Saturday, December 17, 2011

How To Buy A New 3DTV

Do I Really Need a 3DTV?

Are you looking to buy a new HDTV this year? Are you asking yourself, "Should I buy a 3DTV?".

If you plan on getting a decent sized screen (at least 40") then you may as well buy a 3D-capable TV - whether you really want one or not. The premiums for 3DTVs have come down dramatically over the past year, with 3DTVs costing only $100-200 more than comparable 2DTVs in many cases.

You are going to own this TV for many, many years. So you may as well try and future-proof your purchase the best you can. It's more than likely that within the next year or two ALL high-end TVs will be 3D-capable. It would be a shame to wish you had the option to watch 3D a couple years from now but not be able to - even if it's just to watch the occasional 3D movie like Avatar or Hugo (or watch the Olympics 2016 in 3D, or play that amazing new 3D game on your PS4). The worst case scenario is that you never use the 3D feature and simple watch everything in 2D, but at least you'll have the option.

Click here to see our updated list of the top selling 3DTVs at Amazon right now

What 3DTV Should I Buy?

Before you can determine what 3DTV is the best for your circumstances you need to ask yourself a few questions first:

Active vs. Passive 3D

Are you a videophile who will only be satisfied with the highest possible image quality?

Do you have young kids, a large family, or a lot of friends that will be watching the 3DTV?
If you have a large family then I would strongly suggest buying a passive 3DTV. Passive 3DTVs use the same lightweight, inexpensive glasses used in theaters (i.e., "free"). Active 3DTVs use the heavier, battery powered shutter glasses that typically cost anywhere from $50 to $150 a pair. So buying glasses for a family of four could cost you as much as $600. And forget about that 3D Superbowl party you were planning for your 20 closest friends if you own an active 3DTV.

The negative things about passive 3DTVs is that each eye does not see full a full 1080p image since each eye only sees every other line of the picture. However, in theory your brain puts the alternate lines back together to see the entire image anyway. 

While videophiles often point to the "full HD" issue as a reason for preferring active over passive, most people report not noticing a difference in picture quality unless sitting very close to the TV.

The other benefit of passive 3DTVs is that people generally report less eyestrain or eye fatigue from passive 3DTVs vs. active.

I currently own an active 3DTV, but if I were buying a new 3DTV today I would strongly recommend looking at the Vizio Theater line of passive 3DTVs. You can get a 42" for under $800, and Vizio supports more 3D formats than any other manufacturer (including Sony or Samsung). See the link below to see what others on have to say about the Vizio line of 3DTVs:

My second pick would be to look at the LG Cinema line of passive 3DTVs. Both Vizio and LG use the same passive 3D panels (manufactured by LG Panel) and therefore should have similar picture quality. The LG 3DTV do not currently support the SENSIO 3D format (see below), however the LG series do have 2D-3D conversion which the Vizio 3DTVs do not. I've seen the LG 2D-3D conversion and it's actually pretty good (at least much better than my Sony). So if 2D-3D is important to you then you may want to consider the LG. Click HERE to see what others on have to say about LG's line of Passive Cinema 3DTVs.

How Big Of A Screen Do I Need?

When it comes to 3D, bigger is definitely better. I would recommend getting the largest screen you can afford that will reasonably fit in the desired space.

3D is all about immersion. You want the screen to capture as much of your field of vision as possible. While the 3D effects on a smaller screen are still impressive, there's nothing quite like the feeling of actually being there.

A larger screen will also allow you to sit further away from the TV, which means both the depth and pop-out effects will be more impressive. (A 3D scene that extends 50% of the way from the TV to the viewer means a 2-foot effect for someone sitting 4-feet away from the TV. That same scene will extend out 4-feet if you sit 8-feet away).

What Is The Difference Between Side-By-Side, Top/Bottom and SENSIO Hi-Fi 3D?

Side-by-Side (SbS) Top Over Bottom (T/B) and SENSIO are simply compression methods which allow 3D images to be broadcast over the existing 2D cable, satellite and internet infrastructure.

SbS and T/B each compress the image (either vertically or horizontally) to allow both the left eye and right eye image to fit on a single frame. The TV then decompresses the images to re-create the 3D picture. The result, unfortunately, is that the 3D image you see on your TV will only be 1/2 the resolution of the original. In a sense, it is like watching SD on a HDTV.

The benefit of SbS and T/B to TV manufacturers is that each methodology is in the public domain and is therefore free to use and incorporate into their 3DTVs.

SENSIO on the other hand, is a patented technology which compresses the original 3D image in such a way that when decompressed by your 3DTV the resulting image is visually identical to the original. Therefore by using SENSIO 3D format you can watch Blu-Ray quality 3D video over cable or internet.

In addition to 3D compression, SENSIO also provides other features to improve the viewer's 3D experience, like SENSIO Autodetect (which automatically detects the 3D format being received) and SENSIO S2D Switch (which allows viewers to view recorded or streaming 3D content in 2D if desired).

Unfortunately, as the the date of this article, Vizio is the only manufacturer currently supporting the SENSIO 3D format. Hopefully by the time you are reading this more and more manufacturers will adopt the format as more and more content becomes available in SENSIO 3D.

Click HERE to read more about Vizio's line of Passive Theater 3DTVs

To see my list of the Top 5 3D Blu-Ray Movies Click Here
To see my list of the Top 5 3D Games for the PS3 Click Here


  1. I am looking to buy a new TV. My short list is LG and Sony, but I may go for LG. I need advise on which LG shall I get:

    1. LG 55in 3D LW5700 model with 200Hz and 8m contrast (matt screen), or

    2. LG 55in 2D LW9500 model with higher spec, 400Hz and 10m contrast (but glossy screen- shows reflections etc)?

    The difference in cost $600. Shall I get the best 2D affordable TV spec now (Hz and contrast), and wait for a couple of years for 3D TV? Would the reflection/gloss screen of the 2D TV be an issue?


  2. @SA - Do you live in Australia? My understanding is that the LW9500 was one of the last active 3D models made by LG (except in Australia where for some reason it is being sold as 2D only). All of LG's 3DTVs since that model have been their passive Cinema 3DTV models.

    Of the two, my preference would be for the LW5700, but you could also look at the LW5600 which is only $1267 at

    You can check out the specs and reviews for the LW5600 here:


  3. Johnny906 - Am currently in the Middle East. LW9500 is Nano 2D TV, its one of the new models of LG with highest spec, edgeless frame, very nice picture but screen is reflective type due to the additional safety protective screen panel (glossy type). I have seen also the nano 3D TV in stores, but it is extremely expensive. SA