The 3D TV hype machine begun at CES in January rolls on Tuesday as Samsung, the world's biggest TV maker, officially announced pricing and availability of its 2010 3D-capable HDTVs, Blu-ray players, and home theater gear.
The initial wave of televisions that can handle the new 3D TV Blu-ray and TV formats won't be cheap. The company's first 3D TV, the UNC7000 series, has been available for the last few days and is currently going for around $2,350 at Amazon for the 46-inch model ($2,600 MSRP). That's a $350 premium compared to Amazon's price for Samsung's closest 2009 non-3D equivalent, the UNB7000 series, while the company's closest 2010 non-3D equivalent, the UNC6500 series, sells for about $250 less.
Samsung's larger 55-inch 3D TV costs about $3,000 at Amazon ($3,300 MSRP) while the 40-incher is being listed by online retailers at about $1,800 ($2,000 MSRP). From the limited 3D TV demos we've seen, we expect screen size to be even more important to enjoying the 3D effect than it is with normal, 2D HDTV. In other words, bigger is better than ever.
Battle of the $3K 3D bundles
For a mere $3,000, about what it costs to take a family of 200 to see "Avatar" in IMAX 3D, you too can experience "Full HD" 3D TV at home this month.
To watch 3D on your new 3D TV you'll also need a compatible Blu-ray player, 3D glasses and, yes, a Full HD 3D Blu-ray. Samsung's promotional offer, in conjunction with Best Buy, has you covered. Buy the UN46C7000 (at what we assume will be the $2,600 MSRP) and the BD-C6900 Blu-ray player (conveniently another $400) and the company will throw in a pair of the glasses, model SD-2100AB ($150 MSRP each) and "Monsters vs. Aliens" in the new 1080p 3D Blu-ray format--not to be confused with the old 3D Blu-ray version, complete with cardboard colored glasses, that's been available since September. (If you must buy now, we recommend trying to use your existing HDMI cables, which should work fine, rather than springing an extra few bills for the "high-speed" or "3D-compatible" versions).
(Update March 10, 2010) By way of comparison and more hype, Panasonic will also launch its 3D TV bundle today at Best Buy, charging $2,500 for the 50-inch TC-P50VT20 TV and $2900 for a bundle that includes the DMP-BDT300 Blu-ray player and a pair of glasses. The bundle will be available at select stores beginning at the end of the month. For a bit less than the Samsung bundle you get a larger screen, one pair of glasses and no movie.
Other 3D TV considerations
Vizio is the only other maker to announce pricing; its 3D lineup will arrive in August and start at $1,999. LG and Sony, for their part, haven't been in any rush to announce pricing and availability of their 3D TVs. LG, we understand, will ship its first 3D TV and Blu-ray player in mid-May, while Sony plans a major 3D product launch in June.
At this point it's worth mentioning again that 3D TV is in its earliest stages, and even the most trigger-happy buyers should at least spend some time demoing the technology--and not just by rewatching "Avatar" at the local IMAX. We expect animated movies like "Monsters vs. Aliens" and Sony's "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" to show the technology in its best light, but the jury's out on how other 3D content will look in the home. In addition to Best Buy, which will launch its 3D TV demos with Samsung nationwide March 21, many Sony Style stores have 3D TV demos going now. And it's also worth mentioning that CNET will review specific 3D TVs as early as we can.