December 23, 2010
by Grant Clauser
Yesterday Toshiba made good on its promise to begin selling a 3D TV that works without those burdensome glasses. It’s only selling in Japan, and it’s only a 12-inch TV. Don’t all rush out at once.
However, the company has said that a 20-inch model will follow shortly (still, yawn—50 is the new 20 these days). But it gets better. A Wall Street Journal article states that a 40-inch model will coming out sometime next year, also likely for a Japan-only launch.
One of the interesting notes that seems to be buried in the no-glasses 3D message is that these TVs use Toshiba’s Cell processor. You may remember that last year at the Consumer Electronics Show Toshiba made a huge deal over the Cell TV and promised some impressive things for a Septemberish launch in the US. That product was supposed to include wireless HDTV transmission and a host of other goodies.
Of course, that never happened, and now, according to Reuters, Sony is buying back the Cell processor plant for 50 billion yen ($598 million US) which it sold to Toshiba two years ago for 90 billion yen (that’s some investment strategy). Sony uses the Cell in the Playstation 3. Could Sony also be planning a Cell-based, glasses-free 3D TV?
Anyway, one of the big problems of glasses-free 3D (and I’ve seen some demos at past trade shows) is that they’re very dependent on viewer position. You’ve got to be in the sweet spot right in the middle to see the effect. A couple of inches off center and the illusion falls apart. These Toshiba TVs claim to have overcome that somewhat by using the Cell processor to render nine images from a single frame, thus widening the angle of the sweet spot. I haven’t seen it myself, but look forward to trying it next month.
For the time being, I’m going to be skeptical. The glasses-free demos I’ve seen so far have been terrible—suitable only for digital signage or maybe video games, but not for home theater use. All the other TV makers seem to agree with me, but I’d love to be proven wrong.
Here are some of the stats (from Explor3DTV.com) on the current Toshiba 20-inch, if you want to fly to Akihabara this weekend to get one:
The 20GL1 will have a 1280 x 720 resolution, as well as Toshiba’s Cell processor and LED backlight technology. There will also be ports for HDMI, USB, LAN and Toshiba’s own REGZA Link. The 12-inch 12GL1 (pictured) has a resolution of 466 x 350, and keeps the HDMI, USB, LAN and REGZA Link ports. This model drops the CELL engine, but gains an SD card slot.
No official pricing has been announced, but we’ve heard $2,900 for the 20GL1, with the 12GL1 coming in around $1,450.
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had audio training from Home Acoustics Alliance and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.