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Sony PlayStation 3D display review: Sony PlayStation 3D display

Sony PlayStation 3D display

Jeff Bakalar Editor at Large
Jeff is CNET Editor at Large and a host for CNET video. He's regularly featured on CBS and CBSN. He founded the site's longest-running podcast, The 404 Show, which ran for 10 years. He's currently featured on Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast podcast and has an unhealthy obsession with ice hockey and pinball.
Jeff Bakalar
7 min read

Editors' note: The review and score of this product was updated on November 28, 2011, to reflect the fact that the display only ships with one set of 3D glasses instead of two.


Sony PlayStation 3D display

The Good

The <b>PlayStation 3D Display</b> successfully enables two players to see their own individual screens while using SimulView technology, though the display only comes with one pair of 3D glasses. Also included is an HDMI cable and a copy of MotorStorm: Apocalypse.

The Bad

The display's glare is terrible, as the surface reflects nearly everything in sight. The screen's small 23.5-inch size makes it tough to play at far distances and forces the players to sit nearly shoulder to shoulder to get the right effect. There's no included remote control, which makes it difficult to change sources and settings; the buttons are hidden around the back. The display only comes with one pair of 3D glasses, preventing gamers from using SimulView right out of the box. Finally, the device's auto-off feature triggers too quickly.

The Bottom Line

While there's some pretty impressive technology built inside, the PlayStation 3D Display isn't a very practical device. Its $500 price tag is too much money considering its laundry list of shortcomings.

Back in June of this year, Sony delivered what was regarded as one of E3 2011's highlight press conferences. Midway through the spectacle, the company also announced the PlayStation 3D Display, a monitor that would allow two players to simultaneously play a video game without having to split a single screen. Using a technology Sony has dubbed "SimulView," the TV allows players to wear 3D glasses in order to view their own image--though of course that image isn't in 3D.

It may sound a bit confusing, but the TV is using basic stereoscopic 3D technology to present two separate 2D video streams. Looking like static to the naked eye, players must wear the glasses to ensure they see their own screen. I'm happy to report the technology does in fact work well, but aside from its main bragging point, there are a laundry list of impracticalities and questionable real-world applications that give us great difficulty in genuinely recommending the PlayStation 3D Display to anyone in particular.

When I first saw the PlayStation 3D Display at E3 2011, it was being positioned as the "dorm room" solution to 3D gaming. After my month of testing the unit, a dorm room might be the only living quarters tight enough to warrant the purchase of such a tiny TV.

At just 23.5 inches, the display looks small when sitting 6 or more feet away from the screen. That said, I can't imagine anyone would want to sit more than an arm's length away from the TV anyway because believe it or not, Sony isn't shipping it with a remote control.

You read correctly. Instead of using a remote to switch inputs or change settings, users must blindly fish around back for a set of six buttons. The only silver lining here is that once you tap one of them, a visual guide pops up on screen to better help you feel your way around to the others. For a retail price of $500, an included remote control isn't asking a lot.

Fishing around for these six buttons is no fun at all.

Not all is lost on the remote front, though. You can purchase one separately or use a universal one to control it.

Design and features
There's not a whole lot of bells and whistles to talk about with the Sony PlayStation 3D Display. It offers two HDMI ports and one component input. There's no tuner here; it's a display, not a TV. I really appreciated the headphone jack around back, though, especially for those intense gaming sessions where I didn't want to disturb my office neighbors.

All the connectivity is located in a single spot on the right edge of the display.

The display also ships with one HDMI cable and a copy of MotorStorm: Apocalypse, one of the four games that currently support the SimulView function. The others SimulView-compatible games are Gran Turismo 5, Killzone 3, and Super Stardust HD. I'm sure more titles that support the feature will see the light of day, but purchasing the display on that hope is a bit of a gamble for a $500 investment.

In terms of design, the display is actually pretty sharp. Its rounded sides present a sleek and edgy demeanor, with the unit's speakers hidden in grilles that flank the display on either side. The included stand is a nice touch and it's very easy to attach the display to.

The speakers are hidden in the rounded edges of the display.

One feature I became quickly annoyed with is the display's eagerness to shut off when a signal isn't being detected. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for power-saving provisions, but the Sony display jumps the gun way too prematurely. In what seems like a matter of seconds, the blue LED on-light turns red, indicating standby mode has been activated. This is especially irritating when switching sources and reinforces the frustrating absence of a remote control.

The display only comes with one pair of PlayStation-branded 3D glasses as well as one incredibly short Micro-USB charging cable. I'm a little confused as to why only one pair is included, especially since Sony sent me two for testing. It contradicts the display's highlight feature: the ability to give two players their own screen for SimulView gaming. An extra pair of glasses is $70, meaning you'll need to spend a minimum total of $570 to get the SimulView gaming experience.

Perhaps my biggest gripe with the display is the highly reflective glass cover that really dampens the gaming and viewing experience. The glare is just awful. It's so bad that when I pause a game, I can use the display as a mirror.

Setting up the display isn't overly complicated, but you may find yourself going through a bit of trial and error when attempting to get the SimulView working correctly. A flashing red light indicates which player each set of glasses is assigned to; you may have to hold down or quickly press the power button on the glasses until you get it squared away correctly.

In my testing with the glasses, I did find that after an initial sync they remembered their player assignments.

A full charge for each pair of glasses netted me dozens of hours of play time, though it's wise to make sure each pair is set to off when not in use.

3D and SimulView performance
A healthy selection of PS3 games now support 3D, and the PS 3D Display handles them quite well. Of course each game has a different 3D effect, so the illusion was more noticeable on Gran Turismo 5 than it was playing Uncharted 3.

The usual image darkening that happens during 3D is here as well, but the bright picture quality helps balance it out.

The display's biggest bragging point has got to be SimulView, and when switched on it does make for some exciting two-player moments. But because the effect is so delicate, and the glare so prevalent, I found that I practically needed to be shoulder to shoulder with my opponent, which just makes for an awkward gaming experience. Sitting farther away helps widen the viewing angle, but then the screen's small size becomes a factor. Long story short, there's really no ideal distance or position to play in.

It's a shame, though, because there's a lot of potential here. How many times have you called a friend out for spying on play calls or using the split screen to his or her advantage in something like a first-person-shooter? SimulView has the ability to eliminate all of these gaming hurdles, but the way it's presented in the PS 3D display isn't compelling in a practical sense.

That said, SimulView doesn't need to live and die by this product. It may be a bit finicky, but the technology is there and it works. If Sony can implement it on a bigger screen with less glare, there's some seriously cool applications in its future.

Using a nongaming source
I'm no picture quality reviewer by any stretch, especially when it comes to a source other than a video game. For that, I called in CNET's newest TV editor, Ty Pendlebury. Here's what he thought of the unit's nongaming prowess:

This is a gaming monitor obviously, but because it's designed to be mated with the "it only does everything" PlayStation motto, it makes sense to have talents that extend beyond Uncharted 3. Luckily enough, it does: hiding behind the PSP-like molding is a fully-fledged Sony TV with all of the picture-processing goodness you'd expect.

In terms of presentation, this is a Sony TV with excellent processing of all sources, which makes it great for watching movies or cable TV. The TV is excellent at processing the natural frame rate of Blu-rays (24Hz), so HD movies look ultrasmooth. The screen itself is able to produce a high-quality picture, with excellent shadow detail and high contrast that make movies "pop." "Custom" mode is best for watching movies, and while the colors appear a little red, this can easily be fixed with a quick adjustment of the color control.

If you're not sitting dead-on with the TV, the off-axis response is decent in a dark room, but lit rooms are the killer here. If you sit too far off-axis you'll only be seeing reflections.

The "TV" is fine if you're only hooking up a PS3, but if you're trying to hook up more devices you may have HDMI handshake problems. The display hated our distribution amplifier and easily lost signal with scene changes that resulted in unusable flashing pictures. It's only the second device to do this in recent memory, which suggests some odd HDMI standard is being used here. This may be an issue if you are connecting a non-PS3 device or a receiver.

Sound quality is average for a small TV, with very little punch to explosions or twinkle when glass breaks. Dialogue sounded a little muffled as well.

While it does have the impressive ability of simultaneously sending two video sources at once, overall the Sony PlayStation 3D display is an expensive and small device that really doesn't fit in any practical environment. I mentioned earlier that it would suffice in a dorm room, but for $500 or so, two roommates could each purchase their own larger HDTVs and not need to sit shoulder to shoulder while gaming.

If the price came down, the size increased, and the glare removed, I could perhaps confidently recommend the unit to someone because that would eliminate a few of my issues with the display. But as it stands in its current form, it's tough to find a situation that's ideal for it.

CNET editor Ty Pendlebury contributed to this review.


Sony PlayStation 3D display

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 6Performance 6