plasmas.
Doing some research, I went to the Sony website to check our their Bravia range of LCDs. The Bravias are often used as an example of the demise of plasma TVs, about how great they look and how Sony pulled out of making plasma TVs because they were doomed (even though that had more to do with the fact that they were sourcing their panels from other manufacturers, and so, could not stay price competitive in the long run) . The Bravias do look good, and the price is reasonable for their 1080p panels. But looking at the power consumption, I found that their top of the line 52″ model is rated at a massive 320W, only 50W less than a plasma of equivalent size (the Pioneer 508 50″ is rated at 369W). Not much difference when the fate of the world is at stake.
Then I looked at some other forms of display technologies such as front and rear projection. To my surprise, a 1080p projector is rated at 300W, although it will project a much larger image than plasma. A 50″ rear projection TV is slightly less power consuming at around 250W, but that’s still quite a lot of power.
An interesting website I found while searching for power usage data is sust-it.net, where you can search for the power requirements and energy cost of consumer electronics in the hope to find a model that is more energy efficient (the 103″ plasma at 1500W costing £413.28, $US 840, in energy costs per year is interesting).
Anyway, it does look like energy consumption will be an issue no matter which type of large screen TV you use – the only solution is to not use large screen TVs at all. But as with all technology, they evolve and the next generation of OLED TVs promises to use much less power to deliver an even better picture.
Nintendo: Excellent Customer Service
Not content with having the most wanted and innovative console on the market, Nintendo is also doing the right thing when it comes to customer service. In a story I posted last week, Nintendo is set to offer up to four free Wiimote jackets to existing Wii owners to solve the sweat induced Wiimote slippage issue. To be honest, I’ve never had much of a problem with Wiimote slippage, mainly because I don’t play with my Wii in a very aggressive manner (this whole sentence sounds very dirty). But to prevent problems for those in the household that do suffer from slippage, I phoned up Nintendo customer service and ordered my two free jackets. The entire process was totally painless, I did not have to wait on hold at all, and it was all over within minutes. The lady on the phone was friendly, and I’m almost certain it was a local call center, not one in India or somewhere else. And best of all, it’s was all free (apart from the cost of a 20 cent local phone call), even the delivery. I don’t know when I will get my jackets, not that I’m in any hurry. I think it’s worthwhile to point out good customer service when you experience it, as most people only say anything about customer service when they’ve had a bad experience. To offer a free solution (not so free for Nintendo though, it will cost them over 20 million dollars) for a problem that really isn’t much of a problem anyway, and to not make you jump through hoops to take advantage of it … that’s excellent customer service.
Xbox 360 vs PS3
I know, not another one of these comparisons. Apple vs PC. Intel vs AMD. Star Wars vs Star Trek. All pointless comparisons. But I found an interesting (but somewhat dated) thread about the performance of the Xbox 360 vs the PS3, from a programmer’s point of view, and I thought it was interesting that the conclusion was that the differences are negligible. It seems common knowledge that the PS3 is much more powerful than the Xbox 360, how else would you explain the PS3’s one year release delay when compared to the Xbox 360 (just don’t mention “Blu-ray”) and the fact that it has more games in 1080p than the Xbox 360 (just don’t mention poorer framerates and visual quality of 1080p vs 720p games).
BioWare’s President, Greg Zeschuk, also says there’s not much difference between the two consoles in any case:
If everyone’s waiting for this huge gap, it’s just not going to happen. By the end of this generation both PS3 and Xbox 360 will look awesome. Maybe 1 per cent of the population might be able to tell the difference between the two.
The big difference is storage, in that the PS3 has Blu-ray, while the Xbox 360 is stuck with DVD (for now). But Greg Zeschuk mentions that the best game of the year, Bioshock, is a DVD only affair, as is The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and as is the soon to be released Mass Effect (which looks great). These are all huge games with huge worlds and they don’t need to be on Blu-ray. And with hardware performance between the two not light-years apart (both only have 512 MB of memory anyway), it’s unlikely extra storage will make games look or play better (not without excessive loading times – trying to fit 25 GB of data into 512 MB of RAM is not going to be a smooth experience). What Blu-ray can do is to incorporate HD full motion video into games, but we’ve already seen that tried and failed when CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs first came out … FMV is nice, but it doesn’t determine whether the game is good or not, and with graphics improving monthly, FMV seems out of place as compared to integrated 3D cut-scenes.