In no time at all we've gone from having no 3D at all in home cinema, to more 3D than you can shake a stick at. This is because it's actually not hard to make a Blu-ray player that can handle 3D. The machine needs to be able to send the HDMI 1.4 switching signal to your 3D-ready TV, and handle sending two 1080p images in the time it would usually send one. Simple, right?
What's more complicated is persuading the recession-damaged British public to part with their hard-earned cash. There seems to be plenty of demand for 3D though, and with these players starting at around the same price as a normal Blu-ray player, if you were going to buy one anyway, perhaps now you'll think of getting a 3D machine?
The players listed here have a broad range of skills, and it's fair to say none of them is just your average Blu-ray player. Whichever you decide to buy, you'll be getting a great bit of kit for your three-dimensional cash.
It's good to see Panasonic has considered your existing home-cinema setup with its new 3D Blu-ray player, the DMP-BDT300. It's side-stepped the need for an HDMI 1.4 AV receiver by providing two HDMI outputs. This is useful, because existing, non-HDMI 1.4 AV systems can remove the 3D switching signal that new, 3D TVs use to enable their 3D mode.
In Panasonic's first player, one HDMI connection goes to your AV receiver, and carries the sound, while the other goes direct to your 3D TV, with its 3D switching signal intact. This means, for home-cinema enthusisasts with expensive audio systems, you won't need to replace absolutely every piece of hardware you own. Just the TV and Blu-ray player will do.
Aside from that, the DMP-BDT300 has the usual high-end features of Panasonic's Blu-ray players. It has jitter-free audio, thanks to the company's ingenious engineers. Wi-Fi is built-in, giving you access to Blu-ray interactive features on the Internet, and Panasonic's VieraCast online service, without the need to run cable around your lounge.
Panasonic's DMP-BDT300 will cost you around £450.
It stands to reason that Sony, which owns a movie studio, wants 3D to be a massive success. So it's going out of its way to extend 3D compatibility to as much of its range as possible.
As of right now, Sony PS3 owners can download firmware update 3.30 which enables support for 3D games on the console. Blu-ray movies in 3D won't, however, be supported until much later this year. Even so, PS3 owners must be thrilled at how much value they can squeeze from their console, which has always been a very capable Blu-ray player as well as a games console.
If a standalone player is what you want though, the BDP-S470 is the machine for you -- Sony has thrown a whole bunch of new features at it. So not only do you get access to 3D HD video, but you can also stream movies from LoveFilm and, soon, watch BBC iPlayer on it too. Sony is also providing a free app for the iPhone and iPod touch that offers full control over the player from your mobile device.
The PS3 costs about £250, but isn't the best 3D solution right now. If you're more desperate for top-notch 3D, the BDP-S470 will set you back about £190.
LG, it seems, is something of a 3D powerhouse. It's the only company to offer both active and passive 3D TVs. It's also partnered with Sky to get 3D TVs into as many pubs as possible, in time for Sky Sport's 3D launch. It's got a 3D Blu-ray player too, called the BX580. It has the usual Blu-ray profile 2.0 features you would expect and builds on LG's brilliant media player devices, allowing you to watch video in a whole host of popular codecs, including H.264 and DivX.
To sweeten the deal, you'll also get the usual YouTube and Picasa support that's so common on networked players. Wi-Fi features too, as does DLNA, so you can stream video and other media from PCs on your home network. Interestingly, the LG BX580 can also, at the press of a button, listen to music on a Blu-ray or DVD movie and use the Gracenote database to identify it. Now that's clever!
The LG BX580 is expected to cost around £300 when it launches.
The C6900 is Samsung's debut into the 3D Blu-ray arena, and it's an interesting one, especially in terms of looks. It has a clear window on the top, revealing the spinning Blu-ray beneath. It's fair to say this is a stylistic inclusion, not one that will yield any huge performance benefits.
Like so many Blu-ray players these days, online apps feature strongly. There's YouTube video to watch, and streaming services like Netflix are provided on the US version, so perhaps something similar will launch in the UK with Lovefilm and iPlayer too. The C6900 also boasts a 'screen fit' feature that turns 2.35:1 video into 1.85:1 ratio. It's reasonable to assume this is utterly dreadful, and we can't think of a single reason for its inclusion at all.
The C6900 is around £300, and is already starting to hit shelves across the land. In the US, if you buy both a Samsung 3D TV and a 3D Blu-ray player at the same time, the company will throw in a 3D starter pack, with two pairs of glasses and a 3D movie. No word if that deal is coming to the UK, but it seems likely it will.