As we note in our updated report on laptops, reviewers are testing a slew of 3D-capable notebooks, which theoretically can provide a more immersive experience for gaming or watching movies. Many of these laptops use active-shutter technology, so they are more advanced than previous notebooks that relied on polarized screens and basic 3D glasses. But reviewers who've looked at these laptops have found that when it comes to gaming, their reality often doesn't quite live up to their promise. Read on for the full story.
3D gaming is still a work in progress
On the surface, a 3D laptop sounds pretty darn cool, especially for gamers. Imagine killing alien invaders in "Crysis 2" with the action happening all around you instead of on a flat display. That's something you can do with the newly updated Alienware M17x, which is the first of Dell's gaming laptops to have a 3D-capable display as an available option. You can also enjoy 3D Blu-ray content on laptops like the Dell XPS 17 3D or HP Envy 17 3D.
Overall, reviewers who have tested these laptops say the 3D effect works well for watching 3D Blu-ray movies. "The new display looks very good, and stereoscopic Blu-ray movies are spectacular," says Loyd Case at PC World, who reviews the Dell XPS 17 3D.
However, gaming results are less impressive. Regardless of the laptop, reviewers say that 3D games, while enjoyable, are not as immersive as 3D movies. In addition, they suffer slower frame rates when 3D displays are enabled, and you may have to decrease the resolution or effects to maintain playable frame rates for the most graphically demanding games. For example, when Laptop Magazine tests the Dell XPS 17 3D playing "Far Cry 2," frame rates became unplayable at maximum resolution when the 3D panel was activated.
There's also the whole price issue. 3D laptops are significantly more expensive than their non-3D counterparts, and experts aren't convinced that the price premium is worth it -- at least not yet. The HP Envy 17 3D, for example, costs $300 more than the same machine without the 3D display. "Consumers may perhaps shell out up to $100 for 3D features on laptops for occasional use, but flinch at the idea of spending more," says Agam Shah of the IDG News Service.
Then again, 3D laptops might be more attractive when you don't need to wear those hokey-looking glasses. Toshiba demoed a glasses-free 3D laptop earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas; it uses facial recognition software to change what's on the screen based on your eye movements. Crazy, huh? You can read more about 3D laptops -- as well as tons of more conventional choices for work and play -- in our updated report on laptops.