Overall Grade: B+
Summary: Lots of content, though quality and 3D effectiveness vary. The focus on live music is very appealing — but do we really need comedy shows or Guy Fieri eating in 3D?
Overall Grade: A-
Summary: A better and more diverse content library, with impressive original series. If there's no 3D Blu-ray movie handy, I’m likely to turn first to 3net.
Overall Grade: Incomplete
Summary: Given its limited availability on DirecTV, I can’t give ESPN 3D a fair grade, but based on the single show I watched I have to give it lower marks for 3D image quality.
If you were around during the launch of high-def TV, you may remember an interesting phenomenon: People with HDTVs became oddly knowledgeable about esoteric topics, such as the migratory patterns of North American birds or the concept of Dark Matter.
That’s because when the first HDTVs arrived, people starved for native high-def content were all tuned into Discovery HD, one of the few networks broadcasting it. The situation is a little different now that 3D TVs have arrived. There’s actually a decent amount of 3D content — beyond 3D Blu-ray movies, there are now three full-time HD networks. You don't have to settle for the drama of seabird flight.
What you’ll get, however, depends on your service provider. Luckily I have DirecTV, which has staked its claim with 3D enthusiasts by offering all three full-time 3D networks: n3D, a channel the satellite company launched in partnership with Panasonic; ESPN 3D, a which went 24/7 just a few months ago; and 3net, from Discovery, Sony and IMAX, the newest 3D channel to arrive.
I checked out the 3D networks using a 50-inch Panasonic VT25-series 1080p 3D TV, paired with a set of first-generation Panasonic 3D glasses. All the programming was fed to the TV using DirecTV’s HR24 HD DVR outputting 3D in the side-by-side format. Here’s what I found:
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