First look at 3D TVs

Pop-off-the-screen images impress, but there's little to watch

Last reviewed: June 2010
Image of a 3D TV through glasses
Now you see it
The picture looks sharp and clear through special 3D glasses, but without them you'll see double images that look out of focus.
Photograph by Michael Smith

A few months ago, 3D TVs burst onto the market, promising to bring the excitement of movies like "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland" right into your living room. We immediately bought several of the new sets and put them through their paces in our labs—the first hands-on evaluation outside the manufacturers' facilities—to see whether they live up to their advance billing.

They do indeed. The results of our preliminary tests of two Samsung LCD sets and a Panasonic plasma TV with 3D capability are impressive. The 3D images on those sets have excellent depth, color, and high-definition detail, creating a compelling three-dimensional picture as good as you might have seen in a movie theater. You'll be ducking when that Frisbee comes flying toward you!

Though 3D technology is still in its infancy, we believe it represents a significant advance in TV capability.

What we tested

We evaluated two 46-inch Samsung LCD sets with edge LED backlighting, the UN46C7000, $2,600, and the UN46C8000, $2,800, and the 50-inch Panasonic TC-P50VT20 plasma set, $2,500. (The VT20 is sold in Best Buy Magnolia stores. A similar VT25 set will be sold in other stores.)

We connected the TVs to each company's new 3D Blu-ray player, the Samsung BD-C6900 and Panasonic DMP-BDT300, each $400. We then switched them to see whether the Samsung Blu-ray player would work with the Panasonic TV and vice versa. They did. The glasses, however, are brand-specific and don't work with other TVs.

We played on both players the first and only Blu-ray 3D disc available at the time of our tests, "Monsters vs. Aliens," and watched it on all three TVs. On the Panasonic set, we also viewed a 3D demo disc that came with the TV; it played only on the Panasonic player. It contained some live-action travel and nature sequences, including the one shown above. (Note that 3D-enabled players can play regular Blu-ray discs and DVDs.)