3D's a Crowd

3D Gear Essentials

If you watch any TV, you’ve probably seen some commercial touting how 3D technology will revolutionize the way you live. Most likely it also involved Dolphins or some other funny sea creature. When you put all of the marketing-laced messaging and cliché imagery aside, though, it is true that 3D can provide a captivating home entertainment experience with both movies and gaming — when done right. It’s also an exciting new area to explore for amateur photographers and videographers looking to experiment beyond the familiar. Before you take the plunge of to upgrade your equipment through to the bleeding edge of the third dimension, we’d recommend browsing our picks for the top 10 must-have 3D products so far. To commence your edification, hit the link below to go to the next page. We swear it’ll be far more entertaining than channel surfing on your old tube television.

Best 3D HDTV of 2010: Panasonic TC-PVT25 Series

This CNET editor’s choice award winner holds the title of best 3D of 2010 and also happens to be the best 2D television CNET has ever tested too. Among the reasons for its excellent marks, reviewers point to its superb black-level performance and accurate color reproduction obtained via the panel’s THX-certified picture mode, which most importantly for consumers means there is no need for extensive calibration to get the optimal picture from the display. Not surprisingly though, this best-in-class TV is expensive, especially when compared to the more affordable Samsung PNC8000. Its ability to access streaming content sources is also slightly hobbled compared to the Samsung, however big movie providers like Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand streaming are included which should suffice for most. Those quips aside, the bottom line is if you’re the type who hates having to compromise when it comes to picture quality in any dimension, then the TC-PVT25 is the set for you. Now if we could only figure out how to mount one in the shower…

Buy Now: 50-inch ($2,200)

Best Bang-for-Your-Buck 3D TV: Samsung PNC8000 Series

The Samsung PNC8000 series may be technically inferior to the champion Panasonic TC-PVT25 series because of its slightly lighter black levels, but it’s still one of the best 2D and 3D TV’s. Praised for excellent bright room images, robust picture controls, sleek styling, and very good 3D picture quality, this display has everything to please even the strictist videophiles. Amazingly the TV also happens to cost less than its direct competition. Plus, until the library of 3D Blu-ray titles out there expands, its bevvy of integrations with Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, Vudu video, Cinema Now, and Hulu Plus should keep buyers buried in premium streaming content for years. If that simply won’t cut it, just use the TV’s on board 2D to 3D conversion to make use of your new display’s third dimension capabilities at anytime. Just note that the quality of conversions like this is a far cry from Avatar, so make sure your eyes and stomach can handle the results.

Buy Now: $1,800 (50-inch) | $3,200 (63-inch)

Best 3D Game System: PS3 Slim

Yeah it’s been around for a while now, but did you know that the PS3 can support 3D Blu-rays and games just through a firmware update? The same thing goes for enabling Netflix streaming in glorious 1080i with 5.1 surround sound (a quality of streaming other devices can’t yet match). That’s pretty amazing and a huge cost savings compared to buying a whole new Blu-ray player and separate 3D gaming system. It’s also the reason the PS3 continues to be one of, if not the best bang-for-your-buck piece of home theater equipment you can own. Err… or that’s how we positioned it to our better halves when we came home with the box.

Buy Now: $300

Best 3D Video Game: Call of Duty Black Ops

We already know you’ve probably logged a fair share of hours on the latest and greatest addition to the Call of Duty Series. The fact that it’s also available as a 3D gaming title just adds icing to the insane first person shooting cake. Avatar may have jumpstarted the 3D bandwagon into top gear, but 3D gaming is, in our minds, the most compelling reason to make the switch. After all, one can only stand so much of the Navi, but fragging with your friends and the world at large online just never gets old. At least that’s until you get mowed down by a cocky 12-year old who just learned to curse.

Buy Now: $60

Best 3D Home Theater In a Box: Onkyo HT-S7300 & S6300

If you haven’t already invested in a complete home theater system, picking up either of these two options from Onkyo can help you can get the immersing surround sound experience you’ve been missing and bring you fully up to date with the 3D revolution at the same time. Both sets ship with a component grade receiver that features four HDMI 1.4a inputs with 3D pass-through capability, meaning 3D Blu-ray players and gaming systems can connect to it using one HDMI cable to the receiver. Other goodies include 1080p analog upconversion and Audyseey speaker calibration. Onkyo’s UP-A1 iPod doc also comes as part of the package, allowing you to play your digital music collection over the systems brawny 7.1 speaker setup and even see song information right on your TV. However, an upgrade to the HT-S73000 gets you an even better 2 channel audio experience, since it swaps out the two book shelf style left and right speakers for a pair of beefy towers. Two turntables and microphone are of course sold separately.

Buy Now: $650 for HT-S73000

Philips Norelco SensoTouch 1290X 3D Razor (Sponsored Product)

For guys used to the feel of a blade, electric razors may bear a stigma of not providing a close enough shave. Philips Norelco’s new Sensotouch 3D Razor is hoping to change that. What’s 3D doing in the name of a razor you ask? Well, it refers to the GyrofleX 3D system which unlike other electric razors allows the shaving head to flex, pivot and tilt and follow every contour of the face. This translates to a closer shave with less irritation. Maybe audio visual gurus might have beef with that terminology, but its purpose makes sense to us. Philips Norelco’s Aquatic seal also means it’s designed for both wet and dry shave, while an included precision trimmer can help those who need to fine tune beards, sideburns and mustaches. Since it comes with a 2-year guarantee, there’s no need to worry about losing out on this kind of investment either. Finally, remember that despite its sleek ergonomic shape, it’s perfectly engineered for your face, not controlling your living room. So don’t let us, or your better half, catch you trying to MacGyver this into a remote in your spare time.

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Best Bang-For-Your-Buck Home Audio Receiver: Yamaha RX-V667

It may seem strange that you’d have to buy new home audio gear to deal with a technology that’s all about visual stimluation. The trouble is the extra bandwidth needed for transmitting 3D content requires the latest HDMI 1.4a connection specification. Since most receivers made before 2010 don’t have this, they need to be replaced to process or pass through content from sources like 3D Blu-ray movies. If you’re stuck with that outdated HDMI specification, we recommend the Yamaha RX-V667 for your short list of potential new receivers. It features 6 HDMI 1.4a inputs, tried and true Yahmaha sound quality, and plenty of extra high tech goodies. While we won’t take the time to list them all, the important ones to note are a best-in-class graphical user interface, analog video upconversion, and support for a second zone of speakers. In other words it’ll do your standard 2D content justice, and knock your socks off with 3D too — much to your neighbor’s displeasure.

Buy Now: $500

Best 3D Blu-ray Player: Samsung BD-C6900

Don’t own a PS3 and in need of a 3D compatible Blu-ray player to watch movies? Well the Samsung BD-C6900 can satisfy your needs and throws in a bunch of schnazzy extras like 1 GB of on board storage plus Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, and Pandora streaming too. Since it can connect with Samsung’s app world and has integrated Wi-Fi, its potential is limitless compared to “dumber” players out there. Last but not least, a fast operational speed rounds out the player’s feature set, meaning you’ll waste less time waiting for your movies and cd’s to load. What you choose to do with those precious seconds you’ll gain back is of course your decision, but checking out GP for updates isn’t that bad of an idea now is it?

Buy Now: $125

XpanD Universal 3D Glasses

It’s no secret everyone would prefer to ditch the nerdy specs required for 3D viewing all together, but the technology just isn’t there yet. Since dealing with them is still a fact of life for now though, you might as well own a pair that can work across multiple 3D TV brands. These XpanD Universal 3D glasses work on Sony, Panasonic, LG, Samsung, Philips, and Mitisubishi brand 3D TVs. Yeah the compatibility costs a bit more over brand-specific glasses, but the ability to take them with you to watch the game on other friend’s 3D set, or a new TV you might buy down the road is worth the cost. That is, unless where you’re going… you don’t need roads.

Pre Order: $130

Best 3D Camcorder: Panasonic HDC-SDT750, High Definition 3D Camcorder

The HDC-SDT750K is the world’s first 3D compatible camcorder with a 3D conversion lens. In 3D mode, the camera is designed for shots in the 3 to 15 foot range and shoots 960-by-1080 video with each of the two lenses, recording separate footage for the left-eye and right-eye channels in order to capture solid 3D effects (not the janky 3D claimed by other TVs). Unfortunately this mode is slightly limited, in that it causes the camera’s maximum aperture setting to dip to F3.5. The white balance is also the only picture aspect you can control via the camcorder’s control ring. If you’d like a bit more Spielbergian control in 2D recording though, simply screw-off the lens to transform the unit into a high-performance full HD camcorder complete with a F1.5, 12x optical zoom Leica lens that can record 920-by-1080-pixel full HD video at 60 progressive frames per second at its highest-quality video setting. A large 3.0″ LCD touch-screen LCD also makes viewing footage and setting adjustments a snap, while 5.1 surround-sound recording allows amateur film makers to capture rich audio from all angles. We’re pretty sure your Flip and iPhone can’t do that.

Buy Now: $1,400

Best 3D Point and Shoot: Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W3 Digital Camera

This camera is the predecessor to FinePix Real 3D W1 and features much of the same technology with some key improvements. Its dual 10MP CCD sensors and twin Fujinon 3x optical zoom lenses are the same as the W1 and still allow photographers to take 3D images that are viewable with or without glasses via the camera’s special LCD display. The W3 however now includes a larger 3.5″ 3D LCD, a new Auto 3D mode for easier shots, and support for capturing 3D HD movies in 720p. The inclusion of two sensors and lenses also allows the camera to perform plenty of cool 2D shooting options other cameras can’t, like snapping a close-up and wide angle shot of the same scene with two different color balances at the exact same time. See, twins are always better.

Buy Now: $450