At this point, many of you are probably starting to think this is all sounding too good to be true. And to some extent you’d be right, for the 3D-XL approach to 3D does come with a fairly heavy-duty string attached: its maximum output resolution is 1,280 x 720 pixels, rather than a full HD 1,920 x 1,080. In other words, your full HD Blu-ray discs will end up being downscaled, leading to an inevitable loss of resolution that could be quite poignant at the sort of large image sizes delivered by projection systems. The picture quality will also be at the mercy of the downscaling engine employed by the 3D-XL box - and given how cheap this box is, it’s hard to imagine this scaling engine being very special.
Physically speaking, the 3D-XL is a surprisingly diminutive device, and unstylish with it - essentially it looks like an escapee from the kit rack of a physics lab. Connections to its rear comprise two v1.4 HDMI inputs (with audio support), and a single HDMI output, along with a 9-pin RS-232C control port. To the unit’s fore, meanwhile, are simple buttons for power, input selection, and 'SBS Mode' - where SBS stands for, of course, side-by-side. You have to press this to alert the box to the presence of an SBS 3D feed rather than a frame packed one.
And you really do have to press this button. For annoyingly, the 3D-XL doesn’t ship with a remote control. Bang goes our couch potato lifestyle, then!
Firing up the 3D-XL in conjunction with the Optoma DW318 projector and donning the ZD201 glasses is best described as an interesting experience rather than a brilliant one.
On the upside, images from all our 3D sources really do look resolutely 3D, with a depth of field to rival that seen with most of the full HD 3D displays we’ve seen. Even better - and this really is an unexpected pleasure - 3D images look almost completely devoid of crosstalk (double ghosting). Even the notorious Golden Gate Bridge sequence in Monsters Vs Aliens looks as clean as the proverbial whistle. Excellent.
The ZD201 glasses do join many other brands of 3D active glasses in knocking quite a bit of brightness out of the picture, though. Mind you, given that the DW318 projector is apparently designed to push brightness over contrast (black levels look poor if you watch it in 2D mode), the toning-down effect of the 3D glasses is actually quite welcome!
There are bigger issues, though. First, the lack of detail and sharpness of 3D Blu-ray playback compared to what we’re accustomed to seeing on full HD 3D displays is obvious, despite the impressive absence of crosstalk noise. The image looks more like high quality standard definition than full high definition. In fact, the 3D-XL arguably delivers sharper results with Sky’s side-by-side broadcasts - perhaps because these broadcasts are starting out with a lower resolution than the Blu-rays, and so the 3D-XL’s processors aren’t having to work so hard.
It’s perhaps also as a result of the projector’s processing that moving objects on 3D images, especially Sky/Xbox side-by-side ones, can look a touch flickery - as if they’re moving in water.