Eyes-on with Toshiba's glasses-free 3D TV, out December in Germany

We thought we'd have to wait years, perhaps a decade, for glasses-free 3D TVs. But Toshiba has created a time warp and announced the first glasses-free 3D, the 55-inch 55ZL2, which the company says will go on sale this December.

Instead of glasses, the set has a film over it that directs left- and right-eye perspectives from nine points of view to produce stereoscopic 3D. Since a great deal depends on where you, the viewer, is sitting, the set has a camera behind the screen that tracks where you're sitting and watching from so it can adjust to you position.

How does it look? In third place behind active shutter, then passive (i.e. LG's Cinema 3D). You lose the in-your-face/floating kind of 3D were all used to. The 3D effect is flatter, with an upside of not as headache inducing since you're eyes aren't focusing as wildly.

Plus, as in past Toshiba glasses-free demos, the 3D is position-specific; move your head a couple of inches one way or the other and you get double images instead of 3D. You can also see the fine, thin mesh of the filter that creates the 3D, substantially lowering resolution.

In short, Toshiba may have jumped ahead, just not far enough. It's a step in a promising direction, but this initial glasses-free 3D is not ready for 3D prime time.

Along with 3D, the 55ZL2 can record to a connected USB drive (although this capability seems to be more a European thing than it is in the DVR-obsessed U.S.). Since the set was unveiled here at the IFA show, it will likely go on sale in Europe before it comes to the U.S. no pricing was mentioned.

Perhaps more immediately impressive was another first: Toshiba's Quad Full High Definition — so-called 4k2k HD — with a resolution of 3840 by 2160, four times the resolution of current 1080p HDTV. No word on when the first 4k set will be for sale.

A larger shot of the Toshiba ZL2 (click to embiggen):

Toshiba-ZL2-glasses-free-3DTV-2.jpg

Posted hands-on at IFA in Berlin.

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