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Toshiba glasses-free 3D TV demo: It works, just not very well

Toshiba announced that it would be shipping a glasses-free 3D TV to the U.S. sometime in the first quarter of 2012. But is it ready for prime time?

Now playing: Watch this: First Look: Watch 3D without the glasses

LAS VEGAS--Although Toshiba's glasses-free 3D TV is coming to the U.S. in the next couple of months, and at a price we expect to be north of $10,000, it still has some issues.

Fellow CNET TV reviewer Ty Pendlebury and I both got the chance to check out the set here at CES 2012, and while the head-tracking technology is impressive, and the fact that you can actually see 3D effects without glasses is kind of mind-blowing, the TV we saw definitely felt more like a prototype than a product ready for prime time--especially for that price.

Despite my somewhat positive tone in the video above (blame the excellent appetizers Toshiba was serving), the 3D was definitely inferior to what I've seen on glasses-equipped 3D TVs. I was told to stand in one of three sweet spots, after which the head-tracking technology locked onto my face and the 3D image fused and locked in. At that point I definitely saw 3D, but the effect was shallower and seemmed a bit softer than on any 3D TV with glasses. More annoying were the artifacts, like doubled lines and other cross-talk-like effects I noticed, especially toward the edges of the screen.

I spent most of my 3D viewing time at Toshiba's recommended distance, but Ty moved around a bit more, and he noted that getting closer to the screen made the artifacts even more apparent.

But what really seemed to hurt the experience was the effect's sensitivity to any kind of head movement. Adjusting the position of my eyes relative to the screen, even the barest amount, caused the 3D "fuse" effect to dissolve into a mess of separate lines and take me completely out of the moment. At times the head-tracker would eventually adjust, but it was far from instantaneous. Most humans not made of stone move slightly as they watch TV, and if they're watching this TV such movement would be a constant battle with lost 3D effects.

Toshiba's reps also made sure to point out the set's 4Kx2K 2D resolution by demoing some specialized material. When I didn't immediately react with a "Wow," I was encouraged to approach very close to the screen to appreciate the detail. Of course, I wouldn't recommend anyone watch a 55-inch TV from closer than about 6 feet, at which distance the extra resolution just isn't apparent. And that's assuming that you're watching actual 4K content; there's no benefit when viewing standard 1080p material on a 4K TV at this screen size.

All told, Toshiba's demo proved to me that, even when you don't consider that crazy price, glasses-free TV has a long way to go before it's as enjoyable and practical as 3D TV with glasses.