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3-D TV at CES: Going Small and Cheap, Whether You Want It or Not

shrek 3-d tvAs we wandered the halls of CES 2011, one thing became abundantly clear: that this 3-D thing just isn't going away. We'd previously written off 3-D TV and movies as gimmicky and prone to producing headaches, but the industry is clearly taking it very seriously. Last year, all the major TV manufacturers were pushing 3-D sets, and all were back this year with upgraded displays, new glasses and improved tech. But more surprising was the number of smaller brands jumping on the bandwagon, and the extent to which the larger companies were banking the trend. Samsung even announced that more than half of its TV lineup in 2011 would be 3-D. So, will 2011 be the year that 3-D hits critical mass and becomes an accepted form of content? We still doubt it. While 3-D capable sets may find a foothold in the living room, there still seems to be a lack of compelling content and enthusiasm from consumers. That being said, 2011 kicked off with a mega market push, falling costs and wider variety, suggesting that your 3-D options are just beginning to unfold. Join us to see what's coming in the world of 3-D displays in 2011 and beyond.

Prices Will Fall

Haier 3D TVs
For the most part, 3-D TVs have been rather hefty investments. The sets were expensive to begin with, and most required active shutter glasses that could cost well over $100 a pair. Although many companies are not prepared to announce retail prices for their latest 3-D sets, it's clear that going 3-D this year won't mean taking out a second mortgage. Vizio has promised a sub-$300 model; Coby -- known for selling budget electronics -- is offering a line of sets, as is Haier (better known for air conditioners). LG's TVs should also see their prices come down significantly, as the company has moved to passive 3-D and is actually providing the tech behind Vizio's devices, as well.

Sizes Will Drop

Toshiba 3-D Laptop
Getting a 3-D TV last year meant going big; according to Samsung, 65-percent of 3-D TVs sold in 2010 were 55-inches or larger. This year, 3-D has trickled down to small, bedroom-friendly models like the 32-inch member of the EX720 family announced by Sony. Vizio and Coby are both offering 22-inch sets, with Coby preparing a 7-inch portable 3-D DVD player. (We think that calling the Coby portable gadget's display "3-D" is being generous, though.) Even laptops, smartphones and digital photo frames are getting infused with 3-D tech.

Glasses Will Get Nixed... Eventually

Glasses Free 3-D
One of the biggest obstacles to 3-D adoption is the bulky glasses. We, the consumers, simply don't care how nice they look or how light they are; we don't want to have to don special eyewear every time we watch a movie or a football game. Toshiba, Sony, LG and even Coby were all exploring the potential for 3-D sans glasses. The results were, unfortunately, a universal letdown. Viewing angles were atrocious and moving just slightly out of the proper position resulted in strange distortion to the image. The 3-D effect was also not nearly as pronounced as that found on active or polarized panels. Glasses-free sets currently provide an experience closer to 2.5-D.

Content Options Expand

More 3-D Content
This goes without saying: you will see more 3-D content. We're not talking market-saturating levels, but there will be significantly more 3-D for you to digest in 2011. Disney has promised "at least 15" new 3-D Blu-ray releases in 2011, ESPN 3D will finally go all 3-D all the time, and 3NET (the joint venture between Sony, Discovery and IMAX) will go live with 24/7 3-D programming. HBO also announced that it would start offering some films, including kids' favorites 'Coraline' and 'Ice Age,' in 3-D via its video on-demand service.

We don't think 2011 will be the year that 3-D TV becomes the must-have home entertainment accessory; the tech still has a lot of maturing to do and we just don't see enough exciting content out there yet. That being said, manufacturers are clearly putting a big emphasis on 3-D as a way of getting consumers to upgrade their existing flat screens. We're still not sold on 3-D, but, if you're in the market for a new TV this year, it may be hard to avoid buying a 3-D capable one.

Tags: 3-D, 3D, 3dTv, 3net, ces, coby, displays, espn 3d, Espn3d, features, haier, hbo, lg, movies, samsung, sony, top, toshiba, vizio