Unless you've been on a Club 18-30 trip to Mars or something, you will likely have noticed that something called 3D has become rather big news.
3D isn't, of course, a new concept. It's been around in a commercial cinematic form since the 1950s. And it's made a few generally ill-advised and largely unpleasant appearances on TV over the years, too.
But it's back in the headlines - and TV manufacturers' minds - again this year for two very good reasons. First, Avatar. James Cameron's 3D trailblazer has awoken a desire for 3D in the cinema-going audience that most of us didn't even realise we had.
But 3D is also back in favour because of HD. For it turns out that if you make 3D HD, it suddenly looks a whole lot better. Which is great, except for one little thing. The 3D HD process has required the creation of new technologies that our old TVs can't handle. So if you want 3D HD, you're going to have to invest in a brand new TV. Again. Ouch.
Price: £2,200 More info: Panasonic Model: Panasonic TX-P50VT20 Size (without stand): 1,224 x 771 x 90 mm Weight: 27.5kg Screen: 50in Resolution: 1920x1080 Native aspect ratio: 16:9 Claimed max contrast ratio: 5,000,000:1 Claimed max brightness: 500cd/m2 Connections: Four v1.3 HDMIs; component video input, D-Sub PC input, Ethernet port, two USB ports, composite video input, analogue audio output, 21-pin input, PC audio input, service port 3D glasses: No (one pair on application) Internet TV: Two pairs
To try and take some of the pain out of this situation, we've got together the first two 3D TVs to hit the UK: Samsung's 46in LCD (with edge LED lighting) UE46C8000, and Panasonic's 50in plasma TX-P50VT20. And we've put them through their 3D paces using exactly the same source material, to see which if any has the 3D edge.
These 3D sources, in case anyone is wondering, are as follows: Sky's already-broadcasting (on channel 217) 3D channel, showing a combination of showreels and full footie matches; Monsters Vs Aliens on 3D Blu-ray; and the 3D HD Avatar game on the Xbox 360.
Before getting into the key 3D stuff, we should say that the Samsung set wins hands down on the glamour side of things, with its superbly slim design and gorgeous metallic finish. Panasonic's plasma model looks chunky and old-fashioned by comparison.
Both sets are similar when it comes to features, with both featuring special panel drivers designed to improve 3D performance; both featuring online connectivity and DLNA PC streaming; and both featuring powerful motion processing systems - with motion deemed to be one of the trickiest areas to deal with when watching 3D.
Price and peripherals
Both TVs are similarly priced, too, at around the £2,100-£2,300 level - though the Panasonic model is, of course, 4in larger.
One key difference, though - aside from the fact that one uses an LCD panel while the other uses plasma - is that Panasonic includes two pairs of 3D glasses with its P50VT20. This is a significant gesture when you consider that the glasses, with their active shutter technology, cost around £100 a piece if bought separately.
Samsung, on the other hand, will only send you a single set of its glasses once you've registered your TV purchase with them.
Please note that rather unhelpfully - though actually understandably if you consider the differences we're going to find between the two screen's 3D approaches - Panasonic's glasses will not work with Samsung's TVs, and vice versa.
Although there are already a few 3D sources available, Samsung has thoughtfully included a 2D-3D conversion system on the 46C8000, which uses clever processing to let you watch anything you like in 3D. Panasonic's set doesn't have this feature, but before you get too excited by it, it should be said that while better than expected, the results of 2D to 3D conversion aren't a patch on a full source-to-screen 3D experience.