Pros and Cons of 3D TV

LG 55EG9100 55-inch Curved Screen 3D OLED TV
LG 55EG9100 55-inch Curved Screen 3D OLED TV. Image provided by LG

The latest era of 3D in movie theaters began in 2009, and 3D TV viewing at home started up in 2010. While there are some loyal fans, many feel that 3D TV is the biggest consumer electronics folly ever. Obviously, the real truth is somewhere in-between. Where do you stand? Check out my list of 3D TV pros and cons. Also, for a more in-depth look at 3D at home, including a brief history of 3D, check out my 3D Home Theater Basics FAQs.

3D TV - PROs

1. Viewing 3D Movies, Sports, TV shows, and Video/PC games in 3D

Seeing 3D in the movie theater is one thing, but being able to view 3D movies, TV programming, and 3D Video/PC games at home, although an attraction for some, is another.

In either case, 3D content targeted for home viewing, if produced well, and if your 3D TV is properly adjusted, can provide an excellent immersive viewing experience.

TIP: The 3D viewing experience works best on a large screen. Although 3D is available on TVs in a variety of screen sizes, viewing 3D on 50-inch or larger screen is a more pleasing experience as the image fills more of your viewing area.

2. 3D TVs are excellent 2D TVs

Even if you aren't interested in 3D now (or ever), it turns out that 3D TVs are also excellent 2D TVs. Due to the extra processing (good contrast, black level, and motion response) needed to make 3D look good on a TV, this spills over into the 2D environment, making for an excellent 2D viewing experience.

3. Some 3D TVs Perform Real-Time 2D to 3D conversion

Here is an interesting twist on some higher-end 3D TVs. Even if your TV program or movie isn't being played or transferred in 3D, some 3D TVs have real-time 2D-to-3D real time conversion. OK, admittedly, this is not as good an experience as watching originally produced or transmitted 3D content, but it can add a sense of depth and perspective if used appropriately, such as with viewing live sporting events.

However, it is always preferable to watch natively-produced 3D, over something that is converted from 2D on-the-fly.

3D TV - CONs

1. Not Everyone Likes 3D

Not everyone likes 3D. When comparing content filmed or being presented in 3D, the depth and layers of the image are not the same as what we see in the real world. Also, just as some people are color blind, some people are "stereo blind". To find out if you are "stereo blind", check out a simple depth perception test.

However, even many people that aren't "stereo blind" just don't like watching 3D. Just as those who prefer 2-channel stereo, rather than 5.1 channel surround sound.

2. Those Pesky Glasses

I don't have a problem wearing 3D glasses. To me, they are glorified sunglasses, but many are bothered by having to wear them. Depending on the glasses, some are, indeed, less comfortable than others. The comfort level of the glasses may be more a contributor to "so-called" 3D headaches than actually watching 3D. Also, wearing 3D glassed serves to narrow the field of vision, introducing a claustrophobic element to the viewing experience.

Whether wearing 3D glasses bothers you or not, the price of them certainly can. With most LCD Shutter-type 3D glasses selling for over $50 a pair - it can be certainly a cost barrier for those with large families or lots of friends.

However, some manufacturers are switching to 3D TVs that use Passive Polarized 3D Glasses, which are much less expensive, running about $10-20 a pair, and are more comfortable to wear. Read more about Active Shutter and Passive Polarized 3D Glasses.

After years of research, industrial use, and false starts, No-glasses (aka Glasses-Free) 3D viewing for consumers is possible, and several TV makers have demonstrated such sets on trade show circuit. However, of 2016, there are limited options that consumers can actually purchase. For more details on this, read my article: 3D Without Glasses.

3. 3D TVs Are More Expensive

New tech is more expensive to acquire, at least at first. I remember when the price for a VHS VCR was $1,200. Blu-ray Disc players have only been out for about a decade and the prices of those have dropped from $1,000 to about $100. In addition, who would have thought when Plasma TVs were selling for $20,000 when they first came out, and before they were discontinued, you could buy one for less than $700. The same thing will happen to 3D TV. In fact, if you do some searching in Ads or on the internet, you will find that 3D TV prices have come down on most sets, except for the real high-end units that may still offer the 3D viewing option.

4. You Need a 3D Blu-ray Disc player, and Maybe a 3D-enabled Home Theater Receiver

If you think the cost of a 3D TV and glasses are a stumbling block,  don't forget about having to buy a 3D Blu-ray Disc player if you really want to watch great 3D in high definition. That can add at least a couple of hundred bucks to the total. Also, the price of 3D Blu-ray Disc movies hovers between $35 and $40, which is about $10 higher than most 2D Blu-ray Disc movies.

Now, if you connect your Blu-ray Disc player through your home theater receiver and on to your TV, unless your home theater receiver is 3D-enabled, you cannot access the 3D from your Blu-ray Disc player. However, there is a workaround - connect the HDMI from your Blu-ray Disc player directly to your TV for video, and use an alternate connection from your Blu-ray Disc player to access audio on your home theater receiver. Some 3D Blu-ray Disc players actually offer two HDMI outputs, one for video and for audio. However, it does add cables in your setup.

For an additional reference on the workaround when using a 3D Blu-ray Disc player and TV with a non-3D-enabled home theater receiver, check out my articles: Connecting a 3D Blu-ray Disc player to a non-3D-enabled Home Theater Receiver and Five Ways to Access Audio on a Blu-ray Disc Player.

Of course, the solution to this is to buy a new home theater receiver. However, I think most people can put up with one extra cable instead, at least for the time being.

5. Not Enough 3D Content

Here is the perpetual "Catch 22". You can't watch 3D unless there is 3D content to watch, and content providers aren't going to supply 3D content unless enough people watch to watch it and have the equipment to do so.

On the positive side, there seems to be plenty of 3D-neabled hardware (Blu-ray Disc Players, Home Theater Receivers), although the number of 3D-enabled TVs is dwindling. However, on the video projector side, there is a lot available, as 3D is also used an educational tool when video projectors are more suited for. For some choices, check out my listing of both DLP and LCD video projectors - most of which are 3D-enabled.

Also, another problem that didn't help is that, at first, many 3D Blu-ray disc movies were only available for purchasers of certain brand 3D TVs. For instance, Avatar in 3D was only available for owners of Panasonic 3D TVs, while Dreamworks 3D movies were only available with Samsung 3D TVs. Fortunately, during 2012, these exclusive agreements have expired and, as of 2016, there are well over 300 3D titles available on Blu-ray Disc.

Check out a listing of my favorite 3D Blu-ray Disc movies.

Also, Blu-ray isn't the only source for growth in 3D content, DirecTV and Dish Network are offering 3D content via Satellite, as well as some streaming services, such as Netflix and Vudu. However, one promising 3D streaming service, 3DGo! ceased operations as of April, 16th, 2016. For satellite, you need to make sure your satellite box is 3D-enabled or if DirecTV and Dish have the ability to do this via firmware updates.

On the other hand, one key infrastructure issue that prevents more 3D content offerings home viewing is that broadcast TV providers never really embraced it, and for logical reasons. In other to provide a 3D viewing option for TV broadcast programming, each network broadcaster would have to create a separate channel for such as service, something that is not only challenging but also not really cost-effective considering the limited demand.

My Take On The Current State Of 3D

Although 3D has continued to enjoy popularity in movie theaters, after several years of being available for home use, several TV makers that were once very aggressive proponents of 3D, have retreated. As an example, neither Vizio or Samsung are offering 3D viewing options on their 2016 TV products.

Also, another interesting thing to point out is that the new Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc format does not include a 3D component - However, Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players will still play standard 3D Blu-ray Discs. For more details, read my articles: Blu-ray Gets a Second Life With Ultra HD Blu-ray Format and Ultra HD Format Blu-ray Disc Players - Before You Buy...

Another new trend that I find interesting is the growing availability of Virtual Reality and mobile theater headset products that works as either standalone products or coupled with smartphones.

While consumers seem to be veer away from wearing glasses to watch 3D, they don't seem to have an issue with putting on a bulky headset or hold a cardboard box up to their eyes and watch an immersive 3D experience that shuts out the outside environment.

Frankly, I have never had a problem with 3D. Just there are good movies and bad movies, there is well-executed 3D and poorly executed 3D. Also, if the story is lousy in 2D, it won't get any better in 3D.

For me, 3D is just another viewing option that consumers should be also to have access to. After all, there are many consumers that are partially or fully color blind - does that mean we shouldn't make Color TVs? There are also many consumers that are hearing impaired - does that mean where should offer consumers the ability to enjoy the surround sound experience?

In all cases, if you don't like, or need 3D, Color, or surround sound, you can turn those features off (and the case of surround sound, you don't have to purchase a surround sound system).

In my opinion, the problem for the decline in 3D interest for home viewing isn't so much the need to wear special glasses (although that is a factor) but a marketing issue on the part of TV makers when they first pushed out the format.

Issues such as two competing, and incompatible viewing formats (passive vs active), not including 3 or 4 pairs of glasses with the sets (in fact, some TV makers didn't include any, or only included one). Also, the inclusion, on some TVs, of 2D-to-3D conversion, which is definitely not a desirable 3D viewing option, in terms of accuracy. In other words, if the consumer's first 3D viewing experience is turn on the 2D-to-3D conversion setting, they will not experience the true capabilities of 3D viewing.

To put a cap on the current state of 3D at home, it appears that TV makers have turned their attention to other technologies to improve the TV viewing experience, such as 4K Ultra HD, HDR, and wider color gamut - However, in my opinion, not having 3D as part of this new infrastructure (which also requires  more that just a 4K TV to get its benefits) is a disappointment, especially when you consider that 3D actually provides another viewing option that, if done well, can provide a good TV viewing experience - and the addition of 4K, HDR, and wider color gamut to the mix would really elevate the quality of 3D images immensely.

Also, on the audio side, the available of 3D immersive surround formats on Blu-ray Disc, such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. For those that do own a 3D TV or video projector, 3D Blu-ray Disc player, and a collection of 3D Blu-ray Discs, you can still enjoy them as long as your equipment is running.

For more on 3D, check out my 3D Home Theater Basics FAQs.

Also, check out my listing for Best 3D TVs LED/LCD and OLED TVs and Best 3D Blu-ray Disc Movies,