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3D TVs: True innovation or hype?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / July 8, 2010 11:58 AM PDT

3D TVs: True innovation or hype?

I'm starting to shop for a new TV and keep seeing a lot about 3D TVs. Should I consider them in my research or is it a waste of time and money? Has anyone seen demos? How's the picture quality? Can the feature be turned on and off? Would I have to wear special glasses just to watch my TV? What about movies? Netflix and Blockbuster don't offer 3D movies, do any movie channels? Trying to separate true innovation from hype. Thanks!

--Submitted by James G.

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but
please read all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this question.

Best guess- the next parallel to the adoption of HDTV --Submitted by Scott Gardener

Both --Submitted by timhood

3D might be a gimmick, it might not. My guess is it will --Submitted by minimalist

3D TV: Is it worth it --Submitted by dgoodrum

Thank you to all who contributed!

If you have any additional advice, opinions, or suggestions for James, please click on the reply link and submit away. Please be as detailed as possible when submitting your answer. Thanks!
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3d might be a gimmick, it might not. My guess is it will
by minimalist / July 8, 2010 1:44 PM PDT

likely end up a gimmick and fall out of fashion after people get burned with a couple of bad movies. The 3rd and 4th rate releases start to smother the few 3d gems. That's what happened in the 1950's during the first wave of 3d and its also what happened during the second wave in the 1980s. Not to mention the glasses are ridiculously expensive, the movies look dimmer and there really sin;t much content out there to look at right now aside from demo discs and the random sports broadcast. The fact that so many people have just purchases their first HDTV's I think 3d is fighting an uphill battle for mass adoption. Without mass adoption, the content producers won;t bother producing 3d versions of discs and shows, and the whole thing could fizzle out.

However, 3d is extremely easy to produce on modern fast refresh rate HDTVs so if a set you are looking at TV that has it then great. It'll just be an insurance policy of sorts. The 3d processing can be turned on and off. When its off your TV is just a TV, no special glasses required. You don;t even have to buy glasses until there is actual content you want to watch. You may choose to never get the glasses and if you chose wisely you'll still have a great TV.

Your first consideration with any TV, 3d or not, should be picture quality: black levels in particular. A Panasonic plasma that has 3d is still a kick butt Panasonic plasma. A TV like that won't disappoint.

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You've hit many of the high points...and low
by intmarine / July 9, 2010 5:13 PM PDT

Minimalist, you've exposed many of the problems of 3DTV, but there are many more. There are also a lot of engineers out there solving them, including new standards. Most of the standards though, are dealing with compression and transmission, so expect a format war that will make the hardware choices difficult...and tend to making the choice of waiting the best one.

As is typical in cases like this, there is more than one technology for glasses. It seems that the more expensive shutter type glasses are becoming the favorite choice, even though they are more expensive. The other type, with the circular filters have the more expensive screen (the filter is difficult to apply and align correctly) but the less expensive glasses. In theory, both cause less light to come to the eye, but the filter technology would cause even less than the shutter type. Not a problem if you can kick up the gain smoothly during 3D watching, and back again for 2D material, but generally not a panacea.

Because of the way that they work, the filter systems also deliver half the picture at a time, interlacing lines. In theory, this will make fast moving scenes stutter. TVs are now already being built with smoothing technology, the so-called 'Movie' mode to handle the 24 to 30 frame issues, but to some eyes that sucks resolution.

There are going to be glasses for a long time. The problems of glasses-free designs may be solved eventually, but they are many. The company with the largest investment pulled out after spending a fortune trying to make it work, Phillips Wow technology. It can work, as long as one keeps ones head stationary, and level. Making it work for more people means less light to everyone's eyes, which is fine for a while, but still, no one can look at anyone to see how cool they look without glasses, without breaking up the 3D image. ...among other problems. Screens with 4K resolution (4 times what we have now) can solve some of this, but not all. The Digital Signage field will still be developing this technology for their purposes, but don't confuse their advances (or press releases) for Home3DTV advances.

Generally, the main ingredient for 3DTV is a fast TV, and most new TVs are above the refresh rate to handle 3D. Since 50Hz in much of the world, and 60Hz in the States can support good HD, and since half the signal has to be blocked half the time, one needs twice those speeds to make 3D work. Of course, if the technology can match it, even faster is better. Cinema screens get flashed 6 times per 1/24th of a second (3 times for each eye) when showing 3D movies. That explains what Sony is aiming for with 200Hz technology.

That makes other considerations important, like transmission and set-top boxes and what happens when 2D gets mixed with 3D. Sequential, being theoretically 2 full HD fields, needs more data to make a HiDef 3D picture, more than can fit into the HDMI 1.3 pipe. 1.4 is being presented in the market, so that is good, but there is a codec to match that, making everything easier in the future, H.264 MVC. That codec, among other technology, needs to get into the set-top box or into the TV.

Ultimately, home 3DTV is a fast moving field. It is probably not a fad. It is properly called Stereoscopy, since it isn't a real 3D hologram. But stereoscopy is one of the major clues we get in nature, so when it is done right on a screen, it can be very natural, pleasing and additive to the experience. It is probably not going to be as big switch as the switch to HD, but a lot of people are betting big amounts that it will succeed.

I'll be adding onto this piece as an article, with more technical and current data, as well as links, at: Home 3DTV Realities.

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incorrect info
by J G M / July 26, 2010 12:51 AM PDT

Shutter-type glasses are the ONLY type that will work on 3D TVs of the current technology. Polarization is not a viable option for in-home displays at the moment.

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by d_blitz13 / July 23, 2010 8:37 PM PDT

I wanted to throw something out there as a 3d TV owner. (Samsung 58c8000 model).

First off, I love the heck out of my tv. Among the thousands of reasons I had to consider before buying this set I have two that many people have not considered.

1. Want to see a 3d movie, you have to go to the theater. Unlike the 80's and 50's movies almost require financing to attend these days. With ticket prices for 3d movies 20+ dollars, a soda 5+ dollars, and snacks ranging from 3-20 dollars each. Movies are simply not affordable for the average person anymore.
2. Now speaking towards the high end tv's that you mentioned. You are right, the 3d tv's are already the high end models and thus will have spectacular specs regarding deep blacks and bright whites in the 2d picture quality. What most people are not taking into consideration is among these high end models the difference between adding 3d or not is only around $300.00 (not considering glasses because most are giving away a set with the tv purchase now) ... That 300 is easily made up for by not attending, lets say, 4 movies at the theater.

Hope that adds some info to the answer.


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by wytman / July 26, 2010 4:55 AM PDT
In reply to: owner

Umm - I don't know where you live, but if you spend $75 dollars to go see a movie - you need to look into more cost effective places to live. Where I live, Avatar, on IMAX, in 3D was $16. I skipped the popcorn and smuggled in some M&M's - problem solved.

But more to the point, 3D at home is never going to compare with 3D in a large screen theater - not enough field of view is filled by most home TV's.

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by dazza64 / July 28, 2010 4:27 AM PDT
In reply to: owner

I so agree with you Dan. 3D Television is absolutely fantastic. I think its better experience, if u have the audio equipment to go with it, than the flicks (cinema, as we call it in Australia). You get 2 sets of electronic (battery operated) glasses, which, in my opinion are far better even, than the one ones you got (looked like the blues bros, heheh), when i saw avatar (brilliant mind u as it was). GO OUT AND BUY THE THINGS. If u can afford it. Stop all this carp about it not being worth it,,,,IT SURE IS. In my mind, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony are the way to go, best three manufactures i know of. Stay away from offence to anyone (one month out of warranty, and to them it was not due to fair ware and tare...bulloks). anyway, go buy a 3D tellie, they are great. Technology all goes down in price in future years, look at dvd/hd recorders, gone down buy half now that we have Blue Ray. Cummon.

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gimmick or fad?
by punterjoe / July 23, 2010 11:49 PM PDT

The technology exists. It works (sort of - though there's enormous room for growth). The question seems more an aesthetic value judgement than a tech question. Just because something CAN be done, doesn't mean it will be done well. I think much of the burden is on the creative community to find ways to use it compellingly - and that may mean subtly.
In the early days of 2ch stereo sound there were lots of ping pong games, and stuff racing from speaker to speaker. And early 4ch surround demos practically required dramamine. Still, many people learned to use the technology to subtly simulate spaces and increase immersion in the program content. If 3D or HD or any past or future tech is used to draw people INTO the story being told rather than to "WOW" them with the technology, it will likely find a lasting place.
Which gets us to an older 3D technology: forced perspective. I have a feeling it's going to be a lonnnng road.

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My objection to 3D
by Dan Filice / July 8, 2010 3:55 PM PDT

Minimalist is correct in his observations and recommendations. 3D LCD TVs are equipped with the ability to separate their scanning rate into two separate scans that sync up with 3D glasses so each eye is seeing a different scan. So far I've seen 3D TVs that are 240Hz. Personally I hate what 240Hz does to the non-3D TV image, but this isn't an issue with Plasmas. I just don't know how a Plasma achieves 3D since they don't have the same scan rates as LCDs do.

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3D TVs
by GERRY RAINS / July 9, 2010 8:48 AM PDT

I recently saw one of them at Best Buy. You don't need the glasses. I actually found myself freaking out and I didn't put on the glasses. Of course this was probably one of very few discs, disc players, and TVs available. But let me tell you, when the monster charged us, everybody reacted. The guy who had the one pair of glasses was so scared that he ended up pushing his chair over backward. The glasses must have provided an enhancement beyond his threshold. After he got up he took them off said something like, "Anybody want these? I'm done." That was the edited version since I don't want to get nuked by the editors

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don't think so
by J G M / July 26, 2010 12:56 AM PDT
In reply to: 3D TVs

The demo units at best buy absolutely do require shutter-type glasses to get a 3D effect. There is no technology right now that provides 3-D viewing without glasses. Your story does not hold water.

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Some yes, some no
by kuncne / July 9, 2010 8:49 AM PDT

The 3D idea was in force in the 19th century, for displaying still photos taken with stereo cameras and displayed though things that looked a little like gas masks.

Drawing on earlier movie industry cycles, we see that many 3D claims were simply untruthful marketing hype, and movies made specifically for 3D viewers wearing colored eyeglasses were virtually all crap. No reason, of course, that this would not change.

2010 World Cup experience shows that 3D means a good deal less than most expect, except in close-ups. The same wide shot of a football field in use differs little in 2D and 3D. The technology's principal value is in close-ups. It will be excellent for many documentary forms. Whether it will be anything more than a novelty for general production or not, know that for at least the next five years, things you want to see on your TV set will have been shot in 2D. Any trickery designed to suggest otherwise is most unlikely to be convincing.

One important issue is social. Sets requiring that viewers wear special glasses reveal their glories only to people wearing those glasses. This means to some extent the demise of the long-established practice of inviting people to watch your set, unless you have glasses for them. And there will probably be little reason to carry your glasses around to watch already, it's clear that glasses from set-maker Brand A don't work on Brand B. The curse of competitive pre-standard development, from which many horror stories have flowed ... . Enjoying your HD DVDs?

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3D TV's
by jakeeboy / July 9, 2010 8:50 AM PDT

The extra cost for a 3D vs. 2D display is well worth the minimal added investment. The question "is 3D here for the long haul" is a big yes. The powers that dictate what we watch, Sony, Panasonic, ABC, ESPN etc have decided that 3D will fly. ESPN 3D is now on the air. Discovery Channel HD will air this Fall. All major TV studios are releasing 3D movies. Every major manufacture is now releasing 3D Blu-Ray players and Displays. Many of the newest games and gaming machines are 3D. Like it or not, the entertainment industry wants 3D and so it shall be.

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Try Avatar in 3D
by MNFsoft / July 9, 2010 12:44 PM PDT
In reply to: 3D TV's

Well I agree with the saying that the world will eventually turn to the 3D technology weather we like it or not to check watch at the movies Avatar in 3D; I think it will change your mind.
I know that nVidia made 3D gogles try it its kind of cheap (less than 200$ if I rmeber corectlly) before taking the big leap!

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by givemeaname / July 10, 2010 7:26 AM PDT
In reply to: Try Avatar in 3D

Did 3D make the plot or storyline better? No

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Absolutely Not
by wytman / July 26, 2010 5:00 AM PDT
In reply to: But..

And - I dare say it's better in 2D on blu-ray. The 3D was neat, but occasionally distracting and disorienting in the theater for me - and many other people.

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Not if people don;t buy it. And the people looking at it
by minimalist / July 10, 2010 3:09 PM PDT
In reply to: 3D TV's

at my Best Buy said "that's neat" and then they moved on. All the marketing in the world doesn't matter when people don't buy. Microsoft couldn't move Kins with hundreds of millions in marketing.

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The perspective of a Playstation owner with a 7 year old boy
by William Glasby / July 9, 2010 9:10 AM PDT

My guess is that we will all be transitioning to 3D TVs in the near future, just like we (well some of us) transitioned from Black and White television to Color television. Its just going to happen. That being said, the question about if it is a good or bad thing, ends up being moot.

Recently, I attended a screening of "How To Train Your Dragon" in 3D with my 7 year old son. Well yeah, it was a really good film, but I think I did get more out of the experience because it was in 3D, and it goes without saying that my 7 year old, LOVED it.

We also own a Sony Playstation 3 and just in case you have been living under a rock for the last year, Sony and specifically, Playstation, have launched a significant marketing campaign around 3D games, 3D Blu Ray video and of course, 3D Games (like MLB 10 and WipEout). My audio is already in "3D" (5.1 surround) so it makes sense that my gaming would be improved by adding another dimension to it. There was a recent "firmware" upgrade to all Playstation consoles that allows them to play 3D Games and Movies, so part of my purchasing decision has been eliminated. Thank you Sony.

I did take a trip to Best Buy to see what was currently available in 3D and if it looks as good as our recent experience watching a 3D movie in a theater. I found it to be pretty much in line with what I had experienced while watching "How To Train Your Dragon" in the theater. The prices, as expected, were quite high, but those will come down... They always do.

So do I feel compelled to go out an buy a system right away? Ehh, not really. Will I be buying a 3D TV to watch 3D Blu Ray movies and games on my Playstation? Ehh, most likely (after I get a job anyway).

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3D TV: Is it worth it
by dgoodrum / July 9, 2010 9:12 AM PDT


I have had a Samsung 55" LED LCD (3D) television for about 3 months and I love it! I went to Best Buy before I bought it and they had a demo set up with several easy chairs and a large 3D TV. The DVD was "monsters and Aliens" and is used as a 3D demo.

The picture quality is the best I have ever seen, in either 3D or regular TV. The 3D can be turned on and off at will. When watching 3D, you must wear special Samsung glasses that use the shutter technology (the left and right lens alternate and are synchronized by the TV). The glasses are battery powered and cost about $150 each. (there are deals out for these items).

If you want to watch 3D movies via DVD, you also must have a blu-ray player that is designed to display 3D. The player will also play regular blu-ray DVDs.

I am on Comcast and found I needed a DVR box (provided for no additional charge). I was able to watch the Masters golf tournament and the World Cup Soccer tournament in 3D. Comcast has a special channel designed exclusively for 3D events on ESPN3.

There will be more 3D out in the future, but you have to be patient. This is NOT the same 3D where you had to wear the cheap glasses with each lens a different color. Right now, it is mostly selective sporting events. The DVD movies are, at this time, animated movies, but the entertainment people state that they are coming out with 3D movies for the home market.

You will have to pay about $1000 more for a 3D set and another three hundred dollars or so for a 3D Blu-ray player. The sets will play 3D or regular TV or movies. Both the TV and Blu-ray players can receive firmware updates from the net or USB connections. Panasonic also has a 3D setup and I believe Sony is coming out with one.

Good Luck

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a bit untrue
by d_blitz13 / July 23, 2010 8:40 PM PDT
In reply to: 3D TV: Is it worth it

it is simply not 1,000 more for the 3d version. More like 300. Plus most manufacturers are giving away blu rays and glasses with a purchase right now.

If your paying 1000 more you are shopping at the wrong place.

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3d glasses
by ps24ever / July 25, 2010 3:40 PM PDT
In reply to: a bit untrue

Glasseees? we don't need no stinkin' Glasseees! Vamonos muchachos!!!

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3-D TV
by zigwej / July 24, 2010 4:48 AM PDT
In reply to: 3D TV: Is it worth it

I have read that Vizio is coming out with a 3-D tv where the glasses will cost about $15 each.

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3D HD etc
by papa54 / July 24, 2010 5:40 AM PDT
In reply to: 3D TV: Is it worth it

they have barely gotten all the kinks worked out in the HD. everyone is in a frenzy over the fast paced jumping from standard to HD and now we have BD aka: Blue RAY... personally i think there will be a greater loss of 3D's that one may think.. we have not even hurdled over the Blue Ray yet..

if you look back, way back.. once there was normal Tv for everyone, and then there came a show down on recording.. it was a war between Beta and VHS tapes.. Beta being DVD or CD type disk, well the tapes won out and big business wanted to get the roller coaster moving so the VCR's started rolling out and people were scarfing them up laft n right,, still no cable or sat offered....

to bring the world into the old beta they introduced CPU's and along came the compact disk.. DVD's CD's Etc's and now big business have pressed everyone into HD from Standard. i admit it is better ,, then before the dust settled, they brought in blueray's.. i just recieved a blue ray a few months back for my TV.. crap i had to buy a HD TV to watch the HD.. (do you all see where this is headed?)

Now if we are CPU users we will soon each have a Blue ray burner internal or exteranal.. and they throw the 3D out there as one said the darned special 3D glass have to be bought also..@ about 150.00 each..its all about cash .. big business has pushed us to the edge.. crap they barely have programs for a 64 bit machine which brings us to Windows 7..... to me it is by far the worst OS anyone can have...

8 yrs ago i had a special build cpu and i of course added the best acceries..burners Hard Drives memory etc and it was a 2.66 >ya barley can find a new cpu that is priced cheap enough that runs faster than 2.4 mhz..

so if you own a 3D set , Good luck to you and the rest trying to find all your favorites in 3D..

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It's hype------I think
by pikmee / July 9, 2010 9:21 AM PDT

I only have one eye so I can never, ever see 3D. But my wife has two eyes and is totally unimpressed with 3D tv. Her complaints are that she has to wear those dumb glasses, which is a real drag in itself. And the picture she sees when she does wear the glasses are disorienting. So, unless you like watching roller coaster films a lot, the results are unsatisfactory for the price you have to pay. So I guess I'm not missing anything by having only one eye.

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It's hype-I think
by jakeeboy / July 9, 2010 9:42 AM PDT
In reply to: It's hype------I think

All I can say to anyone that has two eyes. If you have seen Avatar in 3D and still don't like 3D then I accept that you don't like it. If you haven't seen Avatar in 3D then I suggest that you have not experienced 3D at it's best.

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by Lady_Crow / July 23, 2010 1:04 PM PDT
In reply to: It's hype-I think

I do have two eyes. I did see Avatar in 3D. I enjoyed it, especially the stunning graphics. I actually felt the 3D hindered my enjoyment of the movie, however. As cool as they try to make them look, 3D glasses are really annoying and the current technology--as evidenced by Avatar--only serves to add layers to the image that get in my way. I did not feel like I was in the movie at all.. or even in the same star system, heh. The 3D effects actually made me feel more disconnected from the experience.

It's obvious that 3D is a gimmick. Even when it's successful, I don't like it. Heh.

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We already live in a 3D world
by spinabout / July 23, 2010 1:32 PM PDT
In reply to: Gimmick!

We already live in a 3D world. Our brain routinely converts 2D images to 3D. In art perspective is used. Our brain interprets any image we see on the movie screen as 3D. This is just another kind of 3D and in the long run it will make little difference. The "industry" will continue to push it so long as there is a premium to be charged and profit to be made. It is also not social. The glasses create a social barrier.

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Article in Globe and mail
by burge105 / July 23, 2010 1:39 PM PDT
In reply to: Gimmick!

This movie is odd james Cameron said even though this movie was shot in 3D it was meant for Blue ray I think its a gimmick or fad especially withthe glasses and the 3D blue ray player

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Couldn't agree more
by genej313 / July 24, 2010 1:35 AM PDT
In reply to: Gimmick!

The first 3d movie I ever saw was in the 60's, a Casper the friendly ghost movie, thought it was cool then, but have yet to see a movie in 3d and doubt I ever will. I've a 52 inch Sony Bravia HD, have Comcast as my cable provider and they've just added enough brand new HD channels to bring the number up over 100. HD is revolutionary, 3D is a gimmick that I predict will die out as quickly as it flared up. In any event, I'll never buy a 3D television, HD 1080P is quite enough for me, and movies on my Sony BluRay are spectacular. I don't need anything more than what I've got - if my Sony Bravia ever dies, which I doubt since in my basement I still have a 25 inch Sony Console tv built in 1980 (no I don't use it much, but it still works just fine) or I decide to upgrade it eventually - though I can't imagine why it already accepts Internet streaming video and is completely trouble free, I'll replace it with a larger screen, non 3D television. Sometimes the flavor of the month turns out to be just that, and that is what I think will come of 3D TV's. :^) gene

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Reply to James G on 3-D tv
by mrpaul / July 9, 2010 9:21 AM PDT

Most all mfrs. are making 3-D tv's, but Panasonic seems to have one of the most realistic models. A 3-D tv is till a regular HD tv that you can watch any programming on. To watch 3D you need either Direct Tv which is broadcasting 3D on three channels, or a 3D blu ray movie and also a 3D Blu Ray player, plus Glasses. The glasses only need to be worn when watching 3-D content. 3D is filmed with two cameras, and the tv has an emitter which transmits one signal to the right eye and another to the left eye. The glasses are called active shutter glasses which sync with the signal from the tv. It truly is astonishing. Right now Hollywood says more movies are being converted to 3D and more will be filmed in 3d. It is up to you to decide if you want this new experience now or not. You can always buy a 3d tv and wait for more content to be available.

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What I saw wasn't impressive
by dcgeneral / July 9, 2010 9:23 AM PDT

Spent about an hour at Best Buy watching the latest Samsung 3D TV, Monsters and Aliens, animation. I wasn't impressed. Yes, you do have to wear 3D glasses and they aren't cheap to buy.

If it comes on the TV you buy, fine. Otherwise, the technology will have to be improved to get me to buy one and, like you, I am in the market for a new TV.

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