Consumer Reports likes Panasonic plasma models best

When the TV industry joins to back a technology, things move very fast; 3-D is in that category. Electronics retailers are already stocking and selling 3-D TV sets.

Best Buy, in major American cities, is offering a complete 3-D viewing package, including a 55in LED-LCD Samsung 3-D-ready HDTV, a 3-D-ready Blu-ray player, a “Monsters vs. Aliens” 3-D Blu-ray Disc, two pairs of Samsung active 3-D glasses, delivery and setup for $3,719.97.

Best Buy also offers the Panasonic VT-20 plasma set with a pair of 3-D viewing glasses and 3-D Blu-ray player for $2,899.99. The manufacturer said Best Buy sold out of the model in the first week of sales in March.

The Samsung and Panasonic 3-D models were the first to hit the market, and both small and large dealers are selling them. For example, in Massachusetts, Paul’s TV, located inside Jordan Furniture stores throughout the state, carries several 3-D models. LG Electronics will start selling sets in May, and Sony will follow this summer.

“Consumer Reports” has already begun testing the new 3-D sets, doing comparisons between the models. The organization compared Samsung’s 46in 7000- and 8000-series LCD TVs, with LED backlights and 240Hz technology, with Panasonic’s 50in VT-20 series 1080p plasma sets. While the tests are not yet complete, the testers found that all the sets “delivered impressive three-dimensional effects in full 1080p resolution.”

However, on the Samsung sets, “Consumer Reports” did notice some cloudiness on both the 7000-series model, which uses a conventional edge LED backlight, and the 8000-series set, the first set that uses an edge LED backlight with local dimming. The testers said this can be distracting when viewing dark scenes. Also, both Samsung sets exhibited a degree of “crosstalk,” or ghosted images, on 3-D content, indicating that the images for each eye weren’t being kept completely separate.

Panasonic’s VT-20 plasma model was “absolutely free from crosstalk, with sharp, clean edges on objects in scenes.” Also, the set’s virtually unlimited viewing angle with regular HD programs held true with the 3-D content played, and there was no change in the picture if the 3-D glasses were tilted sideways, unlike the LCD sets.

“Consumer Reports” gave the Panasonic VT-20 set the edge. “In the 3-D mode, its lack of crosstalk and great black levels really made three-dimensional images pop. It also didn’t have any issues with backlight cloudiness and offered a very wide viewing angle.”

But the organization reminded viewers that they haven’t completed their final tests, and many more receivers are to be reviewed. “We haven’t seen enough 3-D sets to make any judgments about whether plasma or LCD is inherently a better technology for displaying 3-D,” the testers said.