We've just updated our report on LCD TVs, and one thing is crystal clear -- TV makers have lost none of their enthusiasm for 3D. While that feature was found in only the most expensive TVs last year, the 2011 TV line up includes tons of 3D sets, including budget options as inexpensive as $500 (for a 32-inch screen size). However, whether consumers have much enthusiasm for 3D in the home is more of an open question given lackluster sales that aren't expected to get much better this year. Now, there are even signs that theater-goers' passion for 3D on the big screen might be a thing of the past.
Best 3DTVs for videophiles and for families
The big news in 3D is the emergence of a lower-cost passive 3D technology to complete with the active shutter sets first introduced last year. While experts and videophiles cite the fact that active shutter is the only current technology capable of bringing full 1080p resolution to 3D TV content, picture-quality glitches and the expensive and often cumbersome powered glasses were a turn off to many. PC World has a good laymen's explanation of the two 3D technologies, as well as its take on which is better.
Still, active shutter remains a big part of the 3DTV picture -- and it is still the technology used to deliver 3D in most high- end sets, such as our top rated 55-inch TV, the Samsung UN55D8000. Those that have looked at that TV say that 3D performance is greatly improved over last year's efforts, and appreciate that the cost of glasses has come down. Still, while you can typically find two pair bundled free as part of a promotion, extras will set you back around $75 each.
However, active shutter technology is taking some serious heat from passive 3D sets newly introduced this year by Toshiba, Vizio, LG and others. Aimed at delivering a 3D experience designed to please families and the budget-conscious more than those obsessed with technological perfection, most of these TVs are surprisingly strong performers. One big plus is the use of simple, lightweight glasses similar to those used to watch 3D in theaters. In addition the glasses are inexpensive. Most passive sets come bundled with two or four pairs free, and additional glasses can be as cheap as $10 to $15 per pair.
The 55-inch LG 55LW5600 is a case in point. It draws strong reviews as a standard HDTV with tons of features -- including great Internet connectivity and a second, Wii-like remote control. The passive 3D feature also draws great feedback, with even those who prefer active shutter 3D saying that it admirably fills a need for families that want to get in on the 3D fun without draining their wallet too severely.
For those on tighter budgets still, Vizio has introduced a series of value-oriented 3D TV sets that use conventional backlights instead of the LED backlights that have grown popular these last few years. Picture quality won't be as pristine as more expensive sets, but is still pretty good. Bang for the buck, on the other hand, is great, especially when you consider that these TVs also have very robust Internet streaming features. Experts and users like the 47-inch Vizio E3D470VX well enough for us to name it a great budget choice.
You can get more information on these and other 3DTVs in our updated report on LCD TVs. If you couldn't care less about 3D, there's lot's of information on LCD TVs without that feature as well.