During the last weekend in August, my good friend Lori and I had the pleasure of attending the FanExpo in Toronto, a big convention thart celebrates sci-fi, horror, comics, anime and gaming. Vendors sell their items, people come either as themselves or in cosplay, and you get to meet various celebrities from the genres we love. It's basically our answer to Comic-Con. One pivotal part of the expo is the gaming booths that are set up and I saw impressive showings from Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and Ubisoft. Of particular note was the Sony booth in which they were allowing people to play the Uncharted 3 multiplayer and they were demoing the much-hyped Sony Playstation 3D TV Bundle, which I got to experience and my impressions will be the focus of this article.
For those unaware, the Sony Playstation 3D Bundle is a low-cost 24-inch 3D television that comes packaged with one pair of 3D glasses, an HDMI cable and a pre-installed game, originally slated to be Resistance 3 but has since been changed to Motorstorm: Apocalypse. The cost of this entire bundle is $500 and it represents a great value for those jilted by the high cost of other 3D television sets on the market. My friend and I were able to demo this TV while the representative from Sony explained some of the features and perks that it offers. Below are just some of my impressions based on my time spent with the unit.
The TV itself is 24-inch 1080p flat panel LED television set that will seem rather small to those used to playing their games on big screen LCD television sets, so this presents some obvious drawbacks from the beginning. If you are planning on using this set in a small room, as a back-up television or as a computer monitor, then the size should be a non-issue. However, if you are considering this as your main television for movie watching and game playing, it will definitely feel like a downgrade if you are used to a bigger screen. Having said that, the price of the unit and the extras that are included are made to represent value over being technically superior, so sacrifices in size needed to be made. The picture is crystal clear and the 240 hz refresh rate ensures smooth picture quality when gaming without the annoying "ghosting" that you get with some other televisions. I was very impressed with the quality and clarity of the picture and the vibrant colors, so those who are concerned that the lower price means sacrificing quality need not worry. At it's core, this is a quality television that will satisfy those looking to dip their toe into 3D, and it provides a solid 1080p HD experience to please everyone else.
Speaking of the 3D, one of the main innovations being touted is the full-screen local multiplayer option. This means that you can both be playing a game in the same room, on the same television, and both be able to see your respective games in full-screen as opposed to the split-screen that is currently the standard. This is achieved by overlapping the two game screens and letting the 3D glasses separate them, so two pairs of glasses are required in order for this effect to work. You also need to ensure that both players are wearing the correct pair of glasses so that they are seeing the correct game screen, so this feature will take some getting used to. Attempting to play without the glasses will reveal a blurry image with two overlapping game screens, so people purchasing this bundle and planning on using this feature will need to purchase a second pair of glasses. It's a small inconvenience but it's ultimately forgivable. To sample the 3D gaming, we played some Wipeout HD and effect in terms of depth of feel was impressive, definitely adding an element of immersion to the gaming experience. The glasses are relatively light but they still feel bulky, and because they are slightly tinted, the colors are not as crisp and vibrant when using them. This is an issue common to 3D TVs and it remains so with this unit as well.
The biggest barrier-to-entry for 3D televisions thus far has been the price and it's fair to assume that the aim of this new bundle from Sony is to widen that market. Personally, I am still not won over by 3D movies and gaming and have resisted buying into the technology, however this might bring me around and help me see the benefits. The TV is small and obviously not intended for hardcore gamers who want the home theater experience, however it's perfect for those looking for an affordable HD television that offers 3D as an option, and even better for those who have small living spaces and want to still enjoy HD and 3D movies and gaming. At only $500, it's a given that it will sell very well and I might consider getting it when the time comes. Overall, it was an impressive demo and I think those looking to buy this set at launch will be pleased.
As of this writing, the projected release date for the Sony Playstation 3D TV bundle is November 26, 2011. This is subject to change.