Review: Buying Guide: 3-D TVs

Avatar. Pixar’s Up. Alice in Wonderland. And, uh, Clash of the Titans. Movies in 3-D were big this year in theaters — good or horribly bad — and you can experience it all over again in your living room … for a price.

But don’t rush into that fat 3-D TV purchase. The market and tech are both new, and companies are throwing everything at your living room wall to see what sticks, everything from Oakley-issued 3-D glasses to Toshiba’s 3-D TV, debuting early next year with designated 3-D spots and sans glasses.

Plus, we recommend getting one if you’re in love with the HDTV in 2-D already (3-D compatibility is a feature that turns on and off).

Before your impulsive buy, here’s a pop quiz, hotshot.

Do I have enough space?

You’re going to need tons of room before entering the third dimension. For the full effect, you’re going to want a full-immersion, which means big-boned, television screen. Most manufacturers know this and don’t supply 3-D TVs under 42 inches.

Also, you’ll need running space for the dragon popping into your living room.A good rule of thumb for the optimal viewing distance on a 1080p is its diagonal screen size multiplied by 1.56 ( or multiply by 2.3 for 720p). That means if you get the minimum 1080p 42-incher, you’ll still need about five½ feet of additional breathing room.

Do I have enough bankroll?

3-D images on LCD screens flutter in resolution and can fall under full high-definition quality. In other words, you’re going to have to go plasma and, as noted above, go big. This is going to cost you anywhere from $1,200 to more than $3,000.

Plus, we don’t expect a significant raise in price, but 3-D Blu-ray DVDs will charge you for that extra dimension. Also if providing pigs-in-a-blanket appetizers weren’t enough during movie night, you’ll have to now supply each guest with 3-D glasses, at an average of $80 a pair.

Do I not mind that there isn’t much content?

If the added new depth is nowhere as deep as your pockets, go for it, moneybags. But you might have to dig for some quality 3-D entertainment.

Discovery Channel will launch its new channel early next year hopefully with more to show than ESPN 3D. That came out during this year’s World Cup, but only sporadically shows college ball games with a scheduled list of a handful of NBA matchups.

Gamers may get their money’s worth: Sony plans on shipping at least 20 3-D titles for your PlayStation before the end of the year. However, in terms of films, looking at the upcoming queue of Blu-Ray 3-D movies in the upcoming months, your home entertainment center will be the greatest babysitter in the world with mostly family-fun choices, like Despicable Me and Gnomeo and Juliet.

Streaming sites like Netflix or Blockbuster haven’t put money down on the table yet. They’re waiting for average users to up their connection — which makes a first-gen 3-D TV feel like jumping the gun.

If you answered yes to all three questions, check out our recommendations for 3-D TVs in the gallery above.

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