There will be two types of 3D-capable flat panel HDTVs once the rollout begins later in the year:
3D Integrated (or built-in) TVs—this terminology signifies that the set is equipped with the necessary infrared transmitter (necessary for LC shutter timing synchronization). For example, Sony’s forthcoming top-line Bravia LX-900 series, which includes 40”, 46”, 52” and 60” sizes, will ship with two pairs of active LC shutter 3D glasses, and the sets will have the requisite front panel IR blaster.
3D Ready (or capable) TVs—this terminology signifies that the set is capable of displaying 3DTV, but isn’t equipped with the necessary IR blaster. The IR blaster will be an optional accessory (as will the 3D glasses) that customers can buy at their leisure. For example, Sony plans to offer two sizes (46”, 52”) in their 3D ready HX900 lineup, and three sizes (40”, 46” and 52”) in their 3D ready HX800 lineup. By not providing the IR transmitter function or the glasses with those sets, retail prices can be trimmed in order to be more competitive.
3DTV Demos and Announcements At CES
Both LCD (the most popular flat panel technology) and plasma (still popular in the larger flat panel screen sizes) can support 3D, with demos of both types on display at the show. While I never like to draw definitive conclusions from show demos, I did note a fair variance in overall 3D picture quality as I visited various manufacturers’ booths. At the Sony booth, a fast-action 3D movie clip (from 2008’s Journey To The Center Of The Earth) exhibited noticeable strobing, an irksome juddering effect, while a video-originated clip on another 3D demo nearby looked much smoother and more fluid. Over at the Panasonic booth, the firm’s 3D plasma demos looked just great, without any of the strobing effects I noticed at the Sony booth.
Likewise, Samsung’s 3D demo looked similarly good, and they made quite a splash with their upcoming 9000 series 55” 3D LED-powered model, which is spectacularly thin (just three tenths of an inch!), and will come with an LCD touch panel remote that can wirelessly stream a separate program from the TV to the remote itself (a way, way cool features, and a show-stealer for sure). Pricing will most likely be in the “if you have to ask” range.
Over at the Toshiba booth, their 55” 3D Cell TV got a lot of attention. The Cell processor, the core engine in Sony’s PS3 gaming console, is tremendously powerful and is capable of handling a whopping two billion floating point calculation operations per second, and Toshiba’s Cell TV harnesses that power to provide real-time 2D to 3D conversion. The set features an outboard processing unit that’s also equipped with a one terabyte hard drive as well as a 3D-capable Blu-ray player, along with wireless HD streaming to the Cell TV itself. Toshiba has conjured up an innovative user interface for the Cell TV that features an optical sensor on the set’s front panel that detects a viewer’s hand movements, allowing for a Wii-like motion control system that lets users operate the TV without the need for a hand-held remote control. Expect the local dimming LED backlit Cell TV to carry a very hefty price tag when it debuts later in the year, as Toshiba puts the set in the “ultra-premium” pricing category.
3D technology company Sensio had both types of 3D imaging systems at their booth, and announced at the show a partnership with Vizio to use their core 3D decoder technology in future Vizio 3D models.
Mitsubishi has been pretty much alone in carrying the rear projection DLP HDTV torch of late, and for some years now their sets have been touted as 3D-capable, but in the absence of a consumer 3D standard, the sets’ 3D capabilities have been limited to 3D PC-based games. To be fair, their marketing materials include a disclaimer that a future 3DTV standard could emerge that might be incompatible with their sets.
At the show, they announced plans to offer an external 3D adapter box that will provide 3D compatibility with the new Blu-ray 3D system. Although pricing and availability weren’t precisely defined at the show (more details are expected to be available this spring), kudos should go to Mitsubishi for making the extra effort to provide the adapter as on option to their existing customer base.