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Active vs. Passive 3DTV Glasses

Active vs. Passive Glasses 3DTVs
Just when we thought everything was stabile in the 3DTV world and it was safe to buy an active shutter 3DTV along came passive 3DTVs. Passive 3D is nothing new, it’s commonly found in many 3D-equipped movie theaters. The passive 3DTVs being offered by LG and Vizio use circular polarized glasses from a company named RealD.
First, the Bottom Line
We’ll supply some details below but in case you’re short on time and just want to know which type of 3DTV you should buy we say there is no clear winner but active shutter still appears to offer the best image quality especially for sets larger than 37-inches. Yes, passive glasses are lighter, much cheaper, don’t need batteries and can easily be made with prescription lenses but most people who have seen the 65-inch Vizio VT3D650SV passive 3DTV say the interlaced lines and lower resolution is noticeable.
How They Work
Active shutter glasses use an IR beam from the TV to synchronize LCD shutters in the glasses which trick the brain into thinking it’s seeing one 3D image from two alternating frames. Active shutter 3DTVs require higher frame or refresh rates but can deliver a full HD 1080p picture to each eye. Circular polarized passive glasses send different images to each eye by interlacing or sending alternating lines within one frame. For this reason passive 3DTVs will not be able to display full HD 1080p images in 3D until higher resolution TVs like UHDTVs become available 5 years from now or some new technology like RealD’s RDX technology becomes commercially available which probably won’t be anytime soon. On the other hand, Passive TV scan lines which are noticeable on Vizio’s large screen TV may not be as noticeable on smaller screens just as the difference between 720p or 1080i and 1080p is less apparent on TVs smaller than 37-inches.
Neither One is Perfect
Active shutter glasses cost around $130 - $150 a pair compared to Passive’s $10 - $30. Active glasses are also heavier and will require you to replace the button cell battery after a few hundred hours of use unless you buy a rechargeable pair. Active 3DTVs are also susceptible to crosstalk or ghosting which causes double images. Reviewers of the new Passive Vizio 3DTV say these problems are almost non-existent however, one reviewer noticed the entire 3D effect faded away and double images appeared when viewing the screen somewhat above or below the center line. This same reviewer noted that this could be a big problem with passive 3DTVs mounted above a fireplace or high on a wall.
Passive 3DTV Jaggies
The drawback that makes us inclined to recommend active glasses technology at least in larger size TVs is passive 3DTV’s seemingly step backward into the days of interlace TV. Consumer Reports although impressed with the Vizio TV made note of the compromised image quality: “In addition, we saw jaggies on the edges of objects, especially on diagonal lines. For example, in the opening credits of Monsters vs. Aliens, the DreamWorks logo features a boy with a fishing pole sitting on the moon. On the Vizio, the fishing pole looked like a dotted line; with the Panasonic the pole was a complete, unbroken line.”
Passive Compatibility
If you’re willing to overlook the jaggies or as some say, a screen door effect, in large-screen passive 3DTVs, there are some practical reasons to go with passive glasses. For one thing there hasn’t been a standard established yet for active glasses so the pair you buy for your Panasonic 3DTV may not work on your friend’s Samsung 3DTV. Passive, circular polarized glasses on the other hand, should be compatible among passive 2DTVs and should even work in RealD-powered movie theaters so you can buy a designer pair from someone like Marchon Eyewear or Oakley or get a pair of prescription glasses and bring them with you to the movie theater.
Conclusion
If you’re looking for the best image quality from your 3DTV you’ll want to go with an active glasses 3DTV from someone like Sony, Samsung or Panasonic. If inexpensive and light weight glasses are the most important factor consider waiting for a smaller size passive 3DTV from someone like Vizio or LG.
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