Should I buy a 3D TV?

We talk you through the ins and outs of 3D plasma and 3D LED televisions: How they work, how much they cost and what they're good for

Samsung's Series 7 LED model is the first 3D-capable television available.

Samsung's Series 7 LED model is the first 3D-capable television available.

When images are displayed to alternating eyes in alternating order, the blurriness is removed — each eye can only see the video frame intended for it. When stereoscopic (meaning 'both eyes', referring to the pair of shifted 2D video streams) video is played back at an acceptably high frame rate, the human mind is fooled into thinking what it is seeing has depth. The images from each eye are combined by the human brain, and the slight shift between the two images on-screen creates the illusion of the third dimension.

All the technology incorporated into active shutter glasses makes them far pricier than the polarised 'passive' 3D glasses used in movie cinemas. Panasonic's 3D glasses for its plasma televisions will cost $199 with a 100-hour non-rechargeable lithium battery, while Samsung has rechargeable and non-rechargeable models for $129 and $99, respectively. LG let slip that it was expecting to sell its active shutter 3D glasses for just $79.

To make matters worse, each manufacturer's 3D glasses can only be used with its own televisions — annoyingly, each big television manufacturer has elected to go about creating the 3D effect in a slightly different way. Rumours of universal active shutter 3D glasses from third-party manufacturers also abound — but price tags for these will likely be even higher.

3D content and 3D Blu-ray

At the moment, no free-to-air or pay television provider has broadcast any 3D footage to viewers. SBS is looking into the technical aspect of it and Foxtel set-top boxes can handle 3D, but it is unlikely to be implemented in the near future.

To view 3D content on your 3D television right now, you'll need a 3D-capable Blu-ray disc player. Both Panasonic and Samsung have 3D Blu-ray disc players, but price tags are high at $599 apiece. Don't expect 3D Blu-ray movies to be cheap when they debut on store shelves, either. Both Panasonic and Samsung are bundling one or two 3D Blu-ray movies in with televisions in the first few months after launch, but building your collection after that will be a pricey exercise

Unfortunately, a regular Blu-ray disc player won't be able to display 3D Blu-ray movies at a high enough frame rate for the 3D effect to work. If you're keen on trying the 3D effect out with something other than feature films, Samsung's 3D LED televisions include the capability to convert 2D footage into 3D. It doesn't create nearly as immersive an effect as watching native 3D footage, though, and we doubt you'll want to keep watching the news or the kids' cartoons in 3D after the first few times.

So, should I buy a 3D television now?

If you want to buy a new television, this question surely must have crossed your mind. Our simple answer for the time being is that if you want to try out 3D, we'd wait until more models are released, until prices come down and more content is available. If you simply want to get a good television, however, the current 3D models available are the cream of the crop — they excel at displaying 2D video, have plenty of advanced features and have the added bonus of offering you a sneak peak at 3D.

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