PlayStation 3D Display review: Sony's gateway to 3D for newbies

There's no shortage of 3D displays and TVs available for purchase these days. To many, the extra couple hundred — or sometimes thousand — bucks isn't worth the extra "D," but prices are slowly coming down from a year ago.

Sony isn't giving up the 3D dream, though. The company is gambling hard on 3D tech, this year releasing the 3D TVs you'd expect, as well as some crazier options in the Personal 3D Viewer or 3D binocular camcorder or 3D cameras. Now with store shelves full of 3D-enabled PlayStation 3 games, so something like this only makes sense.

The PlayStation 3D Display is Sony's latest 3D consumer goodie and it's aimed squarely at college dorm rooms. Think of it as the startup kit to suck non-believers into the 3D vortex. So, will it claim you, too?

Forget Split-Screen, SimulView Is The Future

The biggest selling point for the 3D Display isn't that it does 3D for $500 (you can buy some 3D computer monitors for way less than that), but that it's capable of displaying two completely different fullscreen pictures simultaneously. When SimulView is triggered, instead of split-screen multiplayer, each player sees their own screens, without being able to see their opponents' screen.

The magic is in the 3D glasses. Both players will have to wear their 3D glasses when SimulView is on and the picture each player sees is in 2D and not 3D (the 3D glasses send two left video signals to Player 1 and two right video signals to Player 2), but boy does it feel good to not have to use half a screen for multiplayer games.

Despite some initial fears of potential "ghosting" or "image chafing," the 3D Display works as advertised. I didn't notice any of those issues while racing through MotorStorm Apocalypse or co-oping in Killzone 3 because of the 3D Display's fast 240Hz refresh rate.

At this time, only a handful of games support SimulView (MotorStorm Apocalypse, Gran Turismo 5 and Killzone 3 to name some), but Sony promises that more games will get SimulView patches down the road. Quickly, now!

What You'll Like About It

For a $500 bundle, Sony includes a lot of stuff in the box: the 24-inch 3D Display, a copy of MotorStorm Apocalypse, a pair of active shutter glasses (with felt drawstring bag) and an HDMI cord. The display itself can output full 1080p HD (1920x1080) 3D video at 240Hz and has two HDMI ports, one HD component output, and a 3.5mm audio jack. Sandwiching the display are two fairly loud speakers complemented by a subwoofer around the back. Subwoofers are great when they actually enhance low-pitch audio to give it that "boom," but this one never got my heart racing or anything.

To my delight, putting the 3D Display together was super easy and I had the everything ready in literally under a minute. Attaching the screen to its stand is a snap, lock and twist away and requires no tools. Best of all, the power unit is built into the display's slim panel, which is a pro and a con because it keeps the display nice and slim, but at the same time it also gets really hot on the back.

As far as the 3D Display's actual performance goes, I found it to be fairly sharp for the most part, but picture quality can go from pleasant to hell in a matter of seconds. Calling the 3D Display a glare machine is an understatement because sometimes, you can even see the reflective glare inside of the 3D glasses, reflecting whatever's behind you inside of the lenses. Cranking the brightness all the way up helps to get around the glare problem, but that brings with it another issue: colors become washed out.

From my testing, 3D feels pretty intense, and never eye-straining thanks to the comfy glasses. You definitely feel like you're more immersed in a game when rubble is flying in your face in Motorstorm Apocalypse or you're sneaking through the grass in Socom 4.

However, like 3D movies, your 3D mileage is going to vary from game to game. Some games work better in 3D than others. Thankfully Sony's pushing some really good first-party 3D titles to convince 2D non-believers that 3D is worth the extra buck.

What It Could Do Better

One of the first things you realize after unboxing the 3D Display is that it doesn't come with a remote control. That would have been fine (this isn't a TV after all) if only the volume, menu, 3D and video input buttons weren't located on the backside.

While pressing the rear buttons do bring up an on-screen menu of the corresponding commands, it's still a hassle when you have to peer around back to figure out which buttons you're pressing. Gamers who want to adjust the display in the dark will find the button placement to be very inconvenient.

Worse is that the PS3's DualShock controller can't be used to control any of the 3D Display's settings, either, (Sony recommends buying one of its new PS3 media remotes). So much for this being a "PlayStation" display.

For a small dorm or bedroom, Sony's 3D Display is a welcome addition. Because it's so small, it isn't going to replace your huge living room HDTV, but it does the job for close-range gaming and watching 3D movies.

The Final Verdict

The PlayStation 3D Display's compelling SimulView is enough of a selling point to convince gamers, but at the same time, the number of games that take advantage of the feature are few (for now). You'll have to decide for yourself if the feature is worth $500.

On the plus side, the included 3D glasses are universal active shutter ones, so it should work with any compatible 3D TV that takes them, regardless of manufacturer, which is perfect if you need a spare pair.

Rest assured, the 3D Display works just fine in 2D mode and is an excellent second monitor for your PC or laptop (I hooked it up to my 13-inch MacBook Air with Mini DisplayPort to HDMI connector). The stand can even be adjusted to a 15-degree slant for those who want the option.

Glare issues aside, for $500 with a free game tossed in (hope you don't already have MotorStorm Apocalypse!), the PlayStation 3D Display bundle makes for a great and easy way to enter the world of 3D. Just know that it's no 55-inch 3D TV and that not every all 3D games support SimulView. If that's still alright by you, and want a decent 3D display, this one works well.

All photos taken by Raymond Wong for DVICE

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