Toshiba leaps ahead of 3D TV rivals

Toshiba has taken a significant lead over Sony and other 3D technology rivals with the unveiling of the world’s first glasses-free, large-screen 3D television at the IFA Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin.

The 55-inch (140cm) set will go on sale in December, months and possibly years ahead of such TVs planned by other manufacturers.

Sony has been the market leader in 3D TVs, but its sets continue to use battery-powered glasses to achieve their effects. Some consumers have been put off 3D TV by the need for special eyewear. Sir Howard Stringer, Sony chief executive, said sales dipped after reports last year that glasses-free TVs were on the way, but had since recovered.

“When glasses-less television is as perfect as our high-end 3D glasses, then we will do it. We could go now, but the question is timing,” he said.

Kaz Hirai, head of Sony’s new consumer products and services division, said that glasses-free 3D TVs had to be affordable and be the best quality. “Consumers expect at least the same or a better experience than with glasses. We want to make sure we provide that as opposed to being first to market with bad 3D.”

However, Toshiba has announced that the display of its TV – the 55ZL2 – is capable of four times the quality of current full high-definition sets.

This allows it to show separate images in 3D to people sitting in different parts of a room; a previous limitation of glasses-free 3D has been the need to sit directly in front of the television to get the effect.

Toshiba’s technology delivers nine sets of 3D images to overlapping zones and uses an embedded camera to determine the position of the audience in front of the TV.

The Japanese company did not announce the price of the new television.

Toshiba also laid down a challenge to Apple’s MacBook Air and iPad at the IFA show, by announcing the world’s thinnest and lightest laptop and tablet.

The Portege Z830 laptop weighs 1.1kg and is one of the first examples of an ultrabook – an Intel specification for thin and light laptops that imitate the characteristics of the MacBook Air.

The AT200 tablet is 7.7mm thin and weighs just 558g despite having a 10.1-inch (25.7cm) screen. This makes it thinner and lighter than the iPad 2 and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Samsung has become the main challenger to Apple’s tablet dominance and it unveiled a 7.7-inch version of its Galaxy Tab at the show. It also announced a combination smartphone/tablet with 5.3-inch screen called the Galaxy Note.

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