Good news for movie goers: there are ways to save on tickets!
Cheap 3D TVs Buying Guide
Manufacturers are eager to add a new dimension to your home theater experience even though good cheap 3D TVs are not quite ready for prime time. Movie makers have been producing 3D films for audiences since the early 1920s, but now this technology is starting to make a serious push into the television market.
3D technology continues to develop and the best cheap 3D TVs are expensive compared to their 2D-only counterparts. This is always the case with the latest gadgetry -- the early adopters pay more for the newest technology despite its obvious shortcomings. The bargain 3D TV market is no exception, although prices for 3D TVs have dropped considerably in the past year. A very small and cheap 3D TV will run you at least $500, and models larger than 40 inches still cost about $1,000 or more -- often much more. The best cheap 3D TVs we identified come in a variety of sizes, and all the starting prices noted in this buying guide correspond to the smallest screens available in the series.
The Samsung PN51D8000 (51-inch set starting at $1,250, Amazon) tops our list of best cheap 3D TVs due to its outstanding picture quality, especially in 2D mode. It shares this lofty position with the Sony Bravia KDL NX720 (46-inch set starting at $1,080, Amazon), which boasts excellent color and a startling 2D display. In the second-best cheap 3D TV category, we put the LG Infinia LW5600 (47-inch set starting at $1,000, Amazon) for its solid 3D images and the Panasonic Viera TC-PST30 (42-inch set starting at $1,200) for its impressively deep black levels. Divided assessments about color accuracy on the LG Infinia PZ950 (50-inch set starting at $979, Amazon) push this model into "think twice" territory, while poor contrast ratio and too-warm color leave the Toshiba TL515U (32-inch set starting at $500, Amazon) in a similar spot.
Although our four picks for best cheap 3D TVs promise viewing pleasure, you should be aware of certain deficiencies inherent in existing 3D technology. For starters, if your TV uses active 3D technology (more on that later) you'll probably pay extra for the glasses needed to watch 3D content. This is an expensive item, up to $150 a pair, and most cheap 3D TVs don't come with glasses. In addition, active 3D glasses only work with the 3D TV they're designed for, so if you own a Panasonic 3D TV forget about taking your glasses next door to watch the neighbor's Samsung 3D TV. Then there's the 3D effect produced by cheap 3D TVs. Generally speaking, it's decent if not spectacular, but we found plenty of reports from experts and consumers about "crosstalk" on the screen, an anomaly that can afflict even the best 3D TVs. (Crosstalk occurs when a 3D image designed to appear in front of one eye accidentally appears in the other eye, either because the screen doesn't refresh fast enough or the 3D glasses aren't working properly.)
All 3D TVs display 2D content and many budget models present 2D images of a quality that outshines their 3D capabilities. Because 2D content still dominates -- and will, at least for the near future -- this is not a matter to brush off. You can use a cheap 3D TV to watch anything you'd watch with a normal hi-def 2D TV and many experts assert that 3D TVs are among the highest quality 2D sets out there, with amazing color, deep black levels, and sharp, detailed pictures -- compelling reasons to buy a 3D television even if you don't plan to use the 3D feature that often.
The price of a 3D TV is determined by a variety of factors, screen size being one. Typically, the larger the display, the more expensive the set will be. If you were to opt for an upscale model costing several thousand dollars, you'd get a television with a very large screen (55 inches and counting) and the best video processing technology available. Other bells and whistles would include wireless features and Internet TV applications. Cheap 3D televisions hit the price ceiling at about $1,500 and include most of the same features, but the picture quality and the 3D effect aren't quite as good. What you can count on with a cheap 3D TV are full 1080p displays, 16:9 resolution, all kinds of controls and options for tweaking the color settings, and several HDMI ports, which are the best quality ports for home theater systems. Most cheap 3D TVs now include a wireless feature as well as several TV Internet widgets, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Pandora.
Perhaps the most critical factor demanding your attention is the distinction between active 3D TV and passive 3D TV. Active 3D TV relies on battery-powered glasses to create the 3D effect; among the models we researched, the Samsung D8000, Sony Bravia KDL NX720, Panasonic Viera TC-PST30, and LG Infinia PZ950 are active 3D models. Passive 3D TV, used in the LG Infinia LW5600 and Toshiba TL515U, call for the same kind of glasses you get at a theater when watching a 3D movie -- they're not powered and consequently are lighter and more comfortable to wear. The consensus among reviewers, however, is that active 3D technology creates a better 3D effect than passive 3D. That's not to say passive 3D isn't good, it's just not quite as immersive as active 3D.
The top manufacturers of 3D TVs are familiar names in the television business. Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony, Vizio, and Toshiba all make 3D TVs. But 3D technology is still fairly new and the amount of 3D content is still quite limited -- mostly Blu-ray movies and a smattering of TV programming; don't expect see a significant amount of 3D content from your cable company for a while. If you're planning to buy a new television anyway and want to future-proof your set, and if you can find an especially good deal, then stepping up to a cheap 3D TV may not be a bad idea.
Best Cheap 3D TVs
Samsung PND8000Samsung's D8000 series is the best in the Cheapism price class, with a gorgeous 2D picture, impressive 3D effect, plasma display, and outstanding color accuracy and black levels. Read more »
|Not ready to buy?|
Good Cheap 3D TVs
LG LW5600LG's Infinia LW5600 is a solid passive 3D TV with good color accuracy and decent black levels, and you get four pairs of 3D glasses with it. Read more »
|Not ready to buy?|
Don't Bother Cheap 3D TVs
Sony XBR HX929 Review
LG PZ950 Review
Toshiba TL515U Review
LG LW5600 Review
Panasonic TC-PST30 Review
Samsung PND8000 Review
Sony KDL NX720 Review
LG Infinia 47LX9500 LCD 3D HDTV
Samsung UN46C8000 LCD 3D HDTV
Mitsubishi 738 series
Panasonic VIERA VT25 Plasma 3D HDTV
With Easter on the calendar for next Sunday, get ready with homemade Easter decorations. ...
Find out the results for our Frugal Month Challenge.