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Having been generally unimpressed by home 3D TV products that have come and gone over the last dozen years, I was more than a little skeptical when the chatter from this year's Consumer Electronics Show was mainly about 3D TV. So, I wasn't expecting much when I visited the Samsung Experience at Columbus Circle in early April to check out a range of 3D TV products.
They included the LED Series 7 and Series 8 (both are LED-backlit LCD TVs), the plasma PNC7000 series of TVs, the BD-C6900 Blu-ray Disc player, a home theater system, and several models of shutter glasses. All I can say is: Wow! 3D TV circa 2010 is nothing like the cardboard 3D that slimed out of the Black Lagoon in the fifties. Today's 3D employs much more sophisticated technology than that used with those anaglyph red and green glasses of the past. The barrier between audience and picture appears to dissolve, and you can almost reach into your TV as if it were a tank occupied, for instance, by fit-to-size basketball players running around a court spread out in front of you.
Showing on several big-screen TV sets at the Samsung Experience was the Blu-ray Disc title, Monsters vs. Aliens 3D. At the moment the animated movie represents the ultimate 3D TV experience. A fight on the Golden Gate Bridge really seemed to leap off the screen. Watching MvA 3D on a couch surrounded by speakers radiating discrete digital effects, I sometimes felt like ducking for cover.
Other 3D movies on Blu-ray are coming out this year, and more will be released next year. Several 3D cable and satellite channels have also been announced including an ESPN 3D channel.
But you don't have to wait for content. All the Samsung 3D TVs today enable you to turn any 2D program into 3D from the sofa using the TV's remote. (See the 3D button by fingernail, right.) The technology really works, and you can adjust the levels of 3D on a scale of 1- 10 (with 10 featuring the most planes of depth). The onscreen slider bar works the same way as if you were setting the brightness or contrast level. Manipulating the Z-axis is not unlike stretching and retracting the folds of an accordion folder.
In the case of the basketball game, you might choose just two levels: one for the players and the second for the courtside seats behind them. Or you could expand the field to 9 or 10 planes, getting the deepest separation. According to a Samsung spokesman, sports fans seem to like the most 3D, but it's a matter of personal taste. Anyone wearing 3D glasses is likely to experiment with the depth setting, adding and subtracting planes in an attempt to set a level that strikes the best balance between 3D illusion and what just seems natural. I found, for example, that when the depth setting was turned up to 10, players looked slightly warped.
Interestingly, 3D wreaks a dramatic effect on images as mundane as the cable system's electronic program guide. As I looked at the matrix of channels and time slots, both the live picture-in-guide and the selected program title seemed to push out of the screen like bricks in graphic relief. I'd never seen an electronic program guide pop like that. A 3D EPG is a new way to highlight information.
The cornerstone of a 3D home theater system is a 3D-capable HDTV. Though you can watch it like any HDTV, the set is engineered to show 3D in tandem with LCD shutter glasses whenever you want. Choosing a 3D TV is the same as picking other 1080p flat-panel displays. Do you want plasma or LED-LCD? All of Samsung's LCD-based 3D models use light-emitting diode (LED) edge-lighting rather than conventional cold-cathode fluorescent (CCFL) backlighting. In plasma Samsung offers its 3D TVs in three screen sizes: 50-, 58-, and 63-inches. In LED-LCD, the choices are 40-, 46-, or 55-inches. The latter technology is available as part of the UNC7000 series (40-, 46-, and 55-inches) and UNC8000 series (46- or 55-inches).
Unless you buy a kit or promotional bundle, Samsung's 3D glasses are sold separately from the TV. Samsung's eyewear comes two ways: one that uses a disposable coin-type (CR2025 3V) battery and another with an embedded rechargeable battery. The two types look different. The bottom of the lenses on the throwaway-battery glasses are frameless. The rechargable model is fully framed with the bottom mimicking the reddish Touch of Color seen on the bottom bezel of many Samsung TVs. Also, each rechargeable model sports a small side port for cable connection to a USB port on the TV for recharging. You can also get rechargeable glasses for kids; these specs come with a clip-on blue frame and pink frame. Or you can get the Samsung 3D Glasses Starter Kit which contains two pairs of (disposable) battery type glasses and the Monsters vs. Aliens 3D Blu-ray Disc.
|Disposable Battery Type 3D Glasses||Rechargeable Battery Type 3D Glasses|
For the optimal 3D home theater experience you'll want a 3D-capable source component such as Samsung's BD-C6900 3D Blu-ray Disc Player. The handsome-looking player also connects to the Internet to stream content from Netflix, YouTube, and Slacker among other sites.
You can also get a 3D-ready Blu-ray Disc player as part of the integrated HT-C6930W home theater sound system. The Blu-ray player/amplifier with 1,300W of power drives seven included speakers (including two front columns) and a subwoofer.
By the way, you connect a 3D Blu-ray Disc player and 3DTV using a high-speed HDMI cable. HDMI Licensing, LLC, the group representing major TV manufacturers, has developed an advanced specification called HDMI 1.4. 3D-capable TVs and Blu-ray Disc players incorporate HDMI 1.4 ports. If you already have a high-speed HDMI cable (including ones that came out when HDMI 1.3 was the most advanced spec), you should be good to go. A standard HDMI cable is recommended by the group for reliably transmitting up to 1080i or 720p video. For 3D, 1080p, Deep Color, and future 4K content, the group recommends HDMI cables labeled with one of the logos (right). Some high-speed HDMI cables are also built to carry Ethernet signals.
B&H is offering a $349.99 instant rebate (good until May 1) when you purchase a bundle that includes one of the Samsung 3D TV sets, either the BD-C6900 Blu-ray Disc player or HT-C6930W theater system, and the Samsung 3D Glasses Starter Kit. For example, one of the bundles brings together a 46-inch LED-LCD TV, Blu-ray Disc player, and 3D Starter Kit. (clockwise on the left.) Another bundles a 40-inch TV, Blu-ray home theater system, and 3D Starter Kit. So, whether you're picking plasma or LED-LCD and selecting a screen size from 40- to 58-inches, one of these 22 bundles goes a long way to taking your home theater to the next dimension. TV screens may have grown thin, but the vivid pictures they display have suddenly become anything but flat.