Things You Need to Know About 3D TV

3D TVs are starting to arrive in stores, and consumers have a lot of questions. The big one, of course, is whether these new TVs can recreate the 3D excitement we’ve been getting in movie theaters in our own homes. Based on our exclusive tests of the first models available, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Here are seven things you need to know about 3D:

1. It looks great. The results of our preliminary tests of two Samsung LCD sets and a Panasonic plasma TV have been impressive. The high-definition, 1080p images on these TVs have excellent three-dimensional depth, color, and detail — especially with animated content-creating a compelling and realistic three-dimensional experience. You’ll be ducking when that Frisbee comes flying toward you!

2. A few sets are in stores now, with more to come soon. As of mid-March, there are three 3D TVs in stores: two LCD sets from Samsung, the 46-inch UN46C7000, $2,600 at Sears, and the 55-inch UN55C7000, $2,970 at Best Buy and $3,300 at Sears. The 50-inch Panasonic TC-P50VT20 plasma we tested is available in select Best Buy Magnolia stores for $2,500. 3D TVs from other brands (including LG, Sony, Toshiba, and Vizio) are expected to arrive over the next few months.

3. You have to wear special glasses to watch 3D on a TV. Without glasses, you’ll see blurry double images. These aren’t the old-fashioned cardboard glasses you used to get at movie theaters, but high-tech active LCD shutter glasses. You can put them over your regular specs, though some might find this uncomfortable. You get one or two pairs of glasses with some 3D TVs, but other sets don’t include any. Expect to pay about $150 for each pair of glasses, at least initially.

4. A 3D set isn’t just for 3D. It functions like any standard TV with regular programs, and shifts into 3D mode when it detects 3D content. You don’t have to wear glasses to watch regular programming.

5. The only thing to watch in 3D right now are movies on Blu-ray discs. 3D TV channels from DirecTV, ESPN are expected this summer, and the Discovery Channel is expected to offer 3D at some point soon, but for now, movies are the only game in town. Monsters vs. Aliens is one of the first 3D movies available, but more are coming soon, including Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, expected in April. You’ll need to buy a new 3D-capable Blu-ray player (about $400) to play these discs. (There are some older 3D movies — such as Journey to the Center of the Earth, Polar Express, and Coraline — that use the old-style cardboard anaglyph glasses, but they’re not comparable to the new 3D.)

6. Prices aren’t sky-high. The 3D TVs announced so far cost several hundred dollars more than regular sets that have similar features (aside from 3D). The lowest-priced 3D set now on the market, a 50-inch Panasonic plasma, costs $2,500. Lower-priced models are due soon, including a 46-inch $1,700 LCD set and an $1,800 50-inch plasma TV from Samsung.

7. Buying now makes sense for some consumers. If you’re in the market for a fairly high-end TV anyway, you might want to consider a 3D set. It won’t cost much more than a regular TV, and you won’t have to think about buying yet another new TV in a year or two when there’s lots of 3D content to watch, both on TV and on Blu-ray discs. There are only a few sets on the market now, but you’ll have more of a selection in a few months. However, if you don’t need a new TV, we wouldn’t rush out to buy one (unless you’re a well-heeled early adopter itching for the latest and greatest technology). Prices for 3D TVs and Blu-ray players are no doubt going to drop over time, you’ll have more models to choose from, and there’ll be more 3D to watch. Catch up with our ongoing coverage of 3D TV in our earlier posts.

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Posted in Technology.

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