First Impressions: Sony’s 3D Bravia LCD

After spending a bit of time at Sony’s Bravia launch this morning checking out their new range of IPTV TVs, I also managed to have a bit of one-on-one time with their 3D displays. My initial impressions? “Wow!”, closely followed by “Don’t buy 3D yet…”

The entire experience was polar opposite to Panasonic’s showing last week – where Panny sat us down in a comfortable lounge, fed us popcorn and ice cream in a small, familiar group of people, Sony was showing off a whole new range of products, and had “standing room only” in their 3D area.

The TV being used to demo 3D was one of the HX Series displays – rather than featuring the 3D technology integrated into the set itself, there was a small receiver that kind of looked like a shorter Wii sensor bar sitting on the top of the TV. Apparently it connects via a proprietary port on the back of the TV, and comes with a stand if you don’t want to set it on top of your display.

The glasses Sony use are of the active shutter variety, just like Panasonic, which means that they’re battery powered and sync with the TV via IR, manually blocking each eye 100 times each second. But don’t confuse the fact that they use the same technology as Panasonic (and potentially other manufacturers) with the idea they’ll work with them – they won’t. Sony were quick to point out that their glasses don’t need a polarising filter on the glasses, something that’s necessary for 3D on plasma, and affects brightness.

The glasses themselves kind of resembled a pair of sunglasses, but felt rather heavy and a bit tight around the head. I don’t wear glasses, but I couldn’t imagine them fitting too well over the top of specs, whereas Panasonic’s effort seemed designed for this purpose.

Watching content on the Sony 3D display was pretty good. In particular, some 3D action from PS3 game Motorstorm looked amazing, and was a good reminder that there’s more to 3D content than just Blu-ray and TV. In fact, if it weren’t for my personal relationship with 3D and the subsequent headaches, I’d jump on 3D gaming in a big way. Other content included some zoo footage, which was cute, and some football footage, which looked impressive in the wide angle shots, and a little disconcerting when zoomed in.

However, there were some fairly major issues that hold 3D back at the moment: First off is the glasses issue – If I own a Sony 3DTV and my brother owns a Panasonic 3DTV and we want to watch some 3D blu-ray together with our partners, we can’t just bring our glasses over to enjoy the experience – one of us would need to own four pairs of 3D glasses. Considering they’re expected to cost anywhere between $150 and $200 a pair, that’s a bit much. Sure, the technical restrictions of plasma vs LCD makes this the case, but average Joe Punter doesn’t know or care.

Second is something Panasonic suggested during their demo. If you turn your head on its side, like lying down on a couch, while watching 3D on Sony’s set, the 3D effect disappears – it’s like the glasses have been switched off. Do it while watching the Panny, and 3D remains in tact…

But alternatively, if you watch 3D in a reasonably well lit room with the Panasonic, everything around the TV (like your walls, ceilings, carpet and Golden Retriever) will seem to flicker – an issue not seen on the Sony.

My point is this: the technology needs work. Sure, it will improve as time goes on, and we’ll see more and more content made available as well. But in everyone’s attempt to rush 3D to market, there are still some issues that really need to be ironed out.

Of course, this opinion has been made on less than an hour’s worth of 3D TV viewing, so if you’re totally gangbusters for 3D televisions, feel free to ignore it. But as soon as I can get my hands on proper review samples, I’ll be testing out the various 3D offerings in a lot more detail…