Home' LAPTOP Magazine : December 2010 Contents THE 3D LAPTOP EXPERIMENT
Will this trend fall flat or pick up steam?
During Best Buy's holiday preview event for the
media, a reporter asked what technologies
had failed to gain as much momentum as
the company had anticipated. The retailer's CEO
responded that 3D TV sales were not as high as
the company had hoped. He argued that part of the
issue was poor marketing, saying that 3D needs to
be positioned as a feature, not as the sole reason
to buy a brand-new TV.
Another issue, according to a recent survey just
released by Nielsen, is that many consumers simply
don't like the idea of having to don glasses to gain
an extra viewing dimension. Despite this rough start,
several PC makers are lining up this holiday to offer
3D-enabled notebooks, and it looks like they could
be an even tougher sell.
Right now, the leading technology for 3D laptops is
Nvidia's 3D Vision, which pairs active shutter glasses
with high-performance, 120-MHz displays. (There's a
competing software-based solution from TriDef, but
it's not nearly as immersive, and its passive shutter
glasses offer much narrower viewing angles.) ATI
has a competing technology to 3D Vision that also
uses active shutter glasses, which will power a new
version of the HP Envy 17.
What can you do with all this technology? Play
3D games with a new level of depth, and enjoy 3D
videos, whether from 3D Blu-ray discs (once they
arrive) or a small but growing selection of 3D online
content (such as this year's PGA championship).
Now that 3D-enabled cameras and camcorders
are starting to hit the market, 3D notebook owners
will also be able to view user-generated content on
their screens. And you don't necessarily need to
buy whole new Blu-ray discs for movies you already
own. Both the new Acer AS5745DG and Toshiba
Satellite A665 3D feature software that converts
2D images to 3D. Nevertheless, 3D notebooks face
some serious challenges.
Initially, 3D Vision-enabled machines cost at least
$1,500, but Acer just announced a 3D laptop with
Nvidia's technology that will sell for $999 (without
Blu-ray). Toshiba's latest Satellite A665-3D, which
includes a Blu-ray drive, sells for $1,299. While certainly
more reasonable than before, these price tags are still
well above the average selling price of a mainstream
laptop. If you purchased the above Toshiba with all
of the same specs and no 3D, you would be talking
about a $200 premium. The ATI-powererd HP Envy
17 3D starts at $1,599.
And then there are the glasses. In that Nielsen
survey, 57 percent of people said that glasses
were a major reason they were unlikely to buy a
3D TV. And 90 percent said the glasses would
hinder multitasking while watching television. That
multitasking includes using a laptop while channel
surfing, a very popular activity. The problem is that
you can't use the same glasses for 3D TVs as you
can for notebooks (nevermind the same glasses
for different brands of TVs), and no one is going to
switch between pairs. I'm not even sure consumers
want to wear glasses while using a 3D notebook by
itself. After all, many users switch between watching
video and doing 2D tasks all the time.
3D notebooks start to get more interesting
through technologies such as 3DTV Play, a soft-
ware update coming from Nvidia that will enable
consumers to attach their laptops to 3D-ready TVs.
That way you'll be able to kick back and enjoy all
sorts of 3D content on the big screen. However,
at least up until now, very few laptop owners have
bothered to connect their notebooks via HDMI
cables. It might take a wireless version of 3DTV
Play to make it truly compelling.
Now that tablets are starting to garner all of the
attention, it's easy to see why notebook makers are
pushing 3D as a way to make their wares stand out.
It's an exciting technology, and over time it could go
mainstream. However, in order for that to happen,
prices need to come down more; there needs to
be more 3D content (from the likes of Amazon,
iTunes, and Netflix), and the number of cameras
and camcorders that can capture 3D pictures and
video must grow. Most of all, the powers that be
need to establish industry standards for glasses
that can be used with both laptops and TVs. Until
then, 3D notebooks won't really pop.
LAPTOP | December 2010
NEWS & TRENDS
Editor in Chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP's online and print editorial content. He has been covering mobile and wireless technology for more than a decade.
Read his weekly SpoonFed column at www.laptopmag.com/spoonfed, and follow @mspoonauer on Twitter.
by Mark Spoonauer
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