Whether you’re delaying buying a 3D projector because you already know it won’t work with most of the sources you want to use it with, or you already bought one and then found out the bad news the hard way, the Optoma 3D-XL ($400 street) projector accessory could easily be the solution you’re looking for. Quite simply, it gives you a quick and easy way to turn 3D-ready into 3D-really, letting you watch 3D movies, TV, and games both in 3D and at the large size you can get only from a projector.
The 3D-XL’s sole purpose is to convert common 3D formats that won’t work with today’s projectors into a format that will work. Most of today’s inexpensive 3D projectors support DLP-Link and will work with a 3D computer that includes a Quad buffered, Open GL 3D-compatible graphics card. But that’s pretty much it.
At this writing, projectors have yet to move up from HDMI 1.3 to HDMI 1.4, so they won’t work with anything that requires an HDMI 1.4 port. Unfortunately, that includes Blu-ray players in general and at least the PlayStation 3 among game boxes. These projectors also tend to lack the settings that would let them show the 3D format that most cable boxes and the equivalent (like FIOS) use. What you’re left with is a 3D projector that’s mostly limited to 2D.
Optoma 3D-XL View SlideshowSee all (5) slides
Enter the 3D-XL. Plug it in between your projector and those pesky 3D sources it can’t handle, and suddenly you’ve got 3D. It’s just that easy. Read on.
The 3D-XL measures just 1.2 by 11 by 7.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 2.4 pounds. Connectors on the back include two HDMI 1.4a inputs, one HDMI 1.3 output, an RS-232 port that you can use to control the unit from a PC, a USB service port for potential firmware upgrades, and a port for a potential upcoming optional IR emitter, according to Optoma. The emitter, if it becomes available, would add support for non-DLP-Link 3D glasses.
A slide switch on the back lets you choose between setting up for a single projector, with up to 720p 3D and 1080p 2D versus setting up for two projectors (which also requires two 3D-XL units) for up to 1080p 2D or 3D. For most people, that would be overkill, however, and they would need a professional installer to set up the two projectors properly.
Setup for a single projector, on the other hand, is almost trivial. Connect either one or two video sources to the HDMI inputs, connect your projector to the HDMI output, and plug in the power cord. The output mode slide switch comes set to the 720p 3D / 1080p 2D position, with clear plastic taped over it to ensure that it comes out of the box set for 3D and takes a conscious effort to change the setting.
Using the 3D-XL is just as simple. To watch in 2D, turn on your video source, projector, and the 3D-XL, and then, if necessary, press the button on the front of the unit to pick the right HDMI input. To watch in 3D, do whatever you have to at the source and at the projector to turn on the 3D features. For some sources that use a side-by-side format, you also have to press the SBS button on the front of the unit. In other cases the unit switches to the right format automatically.
Once everything’s set up, you can put on a pair of DLP-Link glasses, turn them on, and watch in 3D. Note that one pair of glasses comes with the unit, and you can get additional pairs from Optoma ($99 street). However, the 3D-XL should work with any DLP-Link glasses. Current prices at this writing start at about $70 each.
Optoma 3D-XL The Details
I tested the 3D-XL with a Sony PlayStation 3, using both 3D games and 3D Blu-ray discs, as well as with a FIOS set-top box, which uses side-by-side 3D format. For the projector, I used the Editors’ Choice Optoma GT720 ($800 street, 4 stars), which offers a native 720p resolution. There isn’t much to say about the results other than confirming that the 3D-XL worked as promised.
The two key issues you need to check before buying the unit are compatibility with your projector and compatibility with the video source. Optoma says that by the time this is posted, there should be a list of compatible projectors on its site. Note that the list isn’t likely to include every compatible projector, since the unit should, in theory, work with any 720p 3D ready projector that supports DLP-Link. However, the list will include projectors that Optoma has tested.
On the video source side, if the source you want to use isn’t one of the ones I tested, you should also check the format it uses. Optoma says that in addition to FIOS, it supports both Comcast and DirectTV. Beyond that, the Optoma 3D-XL is compatible with eight formats: side-by-side at 1080i50 and 1080i60 and both frame-pack and over-under at 1080p24, 720p50, and 720p60. If your cable company uses any of these, the 3D-XL should be able to handle it. For game playing, note that Optoma says that the unit works with Xbox 360 in addition to the PlayStation 3.
The one complaint I have about the Optoma 3D-XL is decidedly minor, namely that the slide switch on the back is mislabeled. The single projector position is marked as 720p 3D, which implies that you have to switch to one of the 1080p positions to watch 1080p 2D. This is confusing enough that even our contact at Optoma thought this was true (and confirmed it to us as true) until after we originally posted this story. The problem is that until you figure this out, you’re likely to waste time and effort moving the switch back and forth when you don’t need to.
Once you know this little secret, of course, there isn’t really a problem. But it would still be better if Optoma relabeled the switch to read something like: Single projector, 720 p 3D / 1080p 2D. With or without the labeling fix, however, if you want to watch Blu-ray 3D movies using your projector, the Optoma 3D-XL is the only game in town. Given how well the unit works, Optoma 3D-XL easy to recommend.