NEWS

3-D TV coming this summer to a home near you

Carolyn Sperry

Movie buffs, sports fans and early adopters of new technology are eagerly awaiting the arrival of 3-D TVs. “There were some limited 3-D options prior to this year, but 2010 is the first time it’s really coming together as a system with 3-D TVs, glasses and video sources designed to work together,” says Steve Kindig of online electronics retailer Crutchfield.

‘3-D-ready’

In the coming months, the selection of 3-D TVs will broaden to include many models of plasma and LCD TVs with 3-D capability. Kindig says the models in this first wave of 3-D TVs should more accurately be called “3-D-ready,” meaning they have screens that are designed to display 3-D video. But not all models include the 3-D glasses that you need to watch in 3-D. If these glasses don’t come with your television, be aware that they’re expensive — $150 per pair or more — and you’ll need a pair for each viewer. And you can’t skip the glasses and see a 2-D picture. “If a TV is playing 3-D video and you’re not wearing 3-D glasses, the image looks quite blurry and distorted — unwatchable, really,” Kindig says.

Movies and more

Movie studios are planning to provide about 70 titles of Blu-Ray 3-D movies by the end of this year. At the moment, the only source of 3-D video is a 3-D Blu-ray player. Samsung’s 3-D Blu-ray player is available for around $400. In terms of programming choices, cable and satellite providers have promised to begin offering 3-D programming later this year. And recently, several cable companies broadcasted the Masters golf tournament in 3-D. (Most consumers were impressed; “awesome” was a common description in Internet forums.) As stations roll out their 3-D channels, viewers should be able to use current HD boxes – they won’t have to upgrade to special 3-D-capable boxes.

Should you buy?

Since there’s so little 3-D programming available at the moment, should you buy a 3-D TV now? Maybe. “The good news,” Kindig says, “is that in order to be able to display 3-D, these screens have to be very advanced — able to draw images super-fast. So, in addition to 3-D capability, you’re also getting a fantastic TV for viewing all of your 2-D sources. “Most 3-D TVs also include the ability to convert 2-D material to 3-D. It’s not going to look as good as true 3-D, but there should be some enhancement.” If you do decide to take the plunge into 3-D right away, your choices are Samsung LCD or plasma models, or Panasonic plasma models. Prices for these televisions start at around $1,800 for the TV alone.