3D HDTVs – Are they worth the premium?

Since the release of Avatar in late 2009, many have touted 3D as the future of movies. But while 3D technology has been a big hit in the theaters, it’s still yet to be proven whether the technology will succeed in the home. Several 3D-capable TVs from Samsung, Sony, and Panasonic have already been released this year, but early adopters wishing to bring 3D glory into their home theater rooms have been forced to pay a steep premium.

The following sets are some of the most popular 3D HDTVs on the market right now:

While each of the HDTVs listed above will cost you a pretty penny, they all have benefits that go beyond their 3D capabilities. For example, the Samsung UN55C8000 offers Precision Dimming technology that results in substantially improved picture quality compared to less expensive edge-lit LED TVs. It also offers an incredibly thin depth of 0.9”, which makes it one of the thinnest televisions available.

Those that demand the very best picture quality will levitate towards the Panasonic TC-P50VT25. That’s because Panasonic’s flagship plasma TV is one of the best performing HDTVs available, delivering deeper black levels and superior color accuracy than the competition. It also offers all the other benefits of plasma technology, such as superb off-angle viewing and screen uniformity.

Similarly, Samsung’s PN50C8000 is also a top-notch performer that offers superior picture quality compared to 2D-only plasma or LCD TVs. And if you’re looking for the best bang-for-the-buck in a 3D HDTV, you’ll find it with the PN50C7000, another excellent performer that can be had for less than $2,000.

But even if you do decide that you’re willing to pay a premium for a 3D TV, the expenses do not end there. You’ll also need active-shutter glasses, which typically aren’t included and run about $100-200 per pair. If you buy a pair for every family member, the price can escalate quickly.

Then, of course, there’s the issue of content. Currently there are very few 3D Blu-ray movies available, though many more titles will be released by the end of the year and throughout 2011. A 3D Blu-ray player is also required to watch, and that will be a painful purchase for those that already bought a 2D Blu-ray player in the past couple years.

Fortunately, there are several 3D Blu-ray players that do not command a hefty premium – the best bang-for-the-buck offerings are the Sony BDP-S470 ($199 List Price) and the Sony BDP-S570, which adds built-in Wi-Fi connectivity ($249 List).

And, if you are one of the millions of PlayStation 3 owners, a firmware update expected to be released later this year will allow you to watch 3D Blu-ray movies from the console. Earlier this year, a firmware update enabled 3D gaming on the console.

So, is it worth investing in 3D technology right now?

If you are a casual viewer that doesn’t need the latest and greatest, or you don’t like the idea of wearing a geeky pair of glasses while sitting on the couch, then the answer is no. 3D technology is still in its early phases, there’s not much 3D content available right now, and prices are expected to drop within the next couple years. Not to mention, the Nintendo 3DS proved that 3D without glasses is indeed a reality, and we could start seeing glasses-free HDTV within the next 5-10 years.

However, if you demand the best-of-the-best and are willing to pay for it, 3D HDTV is the way to go. Even if 3D viewing is not your top priority, flagship 3D HDTVs often offer the best 2D picture quality, the most features, and the sleekest stylish. For those serious about performance, 3D viewing is just icing on the cake.

Jeff B. is an LCD TV and Plasma TV expert on Bestcovery.com.

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