Three 3D TVs compared

We've had the chance to review and directly compare three of the highest-end 3D televisions on the market from Panasonic, Sony, and Samsung.

Our favorite 3D TV so far is Panasonic's plasma. Sarah Tew/CNET

Whether they feature soccer balls, meatballs, or blue aliens popping out of the screen, advertisements for 3D TVs are everywhere. At CNET we got the chance to review and directly compare three of the highest-end models from the three major manufacturers, and between ducking for cover and swapping incompatible 3D eyewear, we managed to come up with some impressions.

The best of the bunch, in our view, for both 2D and 3D content, was the Panasonic plasma. Its 3D presentation evinced the least "crosstalk" (the ghostly doubled lines around 3D objects onscreen) of the three. The Sony came in second place with less crosstalk than the Samsung, but it also showed some minor flicker in some scenes. We liked the Sony's glasses best from a comfort standpoint, and they shut out peripheral vision better than the others.

All three caused some mild disorientation when we first donned the glasses, which tended to disappeared after a few moments. Sony and Samsung have 2D-to-3D conversion engines, as well, and when we tried those our disorientation escalated to nausea at times, especially when we dialed up the 3D effect.

In terms of content, our favorite of the four 3D Blu-ray discs available so far is "Coraline" (exclusive to Panasonic) by a long shot. It uses stop-action animation, filmed with actual cameras, whereas the others, namely "Monsters vs. Aliens (exclusive to Samsung), "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" (Panasonic again) and "Cloudy with a Chance of "Meatballs" (the only one that's not an exclusive), are all computer-animated. We didn't include DirecTV's 3D presentation of World Cup Soccer on ESPN in our initial evaluations, but we've seen it on other TVs, and compared with the Blu-rays it seems relatively soft, but certainly provides a convincing 3D effect.

And that's something all of these TVs do equally well. The stereoscopic 3D effect, with its impressive sense of depth, is undeniable and unlike anything we've seen on TV before. When Coraline crawls into the tunnel connecting the real and the dream worlds, for example, the edges leap into the foreground while the end of the hole recedes into the depths of the image. Watching a film in 3D on these TVs provides a "wow" factor similar to what we saw in the theater, aside from the difference in screen size. Even with all of its issues, system requirements, and caveats, we're looking forward to seeing more 3D TV.

Check out the individual reviews for more information on both 2D and 3D picture quality, and see our 3D TV FAQ for the basics.

 

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