Q: How does regular 2-D content look on a 3-D set?
A: Absolutely fine. In fact, since the display of 3-D video requires a high level of precision and fast screen refresh rates, these sets are particularly well equipped to handle regular 2-D high-def video.
Q: Does 3-D work for everyone?
A: Nope. Some people get headaches or nausea when watching 3-D. And some — estimated at 5 percent to 10 percent of the population — just don't experience the 3-D effect.
Q: What's available to watch?
A: Not a whole heck of a lot right now. The highest-quality experience comes from 3-D Blu-ray discs, but there are only about 30 movies in this format so far, and many of these are aimed at kids. DirecTV and some cable providers offer a smattering of 3-D programming, but it's nothing like what's available in regular high definition. For many people, buying an HD set made sense because broadcast and cable channels adopted the technology quickly and delivered a wide array of shows in the new format. Three-D is nowhere near that point today.
Q: What's the bottom line?
A: If you're shopping for a high-end HDTV anyway, there's very little price difference between 3-D and 2-D models today. Gary Merson, editor in chief at HDGuru.com, ballparks the difference at about $150. What's more, he points out that after disappointing holiday sales, dealers and manufacturers are aggressively discounting to clear out excess inventory, leading to even smaller differences. Of course, that doesn't include the cost of extra 3-D glasses. A selection of sets that work with passive glasses won't be available until later this year, so if that option sounds intriguing, you might be better off waiting. But there's nothing in the works that will make current active-shutter systems obsolete.
A point to consider if you are shopping: plasma HDTVs do a better job with 3-D content than LCD models, and also offer better viewing angles overall for those seated off-center.
If you already own an HDTV you like, though, upgrading just to get 3-D capability doesn't seem prudent at this point. There's not a lot to watch, new options are on their way in the not-too-distant future and prices aren't rising any time soon.