If you've bought into the 3D hype, you might now be wondering which TV to buy with your hard-earned cash. Do you go for Panasonic's superb, 50-inch, 1080p Viera TX-P50VT20B plasma TV? Or is Samsung's stylish, 55-inch, 1080p, LED-edge-lit UE55C8000 LCD TV a better bet? Perhaps you're wondering if Sony's 46-inch, 1080p, LED-backlit Bravia KDL-46HX903 LCD TV beats both.
To help you decide, we'll look at the pros and cons of each one. These TVs all use the same 3D technology so they can be compared like for like. There are other 3D TVs on the market which we have yet to review, so this isn't intended to be an exhaustive look at every 3D TV available, but rather a comparison of three of the most important TVs out at the moment.
How a TV looks shouldn't be the main factor in anyone's buying decision, but it's important to remember that you'll have to stare at your purchase for a long time to come.
If you want an incredible-looking screen, Samsung's set is a surefire winner. In comparison, both the Sony and Panasonic TVs are boring, although Sony's offering looks slightly more impressive than Panny's set. If you want a TV that doesn't scream 'look at me' at the top of its 20W speakers, go for the Panasonic model -- it's a very ordinary-looking TV.
We find the image produced by plasma TVs to be the most pleasant. It's very similar to that of CRT TVs of old, with just the right balance between sharp and natural-looking images. Panasonic's plasma TV wins this round, therefore. It's one of the few sets we've seen that can rival the beautiful images produced by Pioneer's Kuro TVs. Its THX mode produces a likeable movie image, and we generally fell in love with what this TV showed us.
The image quality of the Sony TV isn't to our tastes. Other reviewers disagree with our stance, but we found its Freeview pictures to be quite disappointing. High-definition material looked better, but our socks were in no danger of being blown clear of our feet.
The Samsung set comes a close second to the Panasonic TV. Its LED-edge-light system produces a bright and vibrant image, and we love how Blu-ray movies look on this screen. We'd be more than happy to have one of these TVs in our home, even if it doesn't quite manage to make us salivate in the way that the Panasonic set does.
In this contest, Panasonic's 3D glasses are the loser -- by a long shot. They're horribly uncomfortable during long periods of viewing. The only potential saving grace is that third-party hardware is going to become available soon, which should make for much-improved comfort, although it will require further investment.
Sony's specs feel pretty decent. The glasses fitted us well, weren't too heavy, and also had the best power-management and automatic start-up system we've seen. The only downside is that they flickered more noticeably than any of the others.
Samsung's spectacles are the clear winner, though. They're light, comfortable and even look quite cool. They work perfectly, and there are children's sets and other styles available too. The only issue is that these glasses are easy to break, as they have no frame at the bottom of the lens. We cracked a pair by sitting on them -- an expensive mistake.
In some ways, plasma is the perfect technology for 3D. In others, it's dreadful. For example, Panasonic's display isn't as bright as the other, LED-illuminated screens. Given the amount of light that's prevented from entering your eyes when wearing 3D glasses, this is a problem, but it doesn't stop the Panasonic TV producing an incredible, natural picture.
The Sony TV's 3D image is also excellent. As with the Panasonic set, the two parts of the 3D image are kept entirely separate, which is the biggest hurdle for 3D TVs to overcome. We found, however, that Sony's glasses flickered more than we'd like, but that's the only unenjoyable aspect of the experience.
It's a shame that the Samsung set has a problem with ghosting on 3D images, whereby traces of an image intended for your left eye, for example, are visible to your right eye. In every other regard, the 3D picture is exceptional. The image is more vivid than that of either of the other TVs, and the 3D effect is the most potent.
The ability to access video online is becoming a huge part of modern TVs. Both the Samsung and Sony sets are able to provide on-demand movie streaming via LoveFilm, and access catch-up TV services from the likes of the BBC and Five. The Panasonic TV has a similar system, but it's far more limited and, despite having been around for the longest time, has been left languishing, with no real development.
Of the three systems, Sony's is the slickest and best overall. We could see ourselves making extensive use of it. It's just a shame the company didn't furnish its TV with built-in Wi-Fi capability, rather than requiring an optional add-in module.
It's hard to compare these three TVs in terms of dosh, because the screen size varies, and each TV has features that are unique to it. That said, the Sony TV is, in our opinion, the most overpriced. It's the smallest set, but it costs around £2,500 and doesn't even come with any glasses.
The Samsung set has the biggest screen, and, accordingly, it's the most expensive, at around £3,000. It is, however, the only one of these TVs we've seen being sold at a discounted price, so you can find it online for about £2,600. While it doesn't include 3D glasses in the box, Samsung provides a voucher that will get you a free pair of specs.
By far the best value is offered by Panasonic's TV. It costs £2,200 or thereabouts, and comes with two pairs of 3D glasses.
All considered, we think the Panasonic TV is your best 3D bet. It also offers the best 2D picture performance, with images displaying a rarely seen beauty and realism. It represents great value for money too, and the inclusion of 3D glasses is an excellent decision on Panny's part.
Sony has clearly spent too much money on including an LED backlight. While this helps to provide a very even image with no odd colour or brightness issues, it also pushes the price up to the point where the £3,000 Samsung TV looks like a bargain, especially considering its screen is 9 inches larger.