Should You Buy a 3DTV Now?
By Andrew Eisner and Issa Chan

In this post-Avatar era, gadgeteers have been bathed in the promising glow of the latest 3DTVs. You may well ask, is 3DTV for real, is it a fad, should you pay the premium for a 3DTV or are you better off buying a standard HDTV? Although we've been impressed by the 3DTVs we've seen, we're not convinced you shouldn't just go with standard HDTV until prices come down and more programming becomes available.

Here are some reasons we think you could feel good about holding off on a 3DTV for now and buying a standard HDTV instead.

1. Very Little 3D Content and Sets Are Expensive
3DTV may be over-hyped. Yes, we are all caught up in the post-Avatar, 3D craze right now, but, with only a few worthwhile 3D movies to speak of, very little TV programming and no major video games scheduled for immediate release, we wonder if now is the time to invest in 3DTV? 3DTV is pretty cool for sure, but it lacks content, and is more expensive than an equivalent HDTV. Keep in mind that the premium you pay for being an early adopter of a 3DTV might very well pay for another HDTV set for your home although, we suspect 3DTV prices will fall over time.
2. LED Backlit LCD TVs
LED backlit LCDs are becoming the standard in HDTVs. Using LEDs as backlighting, instead of fluorescents (CCFL), new LCD HDTVs produce a bright picture with great viewing angles while saving both energy and space. Yes, most new 3DTVs use LED backlighting too, but the influx of new stock might motivate shops to move current LED backlit LCD TVs off the shelves at attractive prices.
3. High Refresh Rate and Internet Connectivity
Until 3DTVs become a better buy, we think you can future-proof your HDTV with features like high refresh rate and Internet connectivity. Internet connectivity will revolutionize your entertainment routine, and can be found on many non-3D TVs. Thanks to services like Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, YouTube and Boxee, the internet is becoming the go-to source for all sorts of media. It is accessible on-demand, across multiple platforms, and, often, completely free. Manufacturers, now, are including broadband, wired and wireless, on many TVs so you can stream your favorite TV shows, YouTube channels, music, and movies, right into your living room.
4. 3D Glasses Could Be a Showstopper
At around $150 a pair, 3D glasses are not cheap. The latest 3D glasses are not the simple disposable lenses of old. These new specs are high-tech wireless devices that work in tandem with your 3DTV to physically block light as it travels toward your eye. Expect to shell out as much as $600 a set for a family of 4. To make matters worse, every parent knows that this equation: Kids + Delicate x Expensive = Trouble.
5. Other Purchases May Be Required With Your 3DTV
Speaking of costly peripherals like 3D glasses, if you buy a 3DTV and want to watch Full HD (1080p) 3D content you won’t be able to use your current DVD or Blu-Ray player. You’ll need a special 3D-Ready, Blu Ray device in order to watch Full HD 3D content. Admittedly, you'll be able to watch "Half HD" 3D on many "transport" mediums like standard cable or satellite and standard DVD players and you might not even notice the difference but if you want the best quality 3DTV you'll be looking at a new Blu-ray player and a new AVR (receiver).
Bottom Line on 3DTV Now
We believe sound bargains can be found in standard HDTVs. Sure, you can’t invite a bunch of friends over to re-watch Avatar in 3D, but then again, could you afford to anyway? We say, if you don't want to pay the premium to have the first 3DTV on your block then go for the HDTV that offers the best picture quality in your price range and make sure it has features like high refresh rate and Internet connectivity.
3D "Ready" HDTV Might Be Best Bet
If you want to hedge your bet you could always look for an HDTV set that can be made to display 3D content when you're ready. A 3D "ready" HDTV will have a high refresh rate (120Hz or higher), HDMI 1.4 to hook up to a 3D Ready Blu-ray player or receiver, a USB hookup for a 3D glasses interface box, and the TV will have the necessary processing power or 3D "engine" to decode and display 3D content. The problem right now is we're not sure how you can identify a true 3D Ready HDTV and what level of 3D (Full or Half HD) it's actually "ready" for (comments welcome). All we can say is stay tuned for more information and be careful about believing the marketing hype or sales pitch. And, of course, you'll still need to buy enough glasses to outfit all the "viewers" in your household.
Looking for a Good HDTV Instead?
In case you don’t care to be the first person in your circle of friends to have a 3DTV but still want a good quality HDTV here are some good HDTVs for watching sports, good HDTVs for the bedroom, some good HDTVs on a tight budget and even some environmentally-friendly energy saver HDTVs.
Retrevo Can Help You Find the Right HDTV
As always, we have tons more reviews on the latest HDTVs to help you make the best choice. You can also check out our collection of electronics manuals, and reviews of digital cameras and laptops.

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History Shows

Color TVs before content

Stereo TV before content

HD TV before content

What drove the interest in home, Movie Theaters.

3DTV before content

When consumers have a choice in the theater the majority is saying there is entertainment value in 3D and willing to pay the up to 43% more for the 3D experience. When consumers had the choice they paid money to see the movie on the BIG SCREEN before a big screen was available at home.

3D Not a fad. Can be a gimmick if used wrong in content, can enhance if used properly. Old school vs. New school? Why use CGI in movies at all - doesn't that take away from the realism? In some cases yes, in others, absolutely not.

Best is that BDA put a format for Blu-ray in place so there is not another format war and WHICH 3DTV to buy, as one person noted above, if you don't want buyers remorse in 2011 make the stretch and have 3D.

3rd parties will jump in on the glasses and prices will come down VERY quickly.

3d tv

I bought lcd shutter glasses tecnology 3d system 10 years ago for dvd. It is a supplement to a similar
system I bought 20 years ago for vcr tapes. They both work great, on a CRT television only!

3D rdy BR's

Good list, I also think it's too early to buy a 3D tv. One thing you din't mention for 3D blu ray players is that Sony said PS3 ( which have a big market share of current BR drivers) should be updated to be able to play 3D stuff... We'll see if thats the case this summer.

The $150 glasses are a major turn off though, that's such a high amount... Children + guests makes buying more glasses almost required.

PS3 as 3D Blu-ray player

Yes, but only question will be what will Sony do about HDMI 1.4 which is needed if you want to send FullHD 3D from 3D Blu-ray to a 3DTV. As far as I know it's a hardware upgrade.

All the Sony 3d Ready Blu

All the Sony 3d Ready Blu Ray systems (including the PS3) have HDMI 1.3. A firmware update will allow for 3D, so there must be a way of sending the header info over HDMI 1.3.

I'm sure they've thought it through.

So, just to be clear...

So, just to be clear... You're saying we shouldn't go 3D, but should go 3D ready (even though the price difference between the two is relatively small). And, on the same page you're telling us not to waste money, you're pushing an article about the best games on the iPad - an outragiously priced net book that can't multitask or run flash.

My advice - if you're looking to buy a new tv, get the biggest, most expensive one you can afford, and if you can stretch to 3D - do so, otherwise you'll be regretting it by the middle of 2011...


I'll have to admit I'm a bit conflicted on 3D myself. On the one hand I think it might be a little too soon to jump on the band wagon on the other hand I think 3DTV is pretty darn cool. I don't think the industry can articulate what exactly a 3D ready TV is but I hope it will be much cheaper than a full blown 3DTV otherwise, you're right and there won't be much reason not to go all the way. I would tend to go along with your bottom line about getting a large TV and stretch to 3D if you can afford it or think you might want it

"..move current LED

"..move current LED backlit ...."
Don't you mean CFL (not LED cause you say thats the good one) as the less desirable backlighting...
or am I missing something?

could go either way

Actually there might be some older LED back lit models they want to clear to make room for the next generation of "connected" TVs. On the other hand they may have a lot of CCFL backlit models that need to go to

3D and, why bail out the movie companies now

All of the remarks were correct, but in addition, most videos are already convincingly close to0 reality. Besides that, a far greater improvement could be had by just doubling the frame rate from the present 24 frames per second up to 48 frames per second. That is already available in a few places and those who have seen it love it.
The whole push for 3D now is more money for the studios. Really. They sell the theaters the very expensive projectors, and they refuse to provide the regular 2D versions for those who have not yet come across with the extra money.
Also, read the article in NewsWeek, by Ebert, in which he rips 3D to shreds, and points out that it is indeed a hype by the studios to boost their profits, which it seems that they need more money for some reason.
So the best advice is indeed to wait. Not only will the prices come down, but also, since there is not really a single standard ppresently, you might wind up with a system and only a few movies in that particular format. Sort of like 4-track audio tapes. Remember them?

Electronic glasses?

In the late 80s or early 90s Australian engineers working on a sky-diving simulator accidentally achieved 3D vision without the need for alternate/eye glasses. Whatever happened to their development?

I have tried watching "polarized" 3D with lightweight glasses and after 10 minutes my eyes were so watery that I couldn't see properly. By 15 minutes I had such a serious headache that I removed the glasses and watched the double image instead. It is very difficult to arrange the image to match each eye from one person to the next, and if focus is not aligned with perspective, such pain will be experienced by many more viewers.

Even in the absence of the abovementioned "abandoned" holo-vision discovery, I'm surprised that 3D TVs using LCD (which is already polarized) require 'electronic' glasses. Why not interlace alternately polarized pixels on the TV so that light-weight (cheap, replaceable) polarized glasses can be used?

polarized 3DTV

Circular polarization is used by many movie theaters that use RealD "passive" glasses. In order to use the same technique on TVs the LCD TVs would have to be manufactured with a micropolarizer in front of the display. I know LCDs already use polarization to "filter" the light but I wouldn't know if that could be modified to create two images.




"Too make matters worse, every parent knows ..."



Thanks for the enjoyable

Thanks for the enjoyable article. I also want to add one more thing, 3D Avatar in Blu-ray is not released yet and still no exact release date for it.