The biggest TV manufacturers are finally starting to reveal prices for their new 3D TV sets, and believe it or not, several of the new sets will actually cost about the same or even a bit less than last year's equivalent 2D models. That said, there's a catch: The active-shutter LCD glasses that you'll need to watch 3D video cost a pretty penny.
Samsung was the first of the big four TV makers to flip its 3D pricing cards over this week; Panasonic is up tomorrow, while Sony and LG will follow in the coming weeks and months.
Samsung's new LED-backlit LCD 3D sets (which start shipping this month) run the gamut from 40 to 55 inches, and they're set to arrive in three separate lines: the "affordable" (well, relatively speaking) LED C7000 series (240Hz refresh rate, Internet widgets, and Ethernet), the mid-range C8000 series (which adds local LED dimming), and the top-of-the-line C9000 line (which comes with its own, snazzy touchscreen remote control).
So, how much are we talking here? Well, expect to spend a whopping $6,999 for the biggest, 55-inch LED C9000, all the way down to $1,999 for the smallest "bargain" set, the 40-inch C7000.
Now, as CNET's David Katzmaier points out, those prices are (in general) a few hundred bucks more than the current pricing of last year's equivalent models. For example, Samsung's 2009 46-inch B7000 LCD HDTV is selling on Amazon for about $2,350, or about $250 more than the new, $2,599 46-inch 3D-capable C7000, according to Katzmaier.
That said, keep in mind that the original list price for the 2009 46-inch B7000 was actually $2,999, or about $400 more than this year's new 3D-ready version. And indeed, Amazon has already discounted the new 46-inch C7000 to just $2,339, a tiny bit cheaper than last year's equivalent model.
Of course, we'll have to wait and see how the other big TV manufactures decide to price their 3D TV sets, but if they follow the trend, it may well turn out that you won't be paying much of a premium—if any—for this year's crop of 3D-capable HDTVs, especially once retailers start cutting prices.
BUT ... yep, there's a "but" here ... you will pay a premium for the battery-powered, active-shutter 3D glasses that are required to watch 3D video on Samsung's new sets.
Unlike the disposable 3D glasses you get at most movie theaters, the active-shutter glasses necessary for most 3D TVs work by rapidly opening and closing LCD "shutters" in the left and right lenses, thus ensuring that your left and right eyes are seeing the correct left or right image at precisely the right time. The glasses must also sync themselves with your TV via an infrared sensor.
As I've been warning for months now, these active-shutter 3D glasses won't come cheap, and indeed ... as CNET reports, Samsung will be charging $150 a pair for them. In other words, if you've got a family of four who wants to watch "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" on your new Samsung 3D TV, well ... that'll be $600, please. (And I wouldn't count on Samsung's competitors charging much less.)
Samsung says it'll be offering a free "3D Starter Kit"—complete with two pair of 3D glasses and a 3D Blu-ray disc of "Monsters vs. Aliens"—with the purchase of a new 3D TV and its new BD-C6900 3D Blu-ray player or HT-C6930W 3D home theater set, but still ... ouch. (On its own, Samsung's 3D Starter Kit will retail for $350.)
Finally, let's not forget that you will, in fact, need a new 3D Blu-ray player (or a PlayStation 3, once the promised software update from Sony arrives) to watch upcoming 3D Blu-ray discs ... which won't be coming out until later this year.
What do you think: Any interest in buying a 3D TV? Worried about the pricey 3D glasses? Skipping the whole 3D thing? Let us know.