I recently got a chance to watch a demo of a 3DTV for the first time. The setting was a Sony Store, watching their high end model in one of the demo rooms. The content was a demo played from a Sony Blu-Ray player. I always assume demo content like this was hand-picked to show off the system in the best possible way.

My very first impression was that it was stunning. The clip was from a football game, and shots from the sidelines showed a depth that was truly impressive. It was easier to discern the angles and positioning of the players than on a traditional TV.

After watching for a few minutes, and seeing a few different media types, I was less impressed. First, I was increasingly distracted when the 3D effect was applied in situations in which it didn’t enhance the subject on screen. For instance, in dialog scenes, the 3D effect made me pay less attention to the dialog. This might be because I was conscious of this being a 3D set and this might diminish over time.

The glasses get annoying pretty quickly. As glasses go, they’re bulky and obtrusive. They’d definitely get in the way of a shared viewing experience, since they block a good deal of your peripheral vision.

Most importantly I became aware of, and distracted by, a really annoying flickering. Now this might be this particular TV, but since it was a flagship model in a brand store, I imagine that it’s likely an effect on other sets too. I’d compare the effect to looking at a computer monitor with the refresh rate set very low, but this was more pronounced. I was in a good demo environment: sitting down, directly in front of the TV, about 12 feet back. The light was a bit high since it was a store, but I wouldn’t say it was overly bright.

The effect was severe enough that once I got past the “wow” factor of the initial football clip, which was easily the most impressive and compelling demo on the reel, I would have walked away were I in the market for a new TV.