Everything You Need to Know About 3D TVs

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What kind of content can I watch in 3D?

At this writing, not much 3D content is out there. After you've spent a bunch of money on a 3D setup, you might very well find that you can't watch anything in 3D quite yet.

Gaming in 3D, according to NVIDIA.
So far, few 3D Blu-ray movies are available (Amazon.com lists only Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Monsters vs. Aliens, and the latter is available exclusively as part of a $350 Samsung 3D starter kit).

Sports fans will want to catch ESPN's 3D channel, which is available on DirecTV, Comcast, and AT&T U-Verse (for an extra $10/month). But 3D is available only for specific events; check the channel's rather sparse 3D schedule to see what's on.

Aside from Blu-ray and ESPN 3D content, your TV provider largely dictates your content options; DirecTV subscribers have received a software update that added four 3D channels (ESPN 3D, a demo channel, a 3D movie channel, and a video-on-demand channel), Comcast currently has ESPN 3D plus a 3D channel limited to specific 3D events, and AT&T U-Verse appears not to have anything besides ESPN 3D.

3D gaming has begun to emerge, too. In addition to the PS3 firmware upgrade mentioned earlier, PC gaming has supported 3D for a year and a half now via kits such as the nVidia GeForce 3D Vision, which you can pair with a compatible 3D display to run plenty of games in 3D. Wondering if your favorite titles will work in 3D? Check out nVidia's recommended 3D game list.

Can everyone see 3D images?

Regrettably, not everyone can see 3D; somewhere between 4 and 10 percent of people simply can't see 3D images, though apparently the appropriate kind of stereoscopic vision can be "learned." Meanwhile, the disclaimers attached to 3D TV and theater displays are quite interesting. To judge from them, 3D TV isn't for the young, drunk, elderly, or pregnant, and watching it can actually cause disorientation, so you might want to hold off on buying a set until its precise effects are better known.

Can I watch regular 2D content on a 3D TV?

Yes, you can watch normal 2D shows on a 3D TV. (If you smirked to yourself while reading this, just remember that your friends and family will probably start asking you the same question during the holiday shopping season.)

CyberLink PowerDVD can upconvert 2D to 3D--with mixed results.
Some 3D apps and devices offer support for upconverting a 2D source to 3D, though at this point such support comes mostly from Samsung's TV and Blu-ray lineup. The latest release of Cyberlink PowerDVD can upconvert to 3D with passable results, too. The upconverting modes probably won't make you want to rewatch your entire Blu-ray collection, but it's a promising start.

Do I need to wear those dorky glasses?

Yes--for now, at least. A number of companies are working on no-glasses 3D, or "auto-stereoscopic" displays, most of which use a lenticular lens system that displays a different image depending on where you're standing in relation to the display (if you've ever seen a movie poster that shifted as you walked by, it's the same idea). For the time being, however, it's substantially more expensive: A Chinese company named TCL sells a 42-inch display for about $20,000. Samsung is working on a lenticular lens display, too, though it's designed for commercial use (think flashy signs and such).

A mysterious Amazon.com preorder posting for a $6000 no-glasses 3D display (with built-in 500GB hard drive and Blu-ray player, no less) made waves a few months ago, but until "StreamTV" (not to be confused with Mitsubishi's StreamTV) has some images and a Website, don't start holding your breath.

Will my 3D glasses fit over my corrective glasses?

Yep. All 3D glasses are designed to fit comfortably over corrective glasses, though you'll want to try a pair on before you buy them. Unfortunately, nothing is available on the market at the moment to make you feel like less of a doofus for wearing glasses over your glasses.

Will my glasses work on all 3D TVs?

Not quite. In the rush to hit the market with 3D displays, manufacturers never paused to hammer out a design standard for active-shutter glasses, meaning that your Panasonic glasses won't work with your friend's Sony TV.

A few solutions may be in the works, though. XpanD offers universal 3D active-shutter glasses that can determine the type of TV you're using based on its IR signal and adapt accordingly. We haven't tried them out yet, but the company claims that they work with most of the 3D displays on the market.

In the meantime, you can use your Samsung glasses with Panasonic sets (and vice versa)--but only if you wear the mismatched glasses upside-down.

Have more questions? Just ask 'em in the comments!

This story, "Everything You Need to Know About 3D TVs" was originally published by PCWorld.

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