Panasonic VT30 Demo at CES2011

Geoff here. Gary asked me to make the rounds checking out 3D from the heavy hitters. Here’s my thoughts on the latest and greatest.

Sony Auto-Stereoscopic

Sony Auto-Stereoscopic

A number of manufactures were showing auto-stereoscopic, or “glasses-free” 3D. This Holy Grail of 3D is still many years away. The biggest problem to overcome is the incredibly limited viewing area. Move a few inches out of the sweet spot (or spots) and you lose the 3D and the picture goes wonky.

Sony’s demo provided helpful shoe icons on the floor, marking where you were intended to stand. The screen was small, 23-inches or so, and was several feet away in its own hutch so you couldn’t get close. Interestingly, there were three sets of feet on the ground, and in each viewing position the 3D effect was quite impressive.

If you moved away from the TV keeping the original footprint icons between you and the TV, the effect continued, implying more than three viewing positions were possible. On the other hand, if you moved a few inches to the right or left, the picture became bizarre, the 3D effect contorting into something rather unpleasant to watch.

All in all, I was impressed by the technology, as this was the largest auto-stereoscopic TV I’ve seen, and it had a convincing 3D effect. The display was also OLED, which adds an extra level of cool though doesn’t instill much faith in my mind that it will be a real product anytime soon.


Samsung 8000 3D LED

Most of the normal 3D TVs around the show had little stands that held the 3D glasses. You could just adjust the stand to your height and peer through, not having to touch the glasses. For a mild hypochondriac like me, not touching the glasses was welcome.

Samsung, for such a large booth, had rather poor single 3D demos. One TV was “featuring” side-by-side 3D content, and I’m not sure they intended this but the real feature was how low resolution side-by-side looks when its, um, side by side with full HD 3D. The 3D on LED LCD showed mild ghosting/crosstalk.

The plasma setup was even worse, out in the middle of the brightly lit booth. Here the glasses were on a tether, but the feed from presumably a central server looked somewhat low-rez. There was no crosstalk, but the demo was less than impressive.

Both Gary and I have seen these TVs perform far better than this, so the fault has to lay with the booth setup. Odd that more attention wasn’t paid, given the sheer volume of people wandering by the booth.


Sharp Auto-Stereoscopic

Sharp had a demo of a portable 3D camera showing a live feed of a girl twirling an umbrella and pointing at the camera. This was played back on one of their 3DTVs. Glasses on tethers let you see the 3D. I’m not sure this demo could have been worse. The image quality was terrible, barely SD resolution, and worse many of the stands where the glasses lay were quite off axis, not something you want to be with any LCD, especially a 3D one.

Nearby, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it were two tiny auto-stereoscopic displays; one cell phone sized and one tablet sized. The effect on the tablet-sized display was decent, but man you had to keep your head steady. If you swayed a little bit, brightness banding scrolled across the screen.

I ignored the cell phone-sized demo, because really, who cares?


Not much to report here, Gary gave the VT30 best in show, and it did indeed look great. The down-model GT and ST lines also had great 3D picture quality.


I’ll admit to a bit of TL;DR here. They were demoing an auto-stereoscopic display hidden in the middle of their booth. The line looked to be a hour long and sorry, no one thing at this show is important enough for me to wait in line for. Ok, maybe free food in the press room, but otherwise, sorry. There’s just too much to see and too much ground to cover. If I have a chance on Sunday I’ll try to sneak in as the show floor will likely be dead at that point.


LG, VIZIO, and Toshiba (see above), were hyping passive 3D as a superior alternative to active. In the current implementation of this technology, I have to cry foul. I mean really foul. The line structure when watching 3D is clearly visible from the distance that I like to watch TV (which some may say is rather close). Jaggies were visible on some of the displays. Yes, the picture is bright and there’s no visible cross talk, but the drop in resolution is worrisome. I didn’t know the content well enough to say how visible this was, but as soon as we see these in more controlled environments we’ll report.

—Geoffrey Morrison

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