Touring the Toshiba Booth – CES 2011

Posted Thu Jan 6, 2011 at 04:35 PM PST by Dick Ward

Toshiba’s new crop of HDTVs is solid and offers compatibility with a wide range of digital media files as well as a great look. The really exciting stuff though is the glasses-free 3D that’s set to hit the market before the end of 2011.

If you’ve been hesitant to get into 3D technology because of the need to wear glasses, Toshiba’s got some nice surprises for you. Not only do they have prototype 3D displays that actually look pretty good, but they’ve set a date for release.

The company, which showed off a 56 and 62 inch glasses-free 3D display at CES today, is expecting to have at least one available to consumers be the end of 2011. Well, fiscal 2011 anyway, which ends in March of 2012.

I got to check their current displays out and they look pretty good all things considered. They’re not perfect – nowhere near it – but they’re a big step in the right direction.

The displays use parallax technology to create the 3D effect, which means you’re limited to only a few good viewing angles. At the show there were three sweet spots for optimal viewing and it was immediately evident when I wasn’t standing in one.

When I stood in the right spot as marked by a few pieces of tape, the difference was huge, and the quality of the experience jumped up. Things also improved when I went from the 62 inch screen to the 56. The larger screen looked fine in the center but lost the effect around the edges.

The experience is completely dependent on where you’re watching from and off-angle viewing is dreadful. Unlike other similar displays though, you’re getting HD from Toshiba’s, but just barely.

The company is using 4K2K panels for their parallax displays so that the loss of resolution wasn’t as bad. They didn’t have resolution specifics but they did say that the glasses-free sets were “on the low end of HD.”

Toshiba also brought a glasses-free 3D laptop which offered a bit of an improvement in the tech. It uses a built-in webcam to track your head movement and aim the 3D effect directly at you, eliminating the awkwardness associated with parallax.

If you move away or turn your head, the display reverts to 2D, ensuring that you’ve got a clear picture no matter what.

The 2011 line of Toshiba TVs is nice looking though most models didn’t offer significant upgrades. At the top of the line is an active-shutter 3D set that offers local dimming, playback of digital content and built-in Wi-Fi, but it’s the model a step down that I found most interesting.

Toshiba’s entry-level 3D television is a passive display, which means you won’t have to deal with active shutter glasses. It only provides a 540p resolution when in 3D, but it could be a great set for those still toying with the idea of a transition to the third dimension. It’s also bound to be relatively affordable, but pricing information was not yet available.

The final piece of tech Toshiba showed off was voice control. It won’t be available for a while and you’ll need a separate Skype webcam to use it, but it seems like a pretty decent idea. You clap your hands to signal that you want to enter a voice command then say the command.

I played around with it a bit and found it to be surprisingly responsive, especially considering the crazy amount of background noise on the show floor. I can’t imagine actually buying a webcam to use it, but Toshiba says that it may be baked right in to future TVs.

You’ll be able to find pictures of the Toshiba booth of The Bonus View later today.

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Tags: Toshiba, glasses-free 3D, HDTVs, CES 2011 (all tags)