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Is it time to buy a 3DTV? | CNET Asia

July 19, 2012

by Philip Wong, CNET Asia

With 3D TVs becoming affordable and more 3D Blu-ray Discs being available today, is now the right time to jump onto the 3D bandwagon? Also how about the current state of 3D technologies in terms of picture quality and comfort? These are some of the factors we will be considering in this article to determine if you should buy a 3D TV.

Content availability

3D Blu-ray Discs

Currently, there are an estimated 180 3D Blu-ray Discs, ranging from movies to documentaries and music albums. This includes recent Hollywood blockbusters such as Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Cars 2. You can find out more about some of the latest titles here. While more movie studies are releasing films in the 3D format, there are still far more 2D movies readily available in the market.

3D broadcasts

Even harder to come by in Asia are TV channels broadcasting 3D content. Still, two notable pioneers are the Japanese Nippon BS Broadcasting and South Korea’s KT Skylife. The former has been operating a 3D channel (BS11) from as early as 2008, while the latter started its own Sky 3D channel in 2010.

Cost and affordability


The following table shows the premium between regular LED TVs and their closest 3D equivalents for key TV manufacturers.

2D model 3D model Premium
LG 42LS5700/S$1,299 (US$1,043.71) 42LM6200/S$1,699 (US$1,365.10) 31%
Panasonic TH-L42E5/S$1,299 (US$1,043.71) TH-L42ET5/S$1,799 (US$1,445.44) 39%
Philips 42PFL4007/S$1,199 (US$963.36) 40FPL5507/S$1,799 (US$1,445.44) 50%
Samsung UA40EH6000/S$1,099 (US$883.01) UA40ES6200/S$1,799 (US$1,445.44) 64%
Sony KDL-40NX650/S$1,499 (US$1,204.40) KDL-40HX750/S$1,999 (US$1,606.14) 34%
Toshiba 40PS20/S$1,099 (US$883.01) 40TL20/S$1,799 (US$1,445.44) 64%

Based on our calculations, the current premium can range from as low as 31 percent (LG) to as high as 64 percent (Samsung and Toshiba). Furthermore, LG, Panasonic and Philips are offering passive 3D panels, which are typically more affordable than their active shutter counterparts.

The LG 42LM6200 is one of the cheapest 42-inch 3D TVs available now. (Credit: LG)

3D Plasma TVs

Alternatively, 3D movie buffs on a shoestring budget can also consider 3D plasma TVs with most 42-inch models retailing for less than S$1,000 (US$803.47). However, a major tradeoff is their lower 1,024 x 768-pixels (XGA) resolution panels. An example is the Samsung PS43E490.

3D glasses

While most active shutter and passive 3D TVs are usually bundled with two pairs of 3D glasses, it can be quite costly to purchase extra goggles. For now, the active shutter versions are retailing from S$29 (US$23.30) to well over S$100 (US$80.35) depending on brand and make. Most pricier models offer USB battery recharging and premium designs. Meanwhile, passive 3D glasses are commonly sold in pairs for less than S$20 (US$16.07).

The THX 3D-certified Panasonic Viera TH-P50VT50 plasma TV. (Credit: Panasonic)

Picture quality

Most 3D TVs launched in the last two years have exhibited significantly improved 3D visuals, delivering stronger depth and negligible double images (crosstalk) compared with their predecessors. Selected THX 3D-certified models, such as the Panasonic Viera TH-P50VT50 plasma TV, also boast more natural color reproduction via pre-calibrated THX 3D Cinema picture modes.

Though it is true that all passive 3D TVs display only half the original resolution of 3D content, as well as alternating black horizontal lines and some tearing artifacts, these shortcomings have little impact on image quality as long as the users maintain a proper viewing distance. Click here to read our article on active shutter vs. passive 3D TVs.

Samsung’s latest lightweight active shutter 3D glasses. (Credit: Philip Wong/CNET Asia)


The latest advancements in high-speed LCD lenses have also enabled Sony and Samsung active shutter glasses to produce flicker-free images that are comparable with their passive rivals. Further reducing fatigue are the lightweight 2012 active shutter goggles, such as the 23g Samsung SSG-4100GB/ZD. That said, passive 3D glasses are still hard to beat and can be as light as 13g a pair.


On the one hand, most of the latest active shutter and passive 3D TVs can offer reasonably good 3D visuals and a comfortable viewing experience. And on the other hand, there is still a noticeable premium for 3D TVs, while 3D content will be limited till 3D broadcasts are readily available. Hence, even if you purchased an expensive 3D TV, chances are, you will be using it to watch more 2D programs than 3D.

However, if you are an enthusiast or videophile, buying a 3D TV is a no-brainer since all TV brands have stopped launching high-end 2D panels, reserving most bells and whistles exclusively for 3D models. For example, the last 2D-only LED-backlit TV was launched back in 2009.

You may have noticed that we didn’t mention about the Toshiba 55RZ1 glasses-free 3D TV in this article. This is because it is much too expensive–S$19,999 (US$16,068.62) for a 55-incher–and the technology is still pretty much in its infancy.

Original article from CNET Asia here.

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