For the past several months, we've been testing 3D TVs from all the manufacturers who have a set in the marketplace. So far, we've tested 14 TVs—both LCD and plasma HDTVs—from LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony. Now, with the new video that accompanies this post, you'll be able to see what we see: That the quality of the overall 3D experience can vary quite widely. (See: 3D TV Testing on Consumer Reports Online video channel or on the Consumer Reports' YouTube channel.)
Not surprisingly, attributes that affect regular picture quality, such as black levels, brightness and image detail, also affect 3D performance. All the TVs were able to produce compelling 3D images with satisfying three-dimensional depth. But ghosting, or double images that are visible even when you're wearing the 3D glasses, is perhaps the biggest impediment to having a great 3D experience. What we've found is that plasma TVs typically have less ghosting than LCD models, where ghosting can often be quite severe and distracting. But we also found differences among LCD and plasma TV brands.
Until recently, all our tests were performed with either 3D Blu-ray movies or 3D broadcasts—such as World Cup soccer, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game and the U.S. Open tennis championships—we recorded on a 3D-enabled DirecTV receiver with DVR. But because the industry lacked 3D test patterns, our engineers have created their own, including a number designed specifically to demonstrate ghosting. The video should provide some insight into what we see in our labs when these sets are tested.
Topping the list of better-performing sets are plasma models from Panasonic, which consistently had less ghosting than any other set, followed by plasma sets from LG and Samsung, which had slightly more ghosts. All the plasma TVs had consistently deep blacks and unlimited viewing angles, which also helped bolster the sense of depth and dimension.
The LCD TVs tended to be brighter, a plus since the 3D glasses can dim the image considerable. But all the LCD TVs we tested had more ghosting than the plasma sets. The best-performing 3D LCD TV was from Sony, which had minimal ghosting if the viewer's head was kept completely level. But ghosting was severe if you tilted your head even slightly, something we guess many viewers will likely do. Both the LG and Samsung LCD TVs we tested had significant ghosting across a wide variety of content, which was distracting when apparent.
Our video should help you visualize some of what we see in our labs when we put these 3D TVs through their paces. We'll be including 3D scores in our HDTV Ratings (available to to subscribers) as soon as we complete our test protocols. But as we mention in the video, 3D is really just one feature to consider when you're buying a new set, as most of the time you'll likely be watching regular 2D TV programs.
We're expecting new 3D TVs in our labs in the coming weeks, so keep checking back with our blog for any news. And we'd love to hear about your experiences with 3D if you've already purchased a set. Just sign in at the "Comments" section at the end of each post.
—James K. Willcox