Considering picking up a 3D TV? The recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) shifted the focus this year from 3D TVs last year to high-resolution displays, curved screens, and OLED displays as detailed in this article from The Verge. The article makes a compelling argument about the downfall of 3D displays; however, while some may feel that 3D is becoming a thing of the past, others argue that it has simply become a widely accepted commodity that ceased to be worthy of ground-breaking CES announcements. 3D is no longer the latest and greatest feature to drain your bank account but rather a luxury that is now easily obtained. Perhaps next year high-resolution displays will be a thing of the past and the next best thing will be high-resolution 3D.
If you aren’t picky, you could go to the store, purchase a 3D TV, and be satisfied, but if you’re like me, you like to be a well-informed consumer. In which case, read on. If you just want the short version, scroll to the bottom.
The two biggest factors to consider when choosing a 3D TV are whether it’s passive or active 3D and whether it’s LCD, plasma, or LED.
Passive vs Active
Passive 3D is what you have most likely experienced at the theatre. The glasses are cheap ($10-$30) and are polarized to accommodate the two images displayed on the screen. Each eye receives a different image, making it look 3D. The benefits are a brighter picture and flexibility in viewing angles. The downside is that each image shares screen resolution, reducing it by half, so it isn’t as clear as active 3D.
Active 3D, on the other hand, uses battery-powered glasses ($60-$150) that rapidly block images to each eye in a camera-shutter-like fashion. This, in sync with your TV alternating between showing left and right eye images, create the 3D effect. This allows you to watch in glorious full 1080p resolution.
LCD vs Plasma vs LED
This choice depends somewhat on what you usually watch. LCD displays are backlit (transmissive technology), and thus provide a brighter picture suitable for bright environments and standard TV programming, pictures, and gaming. Plasma TVs have self-lighting pixels (emissive display technology) and are better suited for dark environments and movies. The pixels’ ability to almost completely turn off really make dark movie scenes come to life. Plasma TVs also allow for greater viewing angles.
Some things to keep in mind about either type of display are that LCD displays are able to be smaller (19″) whereas plasma displays can only be found 42″ and up. Additionally, LCD displays are better at conserving energy, and plasma displays are limited to active 3D.
LED displays are also an option. While LED displays are technically an LCD display, the lighting method differs. Typical LCD displays are lit with fluorescent light and are passed through red, green, and blue color filters. LED displays use LEDs as a light source, enabling more flexibility in light control to rival the picture quality of plasma TVs. If an LED display is “full array backlit”, this allows for the selective dimming of pixels similar to what the plasma TVs possess. If the LED display is “edge-lit”, this allows the TV to be extraordinarily thin with the trade-off of potential slight uneven light distribution. Unfortunately, LED displays are still on the upper end of the price scale.
- Low budget: passive 3D + LCD TV
- Best 3D experience: active 3D + plasma TV
- LCDs vs Plasma vs LED:
- LCDs look best in bright rooms
- LCDs are not subject to image burn-in like plasmas are
- Plasmas look best in dark rooms
- You won’t find a plasma TV smaller than 42″, so if you want small, turn to LCD
- Energy consumption: (least) LED < LCD < plasma (most)
- LEDs have local dimming technology allowing for great light control, but it will cost you
- Edge-lit LED TVs are thinner than full array LED TVs, but don’t have as good of picture quality