Breaking into the third dimension without breaking the bank isn't as hard as you might think. Sure a lot of expensive gear is hitting the shelves at your local electronics superstore, but you can also find a lot of high-quality--and affordable--new 3D equipment. If you've been putting off taking the 3D plunge because of the expense, now may be the right time to dive in, even if you can't afford a $5400 (on sale) television.
Here are 13 relatively budget-friendly 3D products.
Vizio 32-Inch Class Theater 3D LCD HDTV
If you're not dead set on having a ginormous television, Vizio's 32-inch 1080p Class Theater 3D LCD HDTV (E3D320VX) should do just fine. This Internet-connected 3D HDTV is ready to entertain with preloaded apps, built-in Wi-Fi, and two pairs of Vizio passive 3D glasses. At $550, it's a bit pricey for a 32-inch HDTV; but for a 3D-enabled set, it's a steal.
Sony 3D Bloggie Pocket Camcorder
Once you have a 3D HDTV, you need a way to shoot your own 3D videos. Enter the Sony 3D Bloggie ($250), a tiny, affordable camcorder with dual lenses and a glasses-free 3D display. The Bloggie features 8GB of internal storage, which can hold 4 hours of HD video (in 2D mode); it comes equipped with a 4X digital zoom, 5-megapixel still capture, and a flip-out USB connector. The Bloggie goes on sale in April for $250.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9 Digital Camera
For still 3D photos, the 16.2-megapixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9 ($220) delivers three different 3D shooting modes: Still 3D; Sweep Panorama, which allows you to use a single shot to capture a 3D image that is viewable on a 3D-enabled screen; and 3D Sweep Multi Angle, which spits back an illusion of 3D that you can view on the camera's screen by tilting the device back and forth.
AMD Radeon HD 6870 Graphics Board
As the 3D trend makes its way to the PC--with video, FPS games, and images--you may be itching to update your rig with a 3D graphics bocard. If so, consider the AMD Radeon HD 6870, a budget-friendly midrange video card with 3D support. Currently selling for around $210, the HD 6870 implements AMD's HD3D, which also supports the Open Stereo 3D Initiative.
Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W3 Point-and-Shoot Camera
Taking 3D still photos is for kids. If you want to up the ante and shoot real 3D video, you'll need the Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W3 point-and-shoot camera. The W3 has one advantage over the Sony Bloggie: It has a resolution of 10 megapixels, which translates into better still photos. The W3 also has two lenses and a glasses-free display for previewing 3D shooting.
Panasonic 42-Inch Viera GT25 Plasma 3D HDTV
Get ready to pull out your 3D Blu-ray disc of Avatar and experience eye-popping 3D on a budget with the Panasonic Viera GT25 Plasma 3D HDTV line. The GT25 series, a slight improvement on the G25 series, has comparable 3D quality to the more expensive Sony Bravia 40HX800. The 42-inch model in the GT25 series is currently going for as low as $750 online--a pretty good deal, considering that even non-3D 42-inch sets usually set buyers back $1000+.
Nintendo 3DS Handheld Game Console
The latest iteration of Nintendo's handheld console line is the 3DS, which delivers authentic, glasses-free 3D gameplay. The 3DS comes with all of your favorite DS features--dual touchscreens, 2GB of installed storage, and a stylus. Sure, it's a little pricier than other Nintendo handhelds (the Nintendo DS Lite currently sells for about $90, and you can find the Nintendo DSi for $140), but an extra $100 isn't too bad for glasses-free 3D.
Samsung 51-Inch Plasma 490 3D HDTV
Samsung's PN51D490 HDTV may not seem all that cheap, but $899 is a great price for an HDTV with a 51-inch screen. The Plasma 490 series supports 3D playback and has a feature that allows you to convert 2D content into a 3D-like picture. The excellent price does reflect one compromise: The PN51D490 HDTV has a native resolution of 720p, not 1080p.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 465 Graphics Board
Price: $180 to $210
The GeForce GTX 465 is Nvidia's response to consumer demand for a budget-friendly 3D graphics board. When it debuted, this board cost $270, but you can find it online today for as little as $180. The GeForce GTX 465 can decode your 3D Blu-ray discs, so you can watch 3D HDTV on your small screen as well as on your big screen.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 Point-and-Shoot Camera
Sony's newest waterproof, dust-proof, shockproof, and freeze-proof single-lens point-and-shoot camera is also 3D capable. Like other Sony point-and-shoot models, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 has three different 3D shooting modes, all of which utilize one lens: two panoramic modes, and a single-shot 3D mode. This camera is excellent for the intrepid users who want to record their adventures in 3D form.
Sony BDP-S370 Blu-ray Disc Player
You can't play back 3D Blu-ray discs on your 3D HDTV unless you have a 3D-capable Blu-ray disc player (or a PlayStation 3). The Sony BDP-S370 is an older Blu-ray disc player model that was updated more than a year ago to gain 3D capabilities. Today, this budget-friendly option sells online for as low as $145--cheaper than a lot of regular, non-3D Blu-ray disc players.
3D iPad Apps
Price: $2 (HoloToy) and $5 (Flight Control)
Apple's coveted iPad (and now, iPad 2) may not technically qualify as a 3D device, but that hasn't stopped app developers from trying to treat it like one. Flight Control HD ($4.99) features a fully playable 3D version of the game, with a catch: It uses anaglyph 3D images, which means that you'll need a pair of retro red-and-blue 3D glasses to see the 3D effect. HoloToy ($1.99), on the other hand, simulates 3D by creating perspective based on the angle at which you hold your iPad.
3D Movie Tickets
Price: $6 to $20
Matinee showings at your local movie theater are still the best way to experience 3D technology without making a big-purchase commitment. You won't save a lot, but matinee pricing can trim a few bucks off the price of each ticket. In Boston, prices for 3D movies vary between $8 and $13, depending on the movie's screening time. As for the ridiculously absurd prices at the theater's concession stand, you're on your own: Sure, the popcorn is truly 3D, but $11.50 for a large bucket? Ouch!.
A slew of big-name 3D movies will be coming out this summer, including Kung Fu Panda 2, The Green Lantern, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.