Budget 3D Displays
DLP RPTVs and entry-level front projectors are a couple good alternatives.
Mitsubishi has touted its DLP displays as “3D capable” since 2007.
April 29, 2010 by Stephen Hopkins

Full HD 3D LCDs and plasmas are drawing nearly all the attention surrounding 3D. They’re exciting, thin, bright, and, in most cases, expensive.

But there are other 3D options available at significantly lower prices, if you know what to look for and are willing to make some small compromises or take some extra steps in setup.

3D-Capable DLP RPTV
Manufacturers have abandoned DLP RPTV technology like rats from the Titanic. All but Mitsubishi, that is.

Going back as far as the 2007 line, Mitsubishi has touted its DLP displays as “3D Capable,” meaning they could display 3D content through PC solutions like NVidia’s 3D Vision system. Using a checkerboard system, true resolution to each eye ends up being halved to 540 pixels at 60Hz. You’ll also need an adapter, available Q2 2010, to work with a 3D Blu-ray player.

Those sound like notable drawbacks, until you see the price. The 2009 C9 series DLP displays are available in sizes from 60- to 73-inches for $999 to $1499, respectively, and even less if you catch a sale. The upcoming 638, 738, and 838 lines offer similarly attractive pricing, with the 838 series also including 16-speaker sound bar ala the Unisen line of LCDs.

Entry-Level 3D Front Projectors
While Full HD 1080p front projection remains the territory of luxury projector manufacturers like Digital Projection and Runco, entry-level projectors from Acer, Optoma, and Viewsonic are offering 120Hz 3D capabilities at 720p resolutions for as little as $650 - $800. The catch? These units are completely dependent on a PC system like NVidia 3D Vision for 3D decoding, processing, and glasses.

Thanks to coming updates like NVidia 3D TV Play software like PowerDVD 10, you can still enjoy Blu-ray playback from your PC. While a capable video card, 3D Vision kit, Blu-ray drive and playback software might add up to as much as $400 really quickly, you’re likely looking at a similar investment with a standalone 3D Blu-ray player and glasses, with a much higher display cost. Oh yeah, 100”+ is a big plus as well. 

It looks like full 1080p 3D is also trickling down to more consumer-friendly price points with units like the recently announced Sanyo Z4000. There are still some unanswered questions with this unit. Mainly, we’re waiting to see if it will be compatible with stand-alone 3D Blu-ray players out of the box, as well as what glasses and syncing methods will be used.

3D LCD PC Monitors
While other 3D display alternatives we’ve discussed offer larger screen sizes compared to the mainstream LCDs and plasmas, 3D-capable 120Hz LCD PC monitors offer a smaller 3D experience that can be just as immersive and impressive, if only for one person.

While not the large-screen 3D experience many are interested in, 24-inch 3D-capable PC monitors can be had for as little as $260. If you’re looking to dip your toe into the 3D waters and have any interest in 3D gaming, this might be the ideal way to wade into the river.

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Stephen Hopkins is chief technology editor for EH Publishing. He writes product reviews, features, and focuses heavily on 3D TV, iPhone and iPad apps, and digital content.

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