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How to (and how not to) buy a flat-screen TV Part 5: 3D or not 3D?

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So that’s your flat-screen TV life sorted, is it? The last four parts of this series was designed to bring you up to speed on all the factors you need to take into account to make a purchase decision. But then, suddenly, it seems the rules are changing. Manufacturers are telling you that you DON’T have the best TV on the market unless it’s 3D! But it’s not as simple as that. In the final part of this series, JOEL KOPPING looks at the good, the bad and the ugly of 3D TV.

3D TV is being touted as the next best thing since TV itself, But is it?

Like all things in life, 3D has its good, bad and ugly points, so we will go through those step by step.

But first, here’s a brief explanation of how 3D TV works.

As our eyes are spaced apart, our left and right eyes see a slightly different part of the object we’re looking at. This difference is what allows us to perceive depth.

3D TV does something similar in that, first an image for our left eye is shown and then, a slightly different one for our right eye is shown. To ensure that we only see the left image with our left eye and vice versa, TV manufacturers supply us with ‚active shutter‚ LCD glasses.

When watching 3D, a signal from our TV is sent to the glasses, and this tells them to turn the right eyepiece black when the TV is displaying a left-eye-only image, and then to let light through the right eyepiece and block the left one when the TV is displaying a right-eye-only image.

By now, it should be obvious that 3D TV is not the same as 3D movies, where simple 3D glasses ‚ even the paper-framed ones that fall out of magazines ‚ are good enough for a great experience.

And now, on to the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good

1. 3D TV viewing certainly has a lot of WOW factor and it really is impressive watching people and effects leap off the screen. You certainly do get to experience that added dimension.

2. Another positive is that 3D TVs tend to be high specification models, and this means that they are good 2D TVs too.

The bad

1. In order to view 3D, you need to wear special glasses. Glasses are a one-type-fits-all design and may or may not fit comfortably on your or your little ones’ heads. Having 3D glasses in front of your prescription glasses may not be too comfortable either.

2. While two pairs of 3D Glasses are normally supplied when you buy your 3D TV system, additional pairs will be needed for the rest of your family, and glasses aren’t on the cheap side.

3. 3D glasses all use batteries to drive their special LCD lenses and these have to be kept charged. No charge, no 3D movies (and don’t tell me about those paper 3D glasses you got in a magazine ‚ that’s not going to be very satisfying with a high-end 3D TV).

4. 3D titles are not freely available at the moment, so the chances are that, even if you buy a 3D TV, you aren’t going to be watching too much in 3D for a while.

5. 3D TV watching tends to cause more eye-strain than watching 2D TV, so you may not be able to get through an entire movie without taking a break to rest your eyes.

6. As 3D TVs split the on screen image into left and right images, you effectively only view half the TV’s refresh rate. A 100Hz TV, for example, will only show 50Hz images in 3D. This means that you will notice motion blurring and some juddering when watching fast moving images. These artefacts are far less noticeable when watching 3D on a 200Hz or higher TV, since the refresh rate you actually see (100Hz) is fast enough to make most images look smooth and defect free.

7. Your viewing distance is more critical when watching 3D TV. If you sit too far away from the TV, you won’t see 3D images. The 3D effect also diminishes as you move away from the centre of the screen. Most people recommend that, for the most immersive experience, you sit reasonably close to the TV. LG recommend as close as two metres for their 55-inch model.

The ugly

As if the bad isn’t bad enough, there is worse.

1. There are health risks associated with watching 3D TV with their active shutter glasses. The following are actual excerpts taken from a 3D TV’s manual.

· If you watch the 3D images too closely or for a long period of time, it may harm your eyesight.

· Pregnant woman, seniors, persons with heart problems or persons who experience frequent drowsiness should refrain from watching 3D TV.

· Please prevent children under the age of 5 from watching 3D TV. It may affect their vision development.

· Some viewers may experience a seizure or epilepsy when exposed to certain factors, including flashing lights or image as in TV or video games.

2. Having watched a fair bit of 3D TV I have to add that, once the wow factor has worn off, the effects can sometimes be distracting, often look as artificial as they are, and 3D cannot turn a bad story line into a good one.

3. 3D TV is still in its infancy, so you may be better served by waiting a while for the technology to mature before jumping on the 3D bandwagon.

If you do wait a year or so, you should be rewarded by improved technology and better availability of titles you can actually watch.

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On the current TV, I take the Output signal from the TV and make a DVD copy of DSTV shows – but seem to not be able to copy some shows. Is there a signal interference within the DSTV broadcast?

It’s for this reason that I suggested that you try and limit your choices to a few TV’s and if possible to shop at a store that would be willing to show you the true virtues of one TV at a time. I would hope that some of the specialist stores would take the effort to at least try to display TV’s correctly.

If however to your eyes a less expensive model look better to you than a more expensive model, you certainly shouldn’t let a salesman bamboozle you into thinking that the more expensive TV is better just as it has supposedly better specifications. If can indeed show a better and more neutral image make them show it to you, and if they cant then simply don’t buy from them.

It’s better because I say it is doesn’t inspire me with confidence.

There is a reason your recorder only records some shows and this is due to there being different levels of copy protection inherent in all DSTV broadcasts.

Honest DVD recorder manufacturers set their recorders up to read the copy protection flags in the video stream and will therefore record shows that allow one to copy them. Other shows use a higher level of content protection and when your recorded sees these flags it wont record.

There is apparently certain media that will allow you to record some of the higher level copy protected shows, but this media is apparently extremely hard to find in SA.”,”body-href”:””}]

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