The big 3D question: Should you buy now?


Sony 3DTV KidsThe situation is all too familiar: a new format or technology has emerged, promising a game-changing entertainment experience and you are left wondering when or even if you should jump on the bandwagon.

CDs, DVDs, HDTV (in both 720 and 1080p flavours) are all examples of formats that wooed consumers and after a short introductory period quickly grew to mass-market proportions. More recently, but with less success so far than the other technologies, Blu-ray has been making in-roads helped largely by falling prices.

Now 3D is calling your name, with many of the big names announcing retail availability of compatible TVs and Blu-ray players this year, with the U.S. already selling packages.

Here in Canada, starting March 26, 2010, Samsung 3D TVs, accessories and movies will be available at Future Shop’s 144 stores.

If you’re an early-adopter, you’ve already decided you’re on board with 3D and are patiently awaiting the first reviews to emerge so that you make the best purchasing decision.

But for everyone else, here’s some advice.

Be patient. The first products on the market will be the most expensive, and the least sophisticated. As with any technology, each revision will bring improvements and price reductions. If you need another reason to wait, consider the availability of content. Only a handful of compatible movies will be available this year, and so far neither cable nor satellite has made any announcements concerning 3D support in Canada. It will of course be coming soon, but do you really want to make a decision without knowing the price?

Demo the experience. Recently, I had the chance to experience Sony’s 3D TV for myself at the Sony Store in downtown Toronto, in the Eaton’s Centre. They showed us 3D gaming, and some 3D sports footage. It was fun, no question. Sony’s 3D is very convincing, creating the impression that the TV screen was actually a window through which you could see the action taking place. Unlike some other implementations of 3D that I’ve seen, the emphasis was on creating as sense of depth, rather than height (very few objects appeared to ‘pop out’ of the TV). The required active-shutter glasses were comfortable but the demo was only 10 minutes – it’s hard to say if they would be okay for a 3-hour movie. By way of comparison, they are heavier than the 3D glasses you get at theatres, but also a better fit.

I also noticed that the combination of the 3D display and the glasses resulted in a somewhat washed-out image. Perhaps this effect is more pronounced for some people than others – similar in nature to the rainbow-effect reported by some viewers of rear-projection DLP TVs. Or it might be fundamental to the technology as it exists today. Either way, images on the 3D TV did not feel as bright, rich or vivid as comparable non-3D sets. The point here is that you really need to see 3D for yourself to decide if lives up to your expectations.

Be realistic about your viewing habits. Even though 3D TVs like the Sony model will be able to perform a kind of up-conversion on regular 2D to 3D (sort of like the simulated surround sound that some two-speaker audio systems can achieve via clever modulation of the sound), can you see yourself wanting to watch 3D for casual viewing? Remember, that with 3D, you must be wearing the glasses, otherwise the screen will look like a very fuzzy and confusing series of overlapped images. So if someone in the room is watching in 3D, everyone else needs to wear the glasses too – even if they are engaging in another activity like surfing the web or folding laundry. Will they want to wear the glasses while doing that? The question is whether you want to spend a lot of extra money on a feature you won’t be using *most* of the time. Unlike HD, I don’t think 3D is going to become a must-have feature. Now that I have HD, I intentionally seek HD programming – I really would prefer to watch nothing else if I have the choice – it’s just that much better than SD. My guess is that 3D will remain event-driven for the vast majority of viewers – they’ll use it for the occasional movie, game or sporting event, but that’s it.

Stay informed. As the top-tier review sites and publications get their hands on the new batch of gear, they’ll have some great insights into this technology. For instance, now that LCD and plasma are delivering very similar results in the 2D world, will this parity remain in the 3D landscape or will one technology emerge superior? Only time will tell. We’ll do our best to make sure you’re up on the latest resources :-)

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5 comments

  1. antonio malatesta

    I will soon be selling these new t.v,s and i think that the prices are ridiculous.$3000 on average plus the conversion kit for $400 plus the connecting wire for about $150 and $100 or more a pop for extra glasses.

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  2. Terry

    I was hoping for a release of the VIZIO version of 3d which is due in August and will no doubt be priced much better than Sony or Samsung. Unfortunately that may be a little late as I need to buy now.

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  3. Ross

    what they are not telling you is that you have to sit head on or the effect sucks from the side thats why you only get 2 pair of glasses so unless your going full imax or your a loner it is a waste so spend your money on better audio

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    • Simon Cohen

      Hey Ross, that’s not completely true. I can’t speak for any of the other manufacturers since I haven’t seen their products, but the Sony 3D experience is not limited to 2 pairs of glasses – in fact it can handle up to 8 pairs.
      Also, I made a point of walking from side to side, and checking out the 3D effect from a low angle too – though there was definitely a ‘sweet spot’ when you were dead centre, the overall effect wasn’t diminished much as you moved around. In fact, moving further away from the display seemed to improve the 3D slightly.

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  4. Steve

    Let’s take a step back and look at how HD is being handled – not very well, in my opinion. Why? I have had an HDTV since the 2004 – 2005 time frame. Back in those days, HD programming was very limited. Skip forward to today where the selection is better but even with shows on HD channels, the signal may be broadcast in HD, but it sure wasn’t shot in HD, nor has any attempt even been made to do an upconversion by the broadcasters themselves.

    Now we are on the verge of 3D TV, but I question whether or not anyone should purchase a 3D TV set ……. yet. Lack of TV programming, lack of movies, lack of standards, etc. Those glasses need to get a lot more comfortable to wear too!! Avatar was amazing in 3D but the effects are the reason it is a box office blockbuster, it sure isn’t the unoriginal story line. Is 3D, as it is today, a fad or will it have staying power? Personally, I think we should all wait – you don’t want to be the HD-DVD or Beta player owner for this new generation of technology.

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