California Is Tightening Regulations on Monitors, Too, but Don't Panic

(Image credit: Nvidia)

The California Energy Commission has put energy regulations into place in regards to gaming monitors (just like on gaming desktops) with the aim of making them more efficient. This may result in some companies being unable to ship certain gaming monitors to California due to high power consumption, similar to Dell being unable to ship select Alienware gaming desktops for the same reasons.

The policy considers a monitor's maximum powered-on power consumption, how much energy it consumes when turned off and in sleep states, as well as the size of the screen (the larger the size, the looser the regulations). The energy laws also take into consideration OLED panels and curved displays.

California Monitor Energy Laws

(Image credit: Energy Codeace)

But that's not all. The categories delve even deeper by expanding to both G-Sync Ultimate and FreeSync panels, with specific regulations for each. The extra hardware in the G-Sync Ultimate displays consumes extra power, which is why both FreeSync and G-Sync Ultimate are differentiated.

California Monitor Energy Laws

(Image credit: Energy Codeace)

California's measurements are based heavily on EnergyStar recommendations on power efficiency. All monitor testing is done at 200 nits of brightness.

Effectively, the new energy restrictions applied to monitors made on or after January 1, 2021 require displays to be 15-20% more efficient (less power-hungry) than previous regulations. 

California Monitor Energy Laws

(Image credit: Energy Codeace)

Idle wattage is a major concern for the state of California, as the new regulations state that gaming monitors need to ship with 1.2-watts of power consumption or less when operating in sleep mode or in the power-off mode.

In a recent  YouTube video, JayzTwoCents found that G-Sync monitors could have major problems complying with this requirement. All G-Sync monitors he tested were consuming almost 15 watts in the idle state or power-off state.

If JayzTwoCents' testing holds true, any G-Sync monitor with this kind of draw could potentially be prevented from sale in California for not complying with the 1.2-watt idle mode if they were produced in 2021.

California states that "A manufacturer may ship with additional features enabled, even if they were turned off in testing." This means any added features, like G-Sync, RGB LEDs (for aesthetics, not the display), KVM switches, or more are not regulated as long as they are switched OFF during testing.

This is possibly how Nvidia and its monitor partners may get G-Sync Ultimate monitors on shelves: by turning off the G-Sync module during testing.

If that's the case, California's new energy regulations won't likely have any impact on new gaming monitors. However, don't be surprised if a select few models become unavailable in the coming weeks or months due to the new regulations.

Aaron Klotz
Freelance News Writer

Aaron Klotz is a freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US, covering news topics related to computer hardware such as CPUs, and graphics cards.

  • Giroro
    California is spending millions of taxpayer dollars just to knock a half of a watt off of idle power consumption - a meaningless amount of power which the device owner can either choose to pay for, or just turn off an unused device.

    Device certification isn't free. "CEC certified" stickers are not free. Those costs get passed onto the customer. This is a backdoor stamp tax; paid by every single buyer of any monitor (or PC) in California and the other afflicted states.

    Its spending dollars to save small fractions of a cent.
    Is this really worth the regulation? What's the actual, tangible, provable benefit? Is it a cost effective and evidence driven approach to... Do whatever is supposed to be accomplished by reducing a home's energy bill by 0.0000001%
    Why is time and money being wasted on this instead of real issues? Like, for example, doing something to stop PGE's inefficient collapsing power lines from setting the entire state on fire multiple times per year.
  • watzupken
    I don't stay in the states, but what California is doing is not going to help them save a lot of power. if they are so determined to save power, sure, stop any crypto mining activities, stop driving (cycle and use renewable kinetic energy), stop using heavy machinery (rely on manual kinetic energy), etc... It is a few steps backward, but for convenience sake, we switched from manual work to use machines to do our work. So of course power usage will go up. You shave a few watts here and there, is not going to make up for all the "automation" and use of machineries. If they want, they should just ban all desktop sale and only allow laptops which typically uses less power.
  • maik80
    From what I understand the problem is the installed electrical capacity is at the limit, it's not a question of the guy paying, it's wanting to pay and not having to buy