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3D TVs Are Here, but Nothing’s On

When you shop for a new TV, every salesperson in your zip code will try to sell you a 3D TV. But 3D TVs can cost up to $700 more than similar 2D-only models from the same vendor, not counting the $150 glasses and the 3D Blu-ray player. Is 3D TV worth it? Here's what you should know before you buy.

What will you watch? Imagine this: You set up your brand-new 3D television in your living room, pull out the glasses, press the power button...and then what? Depending on your cable provider, you may have two or three 3D channels. DirecTV has ESPN 3D, a channel for videos shot to demonstrate 3D capability, a 3D movie channel, and a 3D video-on-demand channel. Comcast carries only ESPN 3D and a special channel for events broadcast in 3D. Because 3D broadcasts are uncommon and 3D movies are scarce, your broadcast TV options are pretty slim.

3D Blu-ray movies are rare: Maybe you don't mind the paucity of broadcast 3D programming because you just want to watch Avatar or Monsters vs. Aliens over and over on your 3D Blu-ray player. Well, doing that may not be so easy, either. At least for now, 3D Blu-ray movies are sufficiently rare that TV manufacturers try to get them exclusively bundled with their "3D Starter Kits"-Monsters vs. Aliens 3D, for example, is available only as part of a Samsung pack that includes two pairs of Samsung 3D glasses for about $300; and Avatar 3D will be a Panasonic exclusive for a while after its release.

3D glasses are a nuisance: The devices cost about $150 apiece; they're heavier than regular glasses; and if you already wear corrective lenses, you'll have to put the 3D glasses over the normal glasses. Within 10 minutes, you'll be acutely aware that something heavy, awkward, and uncomfortable is resting on the bridge of your nose.

3D just isn't that cool: Were you wowed the first time you ever watched a 3D movie in theaters? Great-but don't expect the same experience in your living room. Overall, today's 3D TV images look blurry, the active-shutter glasses make any other light sources in the room seem as though they're flickering, and more often than not the 3D effect takes the form of making the image appear to re­­cede into the television (producing an effect kind of like a diorama) rather than pop out at you. The image may look somewhat different from the way it would on a 2D set, but it's not that impressive.

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