Rich Warren: Clearly, 3-D TV wasn't the hit makers expected

You voted with your wallets, and I commend you. The electronic pundit consensus conceded that 3-D TV fell flat. The electronics industry tried to foist 3-D television upon you for the past three years, and you weren't buying it.

While 3-D TVs were common around the recent International Consumer Electronics Show, they were not the hot ticket. The industry shifted its focus to the new 4K, also known as ultra-high-definition TV. This will be great for those of you watching beach volleyball or golf from the Sahara desert, since you should be able to see individual grains of sand. For the rest of us, unless you plan to view a screen larger than 60 inches, you won't notice much, if any, different.

Before you rush to send me an email, those with great vision who are truly concerned with the utmost resolution will notice a difference. For the rest of us, Lasik surgeons will be standing by.

Meanwhile, I recently viewed a 3-D Blu-ray disc of "Hugo" on a good, non-3-D LG TV. Interestingly, several scenes seemed to pop out as if in 3-D. This effect did not rival real 3-D, but it certainly provided greater depth to normal 2-D.

At CES, Vizio grabbed a lot of attention with a proto-type 4K 3-D TV that requires no glasses if you sit in one of nine "sweet spots" while viewing the picture. If you move out of the "sweet spot" the picture merely collapses to 2-D but remains completely viewable. Vizio announced no pricing or retail date.

Apparently some of the technology comes from Dolby Labs, which is collaborating with Philips on glasses-free 3-D TV technology. This 3-D technology requires a 4K TV to retain high resolution.

Since 4K provides more visual information than necessary for screens smaller than 60 inches there's plenty of data to spare for the 3-D image. Prices for the first few years will be astronomical, but should show up at Sears in four or five years at "popular" prices.

Vizio continues giving the old, established, big-name TV manufacturers a run for your money. Think of Vizio as the Southwest Airlines of TVs. It is providing the latest technology on good quality sets for a few dollars less than Samsung, LG and the rest of the crowd.

You even can buy Vizio TVs at Target, as long as you don't need knowledgeable sales help about the fine points of HDTV.

More on RCA tablet.

A friend in the radio business read the column about the RCA tablet with the TV tuner, and wondered who actually makes the RCA tablet.

RCA does not actually exist. RCA went broke in the mid-1980s and was acquired by General Electric. GE only wanted the NBC television network, so it sold the electronics division to France's Thomson Consumer Electronics. TCE also acquired most of Technicolor in 2001.

Here's where it become increasingly convoluted. Three years ago, Thomson changed its corporate name to Technicolor. Since Thomson acquired RCA, it proceeded to spin off various parts of the former RCA. The final destruction came with the closure of RCA's Indiana factories and sale of the name to the Guangdong-based Chinese company TCL, founded in 1981. TCL also bought the Alcatel mobile phone business. TCL even makes some of the modules for Samsung TVs.

Most recently, TCL bought the Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles and renamed it the TCL Chinese Theater.

TCL does not manufacture or market all of the former RCA products. Most remnants of RCA are made in China, by other companies, including the popular Superadio III, (called the GE Superadio outside the U.S.) which you can often find at Farm & Fleet for $45.

In answer to my friend's question, the 8-inch screen RCA Mobile TV tablet is manufactured and marketed by Digital Stream, a South Korean-based manufacturer of portable and mobile TV products.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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