3D Hits Home: Snap Judgments on 3 Different TechnologiesS

With the the big 3D push coming in 2010, I planted my eyes on three types of 3D technologies displayed at CEDIA (home theater expo) that you may have in your next TV...and passed some judgments without pulling any punches.

It should be noted, all designs require glasses. (More technical background on the types of glasses here.)

Panasonic's 3D Plasma Concept
The Tech: Plasma with Active Shutter (alternating left eye, right eye progressive frames)

3D Hits Home: Snap Judgments on 3 Different TechnologiesS

As a baseline reference to get our bearings, I took yet another look at Panasonic's 103-inch plasma display that we've seen twice before. My original impressions stand. It's decent—and definitely the best technology of the three that we saw at CEDIA. Why? There's virtually no flicker in the image because of plasma's instantaneous response times/ability to push legitimate high frame rates. Plus, it probably helps that we're talking about a 103-inch display (that has its own trailer). The bigger a 3D display, the better the illusion. But glasses aside, it's not what I'd deem a perfect experience. You see ghosting around some objects. And...OK, I still can't ignore the damned glasses. It creates an inherent distance from the image inducing an unintentionally ephemeral viewing experience.

Sony's LCD Concept
The Tech: 240Hz LCD with Active Shutter (alternating left eye, right eye progressive frames)

3D Hits Home: Snap Judgments on 3 Different TechnologiesS

Even Panasonic will tell you that 240Hz is the baseline speed needed for an LCD to pull off 3D. But you know what? 240Hz isn't enough. Watching Pixar's Up, the color and sharpness are both great, but there's an absurd level of flicker that's nominally better than on old timey crank projector. And on this normal-sized LCD, it's incredibly obvious when 3D objects break the illusion by reaching the TV's frame. Granted, we're not talking about a final product here, but the specs seem pretty much identical to what consumers can expect to see in the high-end display market next year.

JVC's GD-463D10 LCD
The Tech: Polarized filter (two images are interlaced on the screen, each eye sees half the data, glasses don't need power)

3D Hits Home: Snap Judgments on 3 Different TechnologiesS

Of the three technologies here, JVC's is the only final product that's actually available now. And it costs $9,153. It's also easily the worst of the three—completely unwatchable, in fact. The interlaced 3D means that the resolution takes a huge hit. But it's worse than just a 1080i picture. Your brain can almost make out these lines. I could say more about the tech, but I honestly couldn't stand to look at the screen for more than 10 seconds at once. Oh, and the kicker? For nine thousand bucks, you still only get two pairs of the cheap, polarized glasses. Sorry kids, Mommy and Daddy are watching TV tonight.

There's no doubt that some home theater enthusiasts will go out and plop down $5k or more on a commercially available 3D display when they enter the TV lines of major manufacturers like Sony and Panasonic in 2010. But I'm hoping, really hoping, that the public can resist the gimmick until the technology is perfected. To me, that means when we don't need to deal with these silly glasses at all. But for whatever it's worth, plasma is definitely looking like the clear front runner in execution. [Image]