Consumer Reports Tests 3DTV Sets

Technology lives up to hype, but CR recommends waiting to buy

YONKERS, N.Y.: Consumer Reports tested several new 3DTV sets in its labs in what it calls “the first hands-on evaluation outside the manufacturers’ facilities.” So far, so good. The TVs live up to their billing, but the “average consumer shouldn’t rush out to buy one,” CR said.

The product examiners tested two Samsung LCD 3DTVs and a Panasonic plasma set. CR said the results were “impressive.... The 3D images had excellent depth, color, and high-def details, creating a compelling 3D picture as good as a movie theater.” It recommended that folks who are perfectly happy with the relatively new HDTV sets wait for subsequent generations of 3D sets. Later models are likely to be cheaper.

The sets tested included two, 46-inch Samsung LCD models, the $2,600 UN46C7000 and the $2,800 UN46C8000, both with LED backlighting; and a 50-inch Panasonic TC-P50VT20 plasma set retailing for $2,500. Two 3D Blu-ray players were used for watching content--the Samsung BD-C6900 and the Panasonic DMP-BDT300, both priced at $400.

“Blu-ray discs with 3D content are just arriving, and while 3D broadcasts are starting up it will be a while before there are many of them,” said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor of Consumer Reports. “Though there isn’t a huge price premium for the TVs, a 3D setup isn’t inexpensive. For the sets we tested, you should figure on paying about $3,000 for the TV, Blu-ray player, and glasses for a family of four.”

CR said all three TV sets “delivered eye-catching three dimensional effects in full 1080p resolution and they also provided an acceptably bright picture, important because 3D glasses can make images appear dimmer.”

The Samsungs had “subtle ghosting” in some scenes, caused by crosstalk, when the active-shutter glasses aren’t accurately blocking the left-right images on the screen as they appear.

“The ghosting was distracting when visible and it detracted from the 3D effect. Also, when testers tilted their heads, as if lying on the couch, the picture dimmed a bit on both Samsungs,” CR said.

The test team noticed uneven backlighting in darker scenes on the Samsung 7000. The same effect on the 8000 could be minimized with a feature that dimmed the LED backlighting.

“Like most LCD sets, both sets have a fairly narrow viewing angle, so picture quality degraded as the viewer moved off center,” CR said.

The Samsungs nonetheless were said to display “excellent picture detail and satisfying color and contrast.” The companion active-shutter glasses were also lighter and more comfortable than the Panasonic models.

The Panasonic plasma had very little crosstalk, no cloudiness and a “virtually unlimited” viewing angle. Detail and black levels were “excellent,” CR’s testers said.

“The Panasonic model might have the best motion resolution of any flat-panel TV CR has ever tested. Detail remained sharp and clear even in test patterns designed to reveal blur in fast-moving images,” the publication said.

More 3DTV reviews will be published as the technology hits the street, CR said.

-- Deborah D. McAdams

See Consumer Reports Magazine: June 2010, “First look at 3DTVs