- Audio & Video
Best 3D TV Available - A Complete Buyer's Guide
One of the hottest trends in electronics this year has been 3D TVs. Which one is the best value available in today's market? In recent months, a flood of new products have come to market from a number of manufacturers.
While it is often hard to pin down a clear winner as the technology changes rapidly, there are several that stand out as attractive choices. The key to making an informed buying decision in this evolving market is to understand the features available and identify which ones are most important to you. The prices for 3D TVs can vary widely based upon several key details.
Understanding the Basics of 3D TV
Before you can begin to narrow down your search to a specific model, it is important to learn a bit about what goes into the pricing for a 3D TV. As consumers, our experience throughout the years has taught us to always look for the lowest price.
When you're buying a gallon of milk, this is a pretty good strategy. As long as it hasn't expired yet, you can usually count on the product being the same regardless of where you buy it. Shopping for electronics is somewhat more complicated as you must consider several seemingly subtle features and technologies that can have an impact on both pricing and the quality of the item you are purchasing. Here are a few things you will want to take into consideration.
This one is probably the most obvious contributor to cost and the one most shoppers would identify as being critical to making a buying decision. Bigger is always better, right? It is easy to assume that a larger screen is somehow equal to a superior quality product but jumping to this conclusion right away is sometimes a mistake. Take the time to consider the size and layout of the room where it will reside. The optimum viewing distance for a 60” TV is approximately 15 feet. This means if you have a smaller room, you may not really need that gigantic screen to achieve an ideal fit. In contrast, the optimum viewing distance for a 47” screen is between 11 and 12 feet which is closer to the amount of space most people have available in a medium-sized living room or bedroom.
This one is a bit easier to pin down. The widely accepted standard for the highest possible resolution available is 1920X1080 most often called 1080p.
This is where it starts to get a little technical and most people start to tune out. While it may seem overly technical at first glance, the concept of refresh rate is actually quite simple. The most common refresh rates you will find associated with HD TVs are 60Hz, 120Hz, and 240Hz.
These numbers represent the number of times the image on your screen updates (refreshes) within one second. As a general rule, a faster refresh rate leads to a sharper and more detailed picture. When watching a program or movie with rapid motion such as a sporting event, a higher refresh rate will result in less screen blur. It is fairly well-accepted that the difference between 60Hz and 120Hz is easily noticeable to most viewers.
On the other hand, there is still considerable debate over whether the human eye is capable of distinguishing the difference between 120Hz and 240Hz. Keep in mind that some of the newer models are offering a refresh rate as high as 480Hz but the consensus is that ultra high refresh rates are more of a marketing gimmick than anything else.
3D Display Technology
There are two common types of display technologies you are likely to encounter when shopping for a new TV, edge lit or backlit. The major difference most consumers will immediately notice here is the thickness of the TV. Edge lit panels will be slimmer, have less depth, and a slightly lower price tag. This makes them an attractive choice for wall-mounting or fitting into already tight spaces. Many of the current models are less than an inch and a half thick.
Backlit units are a bit thicker and sometimes heavier, ranging anywhere from 3” to as much as 6” at their widest. While the thin panel may seem like a very inviting option, consider the fact that backlit TVs tend to have a better picture quality. This is due to "local dimming" where a display lit from behind is able to create an image that is lighter in one area while being darker in another at the same time. The major advantages to a backlit TV will be better contrast, a sharper picture and deeper blacks. A backlit LED TV will use a bit more in the way of energy but the picture quality you get in return is outstanding!
In the past, any form of 3D television required a set of glasses for viewing. Toshiba recently announced a game changing model that allows for 3D without wearing glasses at all. As of now, the most affordable 3D technology still requires some form of viewing glasses. There are three primary types you will come across: anaglyph, polarized, and stereoscopic 3D glasses.
The anaglyph glasses are the ones you are probably most familiar with. They use the traditional red and blue lenses to generate the appearance of a third viewing dimension by filtering the light from multiple projections. Polarized glasses are another common type. This technology is what most major movie theaters are using for 3D movie releases such as Avatar and Toy Story 3. You should take note that these 2 types are not compatible with home TVs. The format generating the most excitement is called RealD and uses stereoscopic 3D glasses to produce the most realistic and life-like experience technology currently allows. One unique benefit of stereoscopic glasses (active shutter) is that it can span multiple media formats opening up the world of three-dimensional viewing to gaming and home movies.
Recommended 3D TV Models
Here are a few recommended models that will give you a lot of bang for your buck. Each of these models represents a great combination of technology and price making it an outstanding value in several common sizes. The goal here is to give insight into top products in several different price ranges so you can find something that fits your budget.