3D TV is the Next Big Thing, a must-have for the lucrative demographic of people who will purchase absolutely anything they see on the shelf at Best Buy.

Just The Facts

  1. 3D Televisions are already on shelves, with more to follow.
  2. They cost more than high-end HD televisions, with a much worse viewing experience.
  3. 3D TV may have been conceived as a prank on the world's early adopters.

What is 3D TV?

Avatar's ludicrous success, fueled by millions of people willing to pay $12 to see a film in 3D, has convinced the electronics industry that those same people will pay 200 times that amount to watch 3D at home, while wearing bigger, more cumbersome glasses that give them a blinding headache. Thus 3D TV was the big news at CES 2010 (the Consumer Electronics Show) with virtually every manufacturer debuting models in what in fact may be the most expensive and elaborate practical joke in history.

First, the 3D TV sets will cost more than high-end HD TV's, which oh by the way, most consumers just recently purchased. But then you have the cost of the glasses, which incredibly are rumored to cost between $100 and $300 a pair. That's right; the glasses themselves will each be in the price range of a Blu Ray player. Do the math: buying glasses for your family, or having a few spare pairs for your friends to come watch the Super Bowl, will alone cost more than most current HD TV's on the market. Holy shit!

And no, you can't just have your friends bring their own, in some unlikely future where somehow everybody has jumped on board the 3D bandwagon. All of the TVs use a different standard, so their glasses simply won't work on your television. And as for the guys who don't have glasses? Too bad; the 3D picture is a blurred, unwatchable mess without them. Most consumers will realize this fact only after half a dozen friends are gathered around the NBA Finals in 3D, clutching their foreheads and screaming in pain.

OK, so why are they so expensive, when movie theaters are just giving them away with the price of a ticket (or collecting them in a basket on the honor system)? Well, they're not the simple sunglasses you get at the theater, the TV's require electronic glasses that need their own power. They use active-shutter technology, in which the lenses turn black and then clear again, really fast, alternating between each eye. If this sounds like a recipe for a migraine, you're right!


Pic source: TechRadar

But, hey, the high-end customers have always put up with a little inconvenience and cost to get the absolute best image quality, right? After all, these guys were on board with HD back when it was only turned on for one broadcast a month.

Ah, about the image quality... the broadcasts won't be in high-def. No, they have to degrade the signal to make it work with their current bandwidth. If you're used to HD, prepare for the future of fuzzy 3D. When it appears, that is - no channel currently broadcasts in 3D.

But at least you'll get to enjoy Avatar at home! And Up, and other 3D films, right? Eh, not so fast. Not only do you need a Blu Ray player, but you need a 3D capable Blu Ray player. Is yours 3D capable? No? Well, time to upgrade that bitch! That you just bought last month!

But of course, we realize that we're kind of missing the point here. Manufacturers know there is one ready-made market for this device: technology early adopters.

This is a group of people for whom the main benefit of their technology purchases is the act of purchasing itself. They enjoy shopping for and researching the latest technology, possibly as an artifact of the hunting instinct that thousands of years ago gave them a sense of satisfaction from slaying a woolly mammoth. The early adopters love the rush of waiting for the new toy to hit shelves, they love the smell of new plastic, the sight of styrofoam blocks and black cables bundled together with twisty ties.

This segment of the market shops for the sport of it, like big game hunters, if somehow each bullet cost thousands of dollars. They will buy their 3D TV's and, even if they only use the 3D functionality once a year, they will consider it worth it. Who are we to judge?