The Real Cost of 3-D

Let’s assume you’re a fan of the 3-D movement. You were wowed by ‘Up’ and ‘Coraline’, and your mind was blown by ‘Avatar’, which you saw at least twice. You’re sold on the idea of more movies going 3-D and you’re ready to pick up a 3-D set for your house. You were even more excited about it when CES rolled around and TV makers said those 3-D TVs weren’t going to cost much more than their two dimensional counterparts.

Of course, just because a 3-D television doesn’t have an exaggerated price doesn’t mean the money isn’t coming from somewhere. Depending on your viewing habits and the size of your family, you may have to shell out as much as an extra thousand dollars up front for the 3-D experience.

As an example, let’s take a look at Samsung’s 46″ C7000. It’s a nice set that sports some internet connectivity, LED back lighting, and a depth of only an inch. And of course, it’s got a built in emitter for synchronizing those 3-D glasses. You can get it for around $2,400.

We’ll stick with Samsung for the 3-D Blu-ray player too. The BD-C6900 offers 3-D Blu-ray support, access to streaming services, a full gigabyte of on-board memory and it’s got that cool see through lid. You can grab that for $399.

I picked Samsung for the example, since it’s the only company that’s actually offering something to watch at this point. If you get a 3-D capable TV and 3-D capable Blu-ray player from Samsung before April 30th, you’ll also get the 3-D starter kit, which comes with two pairs of glasses and a copy of the 3-D Blu-ray ‘Monsters vs Aliens’.

Crunch those numbers together and you’ve now spent $2,800 to watch one movie in 3-D. More content is on the way of course, but at what cost? According to the price of Samsung’s 3-D Blu-ray Starter Kit, you’re looking at $50 a disc.

The starter kit that Samsung gives you is stated as having a $350 retail value, but all it contains is two pairs of Samsung’s battery operated 3-D glasses and one 3-D Blu-ray disc. Since the glasses (model SSG-2100AB) run $150 each, that leaves $50 for the 3-D Blu-ray.

Now let’s kick that number up a bit. Remember, you’re going to need a set of 3-D glasses for everyone who wants to partake. No trying to get sneaky either, your buddy with the 3-D Panasonic set can’t just bring his glasses over, they’re manufacturer specific.

Let’s say you’ve got kids – two of ’em. It’d be a bit cruel to watch ‘Monsters vs Aliens’ in 3-D while they were forced to watch a blurry picture. 3-D glasses made for kids will run $179 each. They’re rechargeable too; Samsung doesn’t offer a cheaper, battery operated version.

I was diagnosed as near sighted when I was ten and had to wear glasses from then on. I don’t think my parents ever spent more than $20-$30 on a pair of frames. It’s not because we were poor, or because things were cheaper then. It’s because kids, as a rule, break things.

And I did break them. I was a ten year old boy, and keeping my glasses safe wasn’t exactly in the front of my mind. Luckily for me, those prescription glasses still worked if they were held together with a bit of tape. You can bet that 3-D Active glasses are going to need a bit more than some masking tape.

Assuming you get your order in by April 30th, and you’re ready to go all Samsung, you’re looking at $3,150 to get you, the wife, and the kids set up to watch your 3-D Blu-ray movie. If you’re not an early adapter, expect to shell out at least another $350, for a grand total of $3,500. Over $700 of that cost is on 3-D glasses.

On the other hand, if you’re not into the whole 3-D thing, you could pick up Samsung’s UN46C6500, which is only a slight step down from the 7000. It doesn’t do 3-D and it doesn’t output 240Hz, which you don’t need anyway. That’s $1,900 even. If you want to stick with a Samsung BD player, you can grab the BD-6500 for $250. When all’s said and done, you’re down $2,150 and you don’t even have to buy glasses.

Just something to think about…


  1. Tim H.

    I really don’t understand the 3D craze. I’ve seen some movies in 3D, and it was a fun experience (at least the ones that were done well, i.e. Avatar vs. Clash of the Titans). The thing about Avatar and what made it worth the extra money to see it, was that it was a truly immersive experience, which is not common for 3D movies (usually they’re just gimmicky). However, I think it would be hard to have a similar experience on a drastically smaller screen (TV in your living room). On top of that, most movies have no need to or use of an immersive experience (which, I think, leaves them with just gimmicky 3D).

    It’s kind of like riding a roller coaster. It’s a really fun and unique experience, but after repeated rides you get used to it. Even more so if you had your own roller coaster. But that’s just my opinion.

  2. TJ

    Planning on picking up a 50″ Panasonic Plasma this fall. As much as I like the VT20 3D set, I’ll be going with the G20 series instead. It’s $1000 less, still THX Certified, and the 2D picture is amazing.

    If I do a 3D set, it will be a few years from now when the technology is cheaper, and when I’m ready to do a 65″ TV in a dedicated Media Room.

  3. Dougie Gee

    I also don’t understand this craze. I can hardly stomach the 3D premium the theater charges. I checked out the systems at BB and although it does work, I’m not sure that it is worth the money. Perhaps later on when the prices fall, but right now, the vast majority of content is animated. And although we do watch them, the vast majority of content is still 2D. So for the foreseeable future, we will stick with 2D. However, if I’m clever, I can probably find some killer deals from people that spent bank on premium 2D gear that just “have” to have the latest/greatest technology.

  4. Daniel O'Reilly

    Imagine if you wanted to have several people over to watch your 3D BD’s. Either you’d have to shell out the extra $$ to have glasses available for them, hope they had their own pair, have them take turns…It honestly just sounds like an unnecessary hassle and expense all around.

  5. James Ring

    I agree with the whole glasses issue. I work at a retail store and our Samsung demo came with two pairs of glasses which as of last week have been broken by kids already! I’m definitely waiting out the 3D as I feel it is a bit of a gimmick right now.

  6. I think 3d is pretty cool. I’m honestly okay with the whole glasses thing. Before Lasik I wore contacts, so the whole glasses under glasses thing for me was never a factor. And you only need to wear it for a movie in 3d, so not a big deal to me.

    But yeah the extra price for 3d, given the small catalog of 3d titles (and honestly only in a few of the movies does the 3d actually contribute to the movie rather than act as a gimmick). Just not worth it….YET.

    So I’m all for 3D. It’s the closest thing I’ll have to the holographic TVs I’ve been wanting since R2-D2 did the “help me Obi Wan Kenobi” playback. But yeah the price for 3D right now, just out of my budget. So I’ll wait a while till it comes down and becomes more affordable (which is always the case with technology).

    I can imagine it now…3D and D-Box…that would be some awesome stuff…although my fiancee and parents would throw up.


    • EM

      I sometimes chuckle when people make comments that emphatically oppose having to wear glasses to watch TV, as I have to wear glasses to watch TV anyway. However, I think the shutter tech is definitely not the way to go, given cost considerations for multiple simultaneous viewers and for replacements. Now, if you could get extra pairs for, say, ten bucks apiece, I wouldn’t mind so much.

      • Let’s not deny right now 3-d Technology is in the early adopter phase. I’m pretty sure very few of us shelled out the money when iphones were $600 (I did) and Plasma/LCD tvs first came out (running the same price as 3d tvs are now, probably more expensive considering the higher value of the dollar back then). Or heck even Blu Ray machines itself (Again PS3 was $600, cheapest BD player $500). for reasons such as “there are no HD channels out (still limited anyway)”, “very few BD titles”, “the iPhone is new technology let me wait a generation or two to let them kink out the bugs, etc. etc. etc.

        Anyway the Iphone within 1 year dropped from $600 to $400, 2 years later I think it’s $200. The PS3 took a little longer, but in what 3 years dropped to $300. Now there are much more HDTV channels to choose from. HDTVs you can get a decent 46″ for maybe $1400. Plenty of Blu Ray titles available.

        I’m sure 3-D technology will follow suit. Although you may need glasses (I think people won’t mind, you need glasses to watch them in theaters anyway). Unlike D-Box and things like that. You don’t need to buy extra (ungodly expensive) furniture that may not match your spouse’s taste to make it work.

        So a 46” 3d TV cost $2400 – expect that to drop to $1600-1800 in a year.

        Extra glasses – about $150-180 each. Again expect that to drop to $80-100. Or heck you may find knock-off ones on ebay for $30-50 straight from china. scratch that…you WILL be able to find knock-off version on eBay straight from China in about year, and I bet they’ll be some special type that works for all 3d tv brands too. (just don’t expect them too last that long)

        3d blu Ray player for $400 – I see BD players now for $150, I don’t doubt 3d Blu Ray players will also start dropping in price just as large. to maybe $250-300 maybe even $200 in a year or two.

        Making the grand total in the next year or two around $2.2k vs 3.5k.

        I guess the real thing is…as with any early adopting. is having the new technology (that will be crappier than next years cheaper version) worth the extra money to you? For most people know, for some others who want to show off their home theater for a year or two before their friends can afford the same stuff…it is.

        Sadly I don’t have that budget lol. But if I had the money laying around, I sure as hell would get it.


  7. RBBrittain

    You forgot one MORE potential expense: If you have an HDMI A/V receiver that handles HD audio via HDMI, to keep that with 3D you’ll need either (a) a BD 3D player with two HDMI outputs (IIRC most Pannys have them but I don’t know about your Sammy), (b) an HDMI 1.4 splitter, or (c) a new HDMI 1.4 AVR. Pre-1.4 HDMI devices (including AVRs & splitters, but not cables) almost certainly will NOT pass a HDMI 1.4 signal from BD player to TV.

    Your odds of avoiding this are better with a PS3 or other BD player using pre-1.4 HDMI with a B/C 3D signal; but there’s still a good chance older HDMI devices may block that signal, and it may limit your 3D PQ as well.