New 3D TVs for 2011

Which manufacturer has the best 3D TV for 2011?

Phil Conner, senior editor

3D TV displays at CES 2011 varied greatly be manufacturer. Some used tricks, others showed the flaws of 3D as they were. But which manufacturers 3D TVs are shining examples of the technology and which should not be purchased? We give our editors choice award for best 3D TV display for CES 2011 below.

First off I give a lot of credit to those producers that put it on the line and take chances in showing their most recent 3D technologies to the public and press at large. Here's is what they focused on showing:

Toshiba 3D TV for 2011

Surprisingly, one manufacturer that took the most chances was Toshiba. While not showing any of its current active or passive 3D TVs (nor upcoming 2011 offerings) it did show its Glasses Free 3D TVs in a variety of sizes, 24", 32", 55", 65". The display was spotty, and performance a bit irregular. The glasses free 3D TVs were set up in booths to try to eliminate side angle views (but did not quite succeed at this.) The Glasses free technologies obvious benefit is the absence of the passive or active glasses which the public clearly wants. The actual display quality I would put at a 5 out of 10 in quality. But give some major credit to the company for trying. It was a bit discouraging to not be able to evaluate the upcoming passive and active 3D Models SL515 series and SL610 series 3D TVs.

The 2D to 3D conversion demo showed a very small split from the 2D version content to the 3D version content, so there was little depth and not much 3 dimensional effect to the image. No doubt, this content was set up this way to keep flaws from showing.

Sony 3D TV for 2011

Sony had extensive 3D viewing from stationary active shutter glasses. They had examples of Gaming, Sports, Cinema, and Media from 3D Stations. The 3D TV used for these displays was the XBR-HX929. Though captivated by the content, I was disappointed with the speed of the sports action in the Sports 3D display due to the fact that it was Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models filming. The action was slow thus I could not test fast motion, but this was perhaps the best looking 3D content of the various Sony displays. There was little blur and good definition around the swimsuit clad models. But still images are much easier to display well in 3D.

During the 3D display in the Cinema section I noted some blur in bottom right and left corners at times, and I was fairly unimpressed with the Cinema 3D programming overall. The gaming section 3D content looked very nice though it was a short segment from a program.

Sony had the best looking 3D display though, the 24" OLED TV which required no glasses and looked spectacular with excellent detail, black levels and color. Unfortunately, the TV is just a prototype and is not expected to ship.

Panasonic 3D TV for 2011

Editors Choice Award for Best 3D Display CES 2011

Panasonic also had an impressive selection of 3D content for display and generally it looked much better than most of the competition. There were categories displays set up with stationary active shutter glasses for sports, gaming, and entertainment and we reviewed them all.

The sports category reviewed the TC-P46GT25 series plasma 3D TVs. Professional womens volleyball looked especially colorful and with excellent depth. The picture was good enough and without the flickering side effects to actually make you want a 3D TV. I was very impressed with this 3D imagery. The only issue was very fast moving images in the foreground which distorts the picture, a problem I have found with almost all 3D TVs. Next we reviewed the ST30 Plasma 3D TV series with Gaming and the verdict was the same, very little flicker or blur and good images. Next we reviewed the entertainment series which had some swimsuit content and Blue Man Group among others. This was viewable on the new DT30 series LED TV. Immediately I noticed the difference – more noticeable flickering but certainly more judder and jerky movement – an LED TVs downfall. Colors were very good and still images looked great. Plasma is just in many ways a better conduit for 3D TV programming due to 1) 600Hz sub field drive – faster processing through phosphor based pixel cells, and 2) possibly more natural processing between the requirements of 3D and individual pixel cells each containing its own light in plasma technology. With LED backlit LCD TVs the twisting crystals to enable the light and color flow seems to cause the judder and side effects with 3D.

As with the Sony display, the Panasonic display also had stationary glasses, so we cannot be absolutely sure how the glasses will perform when actually on the face, ala unwelcome light flicker.

Samsung 3D TV for 2011

Samsung did not have much in terms of 3D TV display. They did a nice job of highlighting the new very light active shutter glasses they are now producing. The glasses come in different colors with a very thin arms as opposed to the thicker heavier glasses of the past. They also have prescription 3D glasses for those interested.

The 3D Viewing was set up in one area with only the D8000 and 75D9500 series LED TVs. Glasses were not stationary so at least you know that this is exactly what the TV will look like in 3D. I wasn't overly impressed. Some of the underwater scenery in display had good depth but when a bright underwater flashlight quickly came into view or shined across the landscape it was so distracting I could barely keep watching.

There was a 2D to 3D conversion demo to show off that feature and as with all manufacturers 2D to 3D content, it was uninspiring.

LG 3D TV for 2011

LG had many 3D TV ready models on display but like Samsung, only the very top performer 3D model was available for 3D viewing. Bit of a cop out isnt it? The top of the line award winning full array, full HD 480 local dimming zones LW9700 series had a 3D display. This TV uses nano technology to accomplish these feats along with showing full 1080p HD 3D to each eye. It has a stunning picture and aesthetic design. There was still some blurred bottom right and left edges and flicker from bright lights appearing on a dark background with the 3D viewing. All of LG's 3D plasma offerings have active shutter glasses 3D viewing.

LG also showed the largest LED 3D TV at the show with an 84" display model. The TV is a prototype and is not scheduled to ship this year. I would describe the 3D viewing on this TV as very mediocre with all of the characteristic flaws of LED 3D TVs. As an additional negative though I actually didn't think the colors or clarity was very good along with the flicker and blurring.

LG showed a 31" OLED TV that had an incredible sharp picture with natural scenery and images. As with the Sony, this 3D viewing was the best of the show except this was with glasses. The OLED was also shown in a 15" OLED 3D TV which is currently available (LG did not mention the price). The OLED TVs are razor thin at only 2.9mm in depth but you might as well discount that fact because the tuners and video boards are located in the accompanying stand and the OLED TV panel cannot be removed from it.

Sharp 3D TV for 2011

Editors Choice for best 3D LED TV at CES 2011

Sharp often introduces as many TV models in the fall as at the January CES show so they only had two new series of 3D TVs. The first the top end LE935 series with full array, full true backlit local dimming and the second the 70" only full array local dimming 70LE735 series. Despicable Me animated Blu Ray 3D disc was playing as the test disc and we were very impressed with the picture. There was hardly any flicker. This was one of the best 3D TV images we saw on a non-Plasma 3D TV. Colors were vibrant and I didnt notice any blur in the bottom right or left edges of the picture. The test was a true one with active shutter glasses on the face (not a stationary stand). The hurdle the Sharp 3D TVs could not conquer was the overwhelming distraction when a bright light flashes across a dark background.

Sharp also had on display a live 2D to 3D conversion set up with a model dressed in yellow throwing a ball or opening and closing an umbrella. The 2D to 3D conversion displayed on the LE935 was the best I saw at the show. The picture wasn't great, but the set was there to enhance the contrast and thus produce a better picture.

Vizio 3D TV for 2011

The Vizio 3D TV display focused on the one 3D TV they currently offer, the XVT3D650SV. The display further focused on passive vs. active 3D glasses. Vizio is content to give you 540 lines of resolution per eye for 3D viewing in favor of cheaper passive polarized 3D glasses. The picture was pretty good considering those specs and it's nice to think of those $7 glasses when you've got 5 people watching a 3D movie. The passive 3D TVs will be the companies focus going forward according to Vizio representatives we spoke with. The XVT3D650SV comes with 4 pairs of passive 3D glasses included in the box.

Best 3D TV Plasma: Panasonic TC-P50GT25 Series (note: no other manufacturers had 3D TV displays set up with their plasma TVs.)

Best 3D TV LED TV: Sharp Quattron LE935 Series (this was a fairly crowded field)

Best Overall 3D TV: Sony's Glasses Free 3D OLED TV, prototype – not for sale.

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