Consumer electronics makers have been toying with the idea of glasses-free displays ever since the onslaught of stereoscopic screens in recent history. Toshiba, Intel, ASUS, and LG have all dabbled with it at some point in time, including a handful of 3D displays crafted for notebooks. As for stereoscopic televisions, however, Toshiba is said to be the first to push a glasses-free 3D TV to the consumer market with their recent introduction of the 55-inch RZ1 in Asia, alternatively known as the ZL2 in the US and the UK. Today, we had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Quad Full-HD screen to determine if the it was worth the wait, and if its glasses-free 3D technology was mature enough to win consumers' hearts. Here are our initial observations of Toshiba's 3D LED-backlit TV (which does 2D to 3D conversion too) as well as the smattering of updated Satellite and Qosmio notebooks. Toshiba's media event was held at Scape earlier today.
Toshiba's RZ1 flagship display looks pretty much like any other 3D TVs with its relatively nondescript looks. That is, till you get to its 3D side of things. So how does this glasses-free business work exactly? We understand from Toshiba that the panel is divided into nine viewing zones. And each of this zone boasts of its own set of tiny lenticular lenses, designed to project left and right eye images to create a stereoscopic effect for the viewer. In essence, there are technically nine 'sweet spots' you can lounge in to enjoy this 3D babe. This swanky TV is driven by Toshiba's video engine, or the (rather mouthful) Regza Engine Cevo Duo S. Now, here's the catch. Something needs to be done before you embark on the glasses-free experience though. The TV has to lock your face's position via its face-tracking application. Thankfully, it doesn't require a complicated setup. Just hit the button on the remote and the TV's built-in camera (located just below the panel) would do the rest. We also understand from Toshiba that this procedure isn't critical, although it's highly recommended that users complete this to "optimize the viewing zone", if we may quote Toshiba. Generally, the glasses-free experience was more of a miss rather than hit for us. There were frequent instances of crosstalk no matter how we realigned our viewing positions. And although the TV was equipped with markers to help us locate an ideal spot, the ghostly images persisted despite numerous tries on our part. Toshiba admitted that the TV might have been mounted a tad too high after we consulted them. On the bright side, there were moments when the 3D depth was ample.
As mentioned earlier, this model boasts of a Quad Full-HD resolution. That's 3,840 by 2,160 pixels, or four times the typical Full-HD resolution if you will. Although a larger resolution is always a bonus, we have to keep in mind the current standards used by industry players too. For instance, most terrestrial broadcasts are still being transmitted at 576i, while digital HD channels go up to 1080i at best. Toshiba was also kind enough to demonstrate how the TV's scaler (Resolution+) fleshed out 1080p sources on its 4K screen. Images were crisper and slightly more defined with Resolution+ enabled. However, we observed that the HD noise levels were similarly amplified as well. Although we didn't get to see how the RZ1 managed SD content, one can only imagine the quality of a 480p clip on the 2160p panel. We'll have to test the TV for ourselves so as to determine how capable their video scalers truly are. Of course, the RZ1 was a force to be reckoned with when native 4K content is displayed. Toshiba was unable to confirm its price as yet, but you can expect the RZ1 to hit shelves sometime in early June. We're anticipating a huge four-figure sum at the very least.
When it comes to televisions, smaller is probably better for Toshiba. Apart from their current 55-inch ZL800, the majority of Toshiba's HDTVs are packaged in 46-inch profiles or smaller. And the same can be said about their new Power TV series, which include a 23, 32, and 40 inch models featuring LED backlights and a narrow bezel design. More precisely, the 23-inch panel will carry edge-lit LEDs, while the larger 32 and 40 inch models will boast of a full-array configuration. Unlike the flamboyant RZ1, the new Power TV PB200 series packs a more conventional Full-HD resolution (23-inch and 40-inch models) as well as Toshiba's Regza video processing engine. Strangely, the 32-inch set is limited to a HD-ready screen estate.
Then again, everything else is rather unexciting with the new Power TVs. The PB200 models are equipped with two HDMI ports, two composite inlets, a single component jack, and a USB slot. There are no Smart TV components if you're wondering, so don't expect to find any Ethernet ports on these offerings. Some of the newer features on the Power TV series include Contrast Booster, designed to automatically tweak luminance adjustments so as to improve color gradations. Equipped with a 'soundbar' stacked below the panel (much like the ZL800), Toshiba has augmented their speakers with a Bass Booster as well - one which "generates extra sound waves at different frequencies in the bass band" to improve the TV's bass quality, as stated in Toshiba's press release.
The 23-inch model (23PB200E) is already available in stores and at Toshiba's authorized resellers. On the other hand, you'll have to wait till late May or early June for the bigger 32-inch and 40-inch models to arrive on our shores. Price wise, the compact 23PB200E is priced at a very affordable $399. In our opinion, this 23 incher can also double up as a desktop monitor if you like. The 32PB200E and 40PB200E will cost you $599 and $899 respectively.