Consumer Reports

3D TVs boast some seriously sophisticated hardware

3D-capable TVs aren’t special TVs used exclusively to watch 3D images, Consumer Reports explains. They’re regular high-definition LCD and plasma TVs with an extra feature: a 3D mode.
They display regular 2D programming just like any set but can be switched into 3D mode when you want to watch 3D content from a Blu-ray disc or TV channel.
Like most new technologies, 3D capability was initially expensive, but prices of 3D TVs have already dropped and are sure to decrease further this year. At some point, the premium over a regular TV might be so small that it will be worth considering a 3D model even if you don’t plan to use that feature.
CR rates 3D TVs
In its first-ever Ratings of 20 3D TVs, CR found that some of the best performing 3D TVs were among the best overall HD performers.
The Panasonic VT20 (Viera TC-P50VT20, $1,800) and VT25 (Viera TC-P65VT25, $4,300, and Viera TC-P54VT25, $2,500) plasma models were among the best HD sets that CR has ever tested. In addition to excellent HD performance, they displayed the least ghosting with 3D programming and achieved the highest overall scores in the 3D TV Ratings.
Overall, most 3D sets were excellent or very good for HD. The 3D-capable LCD models displayed realistic, 3D depth but visible ghosting detracted from the 3D effect. The Sony 3D TVs (Bravia XBR-52HX909, $3,600; Bravia XBR-60LX900, $4,500; Bravia KDL-46HX800, $1,700; Bravia XBR-46HX909, $3,150; and Bravia XBR-52LX900, $3,600) were best among the LCD models, but only when the viewer’s head was perfectly level. In general, plasma sets exhibit less ghosting, which is when double images are visible even when wearing the special 3D glasses needed to see 3D images.
In addition to rating HD and SD picture quality, viewing angle, and sound quality, CR’s Ratings included a score for 3D effect and identified how many pairs of glasses come with each model.
Other considerations with 3D TVs
— 3D glasses are required. Current 3D TVs require active-shutter glasses, which can be both uncomfortable and pricey, generally costing about $130 to $150 a pair. Some 3D TVs come with one or two pairs but others don’t come with any. CR is beginning to test the first passive 3D TVs, which use lightweight, inexpensive, polarized 3D glasses, similar to those available at movie theaters. You don’t need glasses for regular 2D content.
— 3D content is still limited. But more content, both 3D Blu-rays and 3D broadcasts, is on the way. Dozens of new 3D Blu-ray titles are expected in coming months, and current 3D channels such as ESPN 3D and DirecTVs n3D will soon be joined by 3Net, a 24/7 3D channel from Discovery, IMAX and Sony. HBO and Vudu also recently added 3D content.
— When to buy. 3D TVs make the most sense for early adopters or those who don’t mind paying more for a new technology, or for those who are already in the market for a TV and who want to future-proof their purchase. Those looking for the absolute best HD performance should also consider a 3D model, even if they don’t plan to use 3D immediately. A 3D TV is also an option for photo and video enthusiasts who expect to purchase a 3D camera or camcorder, and who’d like to look at these images on a larger screen. But those who don’t need a new TV or who aren’t dying for the 3D experience should bide their time, as they’ll likely be rewarded with lower prices, more 3D content, and perhaps less-expensive, more comfortable glasses. Whether buying now or buying later, it’s important for consumers to try-out 3D before buying a TV to make sure they are comfortable with the viewing experience.