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Six Reasons to Avoid 3D TV

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We railed against 3D TVs during a recent podcast, and rightfully so. Manufacturers are touting 3D as the next big thing when, in reality, it's a niche product for a niche market. (C'mon, "Avatar" wasn't that good and you know it!) Unless I see some extraordinarily low prices, I won't recommend a 3D TV to anyone. In fact, even if we list some great deals on 3D TVs, I'll still be hesitant. Here's why:

1) Price: We've recently seen brand-name 42" 120Hz LCD HDTVs for as low as $600. (Take a look at our recent 120Hz Price Trend feature for info.) Even 240Hz models have hit the sub-$900 mark. There's little reason to pay over $1,000 for a new HDTV unless you need a massive screen. Consumers know that and manufacturers know that. Hence 3D. When 3D TVs begin to hit the market, prices could potentially hit the $2,000 mark (or higher). This gives the Panasonics and Sonys of the world the ability to sell absurdly-priced HDTVs again.

In addition, to get the most IMAX-like effect out of your new TV, you'll want the biggest 3D TV your credit card can afford. You'll not only pay a premium for your TV's 3D capabilities, but you'll need to shell out hundreds more for the additional screen real estate. And that's not including the price you'll pay for 3D content, be it a new 3D-capable Blu-ray player, 3D DirecTV channel, or 3D on-demand. (Samsung will offer 3D TVs that will convert 2D content to 3D, but the pricing for these sets has yet to be revealed.)

2) Quality: Most of the 3D TVs I saw at the Consumer Electronics Show looked good, I won't take that away from them. But how will my eyes feel after watching three or more hours of consecutive 3D video? How comfortable will it be wearing 3D glasses over my prescription glasses for an extended period of time? And what about movies with subtitles. In many of the demos I saw last week, text was a little fuzzy in 3D, especially when viewing from an angle. How will it look after staring at it for two or more hours? We've already seen reports about people feeling sick after watching Avatar — what will happen when you're watching 3D TV at home?

3) 3D Glasses: Unlike the 80s when you could enjoy a 3D movie with cardboard glasses, the majority of the new 3D TVs will require expensive active 3D glasses (where the TV tells the glasses which eye should see the image being displayed) or passive polarized glasses (which use circular or linear polarization). These 3D glasses likely won't be included with the TV and, although no manufacturer has revealed pricing, they're expected to be in the $200 range. (Reuters reports that a family of 4 could spend up to $800 on 3D glasses.) With those prices, I don't see people buying multiple pairs. What happens when you invite friends over to watch a 3D movie and they don't have glasses. What if they have 3D glasses, but they're incompatible with your TV? Another setback is that some of the 3D glasses require charging. Imagine watching a movie and having the battery on your glasses die mid-movie.

4) It's failed before: 3D TV isn't new. Both Samsung and Mitsubishi released 3D DLP HDTVs in 2007 and 2008 (PDF link), respectively. These TVs actually hit retail stores. How many 3D DLP TVs have you seen?

5) Content: ESPN has committed to broadcasting a minimum of 85 live 3D sporting events this year. Discovery and Sony are planning a 24/7 3D network. DirecTV is teaming up with Panasonic for a joint 3D channel. Samsung is touting its new 3D Blu-ray player. Not a bad start, right?

The entertainment industry is absolutely giddy about 3D. However, don't expect these corporations to grant you access to this 3D honeypot for free. Even if you do have a 3D TV, expect to pay dearly for most 3D content. Ask yourself, "do I really need to watch Guy Fieri in 3D?"

6) The "early adopter" effect: You know it, I know it. When it comes to technology, early adopters get screwed. As with most first-generation products, you can expect the first wave of 3D TVs (and the accompanying glasses) to be ridden with issues. And without a set standard for 3D in the home (only the Blu-ray association has a 3D standard), we could end up with multiple formats. In fact, RealD, which provided the tech behind Avatar, expects to see as many as 12 different 3D standards this year. Buying a first-generation 3D TV this year is like buying an HD-DVD player circa 2006.

3D is hot. Avatar has made over $2 billion worldwide. Quite frankly, if I were hawking 3D products, now is the time I'd be doing it. Personally, I'd like to buy a new LED-backlit LCD HDTV this summer. The technology has improved since last year's CES and, with dozens of models entering the market this spring, you can rest assured we'll be seeing better deals on these premium LCDs.

Louis Ramirez is dealnews' Features editor. His opinions don't necessarily reflect those of dealnews.com. Follow him on twitter @louisramirez.

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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