Since unveiling it at E3, Sony’s marketed its PlayStation-branded 3D Display (MSRP $499.99) as a compact piece of hardware perfect for bedrooms and dorms. But selling it as an addition to smaller gaming spaces seems to suggest it’s targeted to those who’d use it solely as a secondary setup to their already kick-ass extra-dimensional entertainment center. Thing is, if you’re anything like us, you’re maybe thinking of investing in your very first 3D display, not shopping for a backup you can use while lounging in your bed made of gold bricks. While we’re not sure the product’s being directed at the right audience, there’s no question it’s a neat little tech toy and an affordable ticket to the possible future of gaming.
Its biggest hurdle is its size. Honestly, how do you convince consumers to drop five bills on a 24” screen when they can get double the display real estate for less money? Unless you think of it as a giant PSP – which it sort of looks like – there’s no denying its diminutiveness when you pull it out of the box. Surprisingly though, the size practically becomes a non-issue once you allow that extra dimension to swallow you up for a few minutes. Sure, it’ll take some adjusting to if you’re used to staring at a screen twice the size, but as anyone who’s ever been engaged by a portable game already knows, the content eventually overshadows the platform it’s being delivered on. If you can get lost in a feature film playing on a smart phone, you’ll have no problem forgetting you’re trekking through Nathan Drake’s latest on a screen that’s shorter than your arm.
Of course, it helps that the 3D effect is more game-changing than gimmicky. We’re not fanboys of the tech’s recent pop-culture takeover; we find most films don’t utilize it in any meaningful way and we almost always play our 3DS with the slider turned off. That said, we were pretty damn impressed by the visual trickery’s ability to further immerse us in titles we’d already played in two dimensions. It doesn’t hurt that Sony’s got a solid first-party lineup – Killzone 3, Resistance 3, Uncharted 3, MotorStorm: Apocalypse – ready to leverage the pop-off-the-screen tech. From MotorStorm’s flying debris to Uncharted 3’s stretching vistas, the effect provides both in-your-face thrills as well as subtler feelings of being encompassed by a game’s world. While these blockbuster-inspired experiences are the most obvious showcases of the tech’s eye-popping ability, it was Shadow of the Colossus that made us a believer – you haven’t truly taken down one of the towering titans until you’ve done it in 3D.
Those new to the tech will be most impressed by its immersive magic, while videophiles will have some reasons to nitpick. Issues inherent to 3D, such as ghosting and flicker, occasionally rear their ugly heads; again, newcomers won’t notice so much, but those who’ve previously gamed in three dimensions will want to tweak the settings to alleviate these issues as much as possible – backlight, brightness, contrast, color hue, sharpness, and color temperature options are available for fiddling. The bigger problem is the display’s mirror-like reflection; almost any light source, no matter how minor, will cast an annoying glare. This obviously isn’t a problem when playing in a dark room at night, but you’ll have to get creative when the sun’s still up. Drawing the shades and tilting the screen away from any rogue rays worked best for us.
While 3D gaming is its surface draw, Sony’s packed some other features into this baby as well. Most notable is SimulView, which allows two players to see their own screens while engaging in a competitive or co-op mode that’d ordinarily require the screen to be split. Both must wear glasses, and the 3D is traded for the dual-screen effect, but it’s still a cool addition that works well. It’s not reason enough to drop your change on this bundle, but it’s a nice bonus that couch co-op addicts will surely appreciate. It’s also important to note the 1080p LED display, even when viewed in good old-fashioned 2D, is gorgeous – colors are vibrant, contrasts sharp, and details crisp. There’s no built-in TV tuner, but it’s worth plugging in your cable box or satellite dish to see how brilliant your favorite shows look on this display.
A pair of HDMI inputs and one for component HD also allow you to hook up other hi-def toys. Additionally, stereo speakers – which nicely flank the entire edges of the display –and a built-in rear subwoofer, do a surprisingly decent job delivering robust audio. The sound’s no substitute for a dedicated audio system, or even a quality pair of gaming headphones, but given the unit’s small size it boasts a good bit of ear-rattling. The bundle also comes with a copy of MotorStorm Apocalypse – which serves as a nice show-your-friends example of the 3D – and an HDMI cable. Sadly, there’s no remote control and only one pair of 3D specs, so if you plan on taking advantage of SimulView, be prepared to plunk down another $70.
Sony’s attempt to attract the masses to 3D gaming is still a bit too pricey to get those who weren’t already tempted by the technology on board. While it’s undoubtedly a niche offering, anyone who’s been waiting for an affordable way to test the extra-dimensional waters won’t find a better deal. On top of the added immersion of playing in three-dimensions, you’re getting a versatile HD display and a nice value-added feature in SimulView. Oh, and don’t let its size fool you – whether playing in a dorm room or living room, it’s easy to forget you’re playing on a 24” display when a sun-eclipsing colossi is trying to reach out and smash you.