Pros and Cons of 3D TV

3D TV has fallen flat, but some are still looking for a 3D viewing experience

Samsung JU7100 Series 3D-enabled 4K Ultra HD TV
Samsung JU7100 Series 3D-enabled 4K Ultra HD TV.

Image provided by Samsung USA

 

3D TVs have been discontinued; manufacturers have stopped making them as of 2017—but there are still many in use. Also, 3D video projectors are still available. This information is being retained for those that own 3D TVs, considering a clearance or used 3D TV, the purchase of a 3D video projector, and for archive purposes.

The 3D TV Era

The latest era of 3D in movie theaters began in 2009, and 3D TV viewing at home started up in 2010. While there are some loyal fans, many feel that 3D TV is the biggest consumer electronics folly ever. Here are some pros and cons of the 3D TV phenomenon.

3D TV—PROs

  • Viewing 3D Movies, Sports, TV shows, and Video/PC games in 3D: Seeing 3D in the movie theater is one thing, but being able to view 3D movies, TV programming, and 3D Video/PC games at home, although an attraction for some, is another. In either case, 3D content targeted for home viewing, if produced well, and if your 3D TV is properly adjusted, can provide an excellent immersive viewing experience. TIP: The 3D viewing experience works best on a large screen. Although 3D is available on TVs in a variety of screen sizes, viewing 3D on 50-inch or larger screen, or a large video projection screen is a more pleasing experience as the image fills more of your viewing area.
  • 3D TVs are excellent 2D TVs: Even if you aren't interested in 3D now (or ever), it turns out that 3D TVs are also excellent 2D TVs. Due to the extra processing (good contrast, black level, and motion response) needed to make 3D look good on a TV, this spills over into the 2D environment, making for an excellent 2D viewing experience.
  • Some 3D TVs Perform Real-Time 2D to 3D conversion: Here is an interesting twist on some higher-end 3D TVs. Even if your TV program or movie isn't being played or transferred in 3D, some 3D TVs provide real-time 2D-to-3D real-time conversion. OK, admittedly, this is not as good an experience as watching originally produced or transmitted 3D content, but it can add a sense of depth and perspective if used appropriately, such as with viewing live sporting events. However, it is always preferable to watch natively-produced 3D, over something that is converted from 2D on-the-fly.

3D TV—CONs

  • Not Everyone Likes 3D: When comparing content filmed or being presented in 3D, the depth and layers of the image are not the same as what we see in the real world. Also, just as some people are color blind, some people are "stereo blind". To find out if you are "stereo blind", check out a simple depth perception test. However, even many people that aren't "stereo blind" just don't like watching 3D. Just as those who prefer 2-channel stereo, rather than 5.1 channel surround sound.
  • The Glasses are Uncomfortable: Many are bothered by having to wear those special 3D glasses. Depending on the glasses, some are, indeed, less comfortable than others. The comfort level of the glasses may be more a contributor to "so-called" 3D headaches than actually watching 3D. Also, wearing 3D glasses serves to narrow the field of vision, introducing a claustrophobic element to the viewing experience.
  • The Price of the Glasses: Whether wearing 3D glasses bothers you or not, the price of them certainly can. With most LCD Shutter-type 3D glasses selling for over $50 a pair, it can be certainly a cost barrier for those with large families or lots of friends. However, some 3D TVs use Passive Polarized 3D Glasses, which are much less expensive, running about $10-20 a pair, and are more comfortable to wear.
  • 3D TVs Are More Expensive: New tech is more expensive to acquire, at least at first. Some of the first VHS VCRs were about $1,200. Blu-ray Disc players have only been out for about a decade and the prices of those have dropped from $1,000 to about $100. In addition, who would have thought when Plasma TVs were selling for $20,000 when they first came out, and before they were discontinued, you could buy one for less than $700. The same thing happened to 3D TV. Prices were initially very high but came down somewhat on most sets after a few years, but they were still higher than non-3D sets.
  • You Need a 3D Blu-ray Disc player: If you think the cost of a 3D TV and glasses are a stumbling block,  don't forget about having to buy a 3D Blu-ray Disc player if you really want to watch great 3D in high definition. That can add at least a couple of hundred bucks to the total.
  • You May Need a New Home Theater Receiver: If you connect your Blu-ray Disc player through your home theater receiver and on to your TV, you may need a new one. Unless your home theater receiver is 3D-enabled, you cannot access the 3D from your Blu-ray Disc player. However, there are workarounds that solve both 3D video and surround sound audio access issues.
  • The Price of 3D Blu-ray Disc Movies: The price of 3D Blu-ray Disc movies hovers between $35 and $40, which is about $10 higher than most 2D Blu-ray Disc movies.
  • Not Enough 3D Content: You can't watch 3D unless there is 3D content to watch. Currently, there are well over 400 3D titles available on Blu-ray Disc, some of which are real standouts. However, beyond Blu-ray as Pickin's are slim, with come cable/satellite services, Netflix, Vudu only providing limited offerings. Also, broadcast TV providers never really embraced 3D, and for logical reasons. In other to provide a 3D viewing option for TV broadcast programming, each network broadcaster would have to create a separate channel for such as service, something that is not only challenging but also not really cost-effective considering the limited demand.

The Current State Of 3D

Although 3D has continued to enjoy popularity in movie theaters, after several years of being available for home use, TV makers that were once very aggressive proponents of 3D, have retreated. As of 2017 manufacturing of 3D TVs has been discontinued.

Although a number of 4K Ultra HD TVs can display 3D content (such as the one shown in the photo at the top of this article), that content is upscaled from 1080p 3D sources.

To put a cap on the current state of 3D at home, TV makers have turned their attention to other technologies to improve the TV viewing experience, such as 4K Ultra HD, HDR, and wide color gamut—However, 3D video projectors are still available.

For those that do own a 3D TV or video projector, 3D Blu-ray Disc player, and a collection of 3D Blu-ray Discs, you can still enjoy them as long as your equipment is running.