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3D TV Performance

The video-processing technology for 3D content is complicated, and 3D TV reviews suggest it continues to be a work in progress. Almost all 3D TVs have some weak spots.

Crosstalk (or ghosting), for example, still crops up occasionally. Overall, though, the quality of 3D TV has improved in recent years. The depth of field is generally pretty convincing and 3D TVs are better at maintaining a bright, good-quality picture than they used to be.

3D TV reviews indicate that a handful of bargain models have earned the respect of experts for their 3D picture quality. Due to the limited availability of 3D content, however, the 2D capabilities of a 3D TV are even more important. You'll be using the TV in 2D mode most of the time, so regardless of your interest in the 3D experience, you want a 3D TV that does 2D well. Fortunately, most 3D TVs excel at presenting 2D content.

Note that experts reviewing the TVs we recommend often test larger models in the same line. Many of these are priced beyond our cap of $1,500 but still speak to the performance of the series overall.

2D and 3D Picture Quality.

The Vizio M-Series M501D-A2R (starting at $800) has earned an Editors' Choice award from PC Mag, which tested the 55-inch model in the series but says the M501D-A2R is essentially the same TV. The reviewer singles out this TV for its higher-than-average contrast and good black levels, among other attributes. He also likes this TV's 3D effect, which really "pops." A 3D TV review on CNET rates the Vizio M-Series M501D-A2R 4 out of 5 stars and declares it a great value. Again, the dark black levels are a strong selling point, as are the TV's rich, bright colors and very good shadow detail.

Reviewers are simply blown away by the 2D performance of the Panasonic TC-P50ST60 (starting at $1,000). An expert from Home Theater Review tested the 60-inch model in the ST60 series and admires the rich color and deep black levels. However, the reviewer did notice some significant crosstalk in 3D playback and does not particularly recommend the ST60 series for 3D video. At the same time, she considers the TV overall a nearly unbeatable value. A CNET expert shares those reservations about the 3D performance yet still gives the series 5 out of 5 stars, recommending it above any other TV he's ever reviewed (and he's been testing TVs at CNET since 2002). That's high praise indeed. The 2D performance of the 55-inch model is excellent across the board, he concludes, with deep blacks, great shadow detail, near-perfect uniformity, and accurate colors. Having said that, the reviewer complains that the TV does show crosstalk when playing 3D content, as well as some general stuttering.

Sony's W802A Series, including the KDL-47W802A model (starting at $989), is a good but perhaps not great line of TVs, according to a CNET expert. This reviewer says the TV has good shadow detail and the 2D picture is clear, but the black levels are just OK. The colors appear somewhat muted and inconsistent on this TV. The review notes that the 3D effect shows too much depth at the default setting, but users can turn down this setting for a more realistic 3D effect. The interface is easy to use, according to this 3D TV review, and Sony's smart TV network offers lots of apps and streaming options. LG's LA7400 series TVs (starting at $1,029) have very good black levels, judging by a review from PC Mag, and the shadow detail is quite sharp. The color accuracy is good, although not perfect -- some colors come on a little too strong. This reviewer notes that the 3D depth of field is excellent and looks natural, but there was some crosstalk in 3D playback.

Review continues below

A reviewer at LCD TV Buying Guide likes the 3D picture quality and depth of the Samsung 6030 series. The 55-inch model reviewed on the site doesn't suffer from any motion problems and displays good brightness and color accuracy. A reviewer from Digital Trends notes that the Samsung UN46FH6030F (starting at $700) is easy to set up and the remote is simple to use. The sticking point here is the features. This is not a smart TV and includes only two HDMI ports and no 3D glasses. The Vizio M-Series M501D-A2R provides the complete package and a larger screen for only $100 more.

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