CES 2013: Philips shows off glasses-free 4K 3D TV

One of the most notable aspects of this year's CES has been the almost total lack of discussion about 3D by the major TV manufacturers. It's almost like they want to sweep the very notion under the carpet, so lukewarm has been the response from consumers.

But one company is bucking the trend: Philips. Why? Because it has what it considers to be the key to 3D's success: glasses-free viewing.

Now of course we've seen this before. We've already reviewed Toshiba's 55ZL2, and elsewhere you can read about Stream Technologies' Ultra D glasses-free system.

But here at CES we were given a private demo of Philips's prototype 4K 3D TV. It's work in progress for now, so not the finished article, but a sign of the company's commitment to the technology. "We believe 3D TV will only take off when it's glasses-free," says Philips.

The prototype uses a 60in 4K panel and a lenticular layer to create the 3D image without the user having to wear 3D glasses.

We were shown a series of 3D animation trailers including clips from Ice Age: Dawn of Dinosaurs and Despicable Me. The 4K panel delivers a 1080p image that's an improvement on the lower resolution system used by Toshiba.

Philips says up to ten people can view the screen while remaining in the 3D 'sweet spot'. In fact, there's a little blue light at the bottom of the screen which shows you if you're in the right position for 3D viewing - if you can see two blue lines, you need to move slightly until you can only see one, then the 3D effect will snap into place.

Four of us we're viewing the screen at a distance of 3.5m, and we were all able to see a clear 3D picture. The closer you get, the smaller the sweet spot.

All the 3D processing is done by the set itself, and it uses fixed lenses for its lenticular display, rather than switching ones, and is set up to produce a 1080p image (despite being a 4K panel).

Philips says the set will cost about the same as a native 4K TV, but there's no confirmed release date yet as this is still an engineering prototype.

Also on the Philips stand, but hidden away from public view, we're some exciting new TVs. Unfortunately, information on those is under embargo until February 21st, but be assured we'll bring you all the news about Philips's 2013 TV range as soon as we can.

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Andy Clough

Andy is Global Brand Director of What Hi-Fi? and has been a technology journalist for 30 years. During that time he has covered everything from VHS and Betamax, MiniDisc and DCC to CDi, Laserdisc and 3D TV, and any number of other formats that have come and gone. He loves nothing better than a good old format war. Andy edited several hi-fi and home cinema magazines before relaunching whathifi.com in 2008 and helping turn it into the global success it is today. When not listening to music or watching TV, he spends far too much of his time reading about cars he can't afford to buy.