Now we come to the real problem with 3D: the content. Or more accurately, the lack there of. If you've already bought a 3DTV we don't have to tell you there is hardly anything to watch in 3D. This is such a problem that we get tips weekly from some disgruntled 3DTV owner complaining about not being able to buy a 3D movie. If you don't like sports, animated features or documentaries, there is actually nothing to watch in 3D, but even for those who do like them, there isn't much -- although a number of titles did finally get released the week of November 16th
. If you are lucky enough to have ESPN 3D
, you can watch a game a week, but other than that there are a scant few 3D movies available for purchase at retail. In December, the available number should about double, but that only serves to point out how few there are.
Beyond ESPN's game-of-the-week 3D programming, another source is your cable or satellite company's video-on-demand stash. While selection and quality varies wildly, providers like DirecTV, Comcast and U-verse have stocked a few movies and documentaries away for enjoyment at your leisure. There's also the chance your manufacturer can help, Samsung's launched a 3D channel on its widget enabled TVs that allows users to download 3D content, and Sony has slipped a movie and a few demo videos in 3D onto the PlayStation Network.
If you're a gamer, then you probably have the most options of all. NVIDIA has finally started to issue its 3DTV Play software
that should allow many PC players to hook their computer to a 3DTV and play the hundreds of titles that already support 3D. The picture is a bit more muddled on consoles, but Sony's making a serious push on the PlayStation 3 with several of its own games already 3D ready including Gran Turismo 5
and major titles like Killzone 3
on the way. While the Xbox 360 doesn't feature support on the system level like the PS3 yet, (good luck navigating the guide or responding to messages in 3D mode) there are already several 3D games on the system, and a few, like Call of Duty: Black Ops
, that are being released with 3D support on both consoles
Because of the lack of content, manufacturers are bundling demos with your 3DTVs and the Sony rules in this category. Its trial disc has a wide range of content including movies trailers, video games, World Cup Soccer and, our favorite, college football. Sure, it doesn't amount to as much time as a movie, but when it comes to showing off your new toy to the neighbors, it goes a long way. The Panasonic also ships with a demo disc, but honestly, the selection and quality just doesn't come close to what's on Sony's. All that being said, what might be the biggest reason to buy a 3DTV movie over another is what deals they have with which studio. There isn't a lamer reason to buy a 3DTV, but sadly that is the state of 3D content. Panasonic 3DTV buyers can now grab a copy of Avatar in 3D
on the way out and other than 3D sports we'd say that is about as good as it gets when it comes to 3D movie content.
If you are the type to scrolled down to the end and skip to the consensus, we've got bad news for you, as there really isn't any. If picture quality is the most important thing to you, then just like with 2DTVs, the Panasonic plasma is the way to go. But as we know, it isn't the best-selling HDTV out there, which means most chose a TV for other reasons. If you buy a TV based on how it looks when its off, then you have a very easy decision as the Sony's monolithic design is one of the most beautiful TV we've ever seen. If you want the best glasses and easy access to enabling 3D, then you go with the LG. If you want sheer size, then the Mitsubishi DLP is about as easy of a decision as there is, while Samsung probably has the most 3D options that stretch across a wide variety of price ranges. What we're trying to say is that out of all the reasons to buy a TV, the display's 3D performance and features isn't very high on our list. No, instead it is more of like a check box -- like if the display has enough HDMI inputs for all your sources. But out of all the differences we noticed, we'd say the two biggest ones are the glasses themselves and how good the display is at reducing cross-talk.
Richard Lawler contributed to this piece.