Now that Panasonic and Samsung have announced prices for their 3D TV lineups, we’re happy to report that 3D models start as low as $1,700, though bigger sets loaded with bells and whistles could run as high as $6,000 or $7,000.
Those prices seems reasonable for a set with the latest technology, likely about what many of us spent for a new flat-panel TV a year or two ago.
But unlike those earlier sets, you’ll have to buy some additional gear, such as a 3D Blu-ray player and 3D LCD shutter glasses, if you want to enjoy the 3D experience. Right now you can expect to pay about $400 for a 3D-enabled Blu-ray player, and around $150 for each set of additional glasses beyond the one or two pairs that may come with your TV.
So what’s the real cost of getting set up for 3D in the home? Let’s do the math: Right now, Samsung’s least expensive model now on sale is a $2,600 46-inch LCD model with an LED backlight and 240Hz technology (UN46C7000). If you also buy the company’s new $400 3D Blu-ray player (model BD-C6900) in conjunction with the TV, you’ll get a free pair of 3D shutter glasses as part of a promotional bundle. That brings the total to $3,000. But a family of four will have to buy two more sets of 3D glasses at $149 a pop, raising the total system price to $3,300. The least expensive Samsung models announced are a conventionally backlit 46-inch LCD with 240Hz technology for $1,700, and a 50-inch $1,800 3D plasma set, but they don't arrive until May.
Panasonic is offering a $2,900 bundle at Best Buy’s Magnolia stores that combines its 50-inch 3D 1080p plasma TV (TC-P50VT20), which comes with one pair of active 3D shutter glasses, with its $400 3D Blu-ray player (model DMP-BDT300). But the TV is listed separately for $2,500, so there’s really no savings for purchasing the bundle now (except for the lucky first customer who got a year of free DirecTV as part of a first-sale promotion). If you add on the additional $450 for the three extra 3D glasses needed for a family of four, the total price is $3,350.
So, is $3,300 too much to pay for an in-home 3D experience? I guess it’s all relative. I paid $3,500 for the 50-inch Pioneer plasma in my living room just a few years ago, and it’s a 720p set. Still, $3,000 in this economy is a lot of money for most of us. If I was in the market for a new TV right now, I would definitely consider getting a 3D model—the premium isn’t outrageous, and it would be a way of future-proofing my purchase for the day when 3D content was more readily available and I was willing to spring for a 3D Blu-ray player. Let us know what you think about 3D TV pricing, and how it will affect what you buy this year.
—James K. Willcox