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Do You Prefer Active or Passive 3D Flat Panels?

Yesterday, I posted a blog mourning the premature death of so-called "active retarder" 3D technology. That leaves two types of 3D flat panels to duke it out—those that quickly alternate the left and right images on the screen synchronized with active-shutter glasses and those that use a film patterned retarder (FPR) to alternately polarize the odd and even lines on the screen, which are isolated for each eye using passive-polarized glasses.

There are many pros and cons to consider with each technology. Active-shutter glasses unequivocally provide full 1080p resolution to each eye, but they also block more light from reaching the eyes than passive glasses, so the image is typically dimmer. In addition, many people complain about seeing a flickering effect with active glasses that is nonexistent with passive glasses, and active systems are more prone to crosstalk/ghosting. And don't forget that active glasses are much more expensive than passive glasses, not to mention that active glasses are heavier, bulkier, and require replaceable or rechargeable batteries. On the other hand, while FPR displays often have a wider horizontal viewing angle, they have a much narrower vertical viewing angle. And they might not deliver full 1080p to each eye, though this is hotly debated, as discussed in my recent blog.

So which 3D flat-panel technology do you prefer—active-shutter glasses as championed by Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, and Sony, or FPR with passive glasses as espoused by LG, Toshiba, and Vizio? If you haven't actually experienced them, which one seems more appealing to you?

Vote to see the results and leave a comment about your choice.

Do You Prefer Active or Passive 3D Flat Panels?

JustinGN's picture

For me, it's more a matter of health. For whatever reason, displays with a lot of flickering (CRT televisions, cheap DLP/LCD sets, early Plasmas, etc) give me migraines with just half an hour of viewing since my eyes can actually pick up the constant flickering of the display as it refreshes. With Active Shutter glasses, the problem becomes even more pronounced (odd, I know, since it's faster than standard 60Hz NTSC), and I quickly become sick with a massive headache and, at one point, almost threw up. Needless to say, neither of those reactions equate with an enjoyable 3D experience.

Passive panels, like the one used in the 3DS, or passive displays (such as cinemas or LG's 3D Cinema displays) don't give me any of those problems, and I find myself able to easily enjoy the picture for extended periods of time without fatigue or eye strain, provided the picture is also rather bright. Demoing some displays in Best Buy, I was also far more impressed with the 3D effect from the LG sets, than I was from offerings in the Active Shutter arena from Panasonic or Samsung. Resolution is a problem with passive displays, but hopefully we'll see this round of 4K panel innovation eliminate that by using the extra resolution available in 4K to display the entirety of both 1080p 3D frames simultaneously. Guess we'll see, eh?

Anyways, that's my "preference" I suppose.

Jarod's picture

I've demoed almost every 3D panel on the U.S. market over the past year in dozens of brick and mortar and mom and pop A/V store and I can clearly see across all brands that to my eye Active is superior. Active gives you a true hi def image unlike Passive, which because of current technology cannot deliver a true 1920x1080 image. There's always a trade off though. Passive has less resolution but battery free glasses that are way cheaper are tempting for families with kids. Also Passive glasses never seem to flicker unlike with certain situations with Active, like looking away from the screen and certain things in the room will flicker if the room isn't darkend. Flicker iin Active panels is very very minor tho. I have movie parties in my home theater almost every weekend and out of all the guests only one of the 20 or 30 different people even noticed it wasn't until I tried to point it out with the lights on. Obviously a very small amount of people find it to be an issue or even can notice it. Thing is the only way I could enjoy the image of every passive set I've seen is to set much further back than usual, like 10 feet for a 50in. Not cool. Up close say within 6 ft and there was a screen door effect on every passive LCD or LED panel out there. Its not a myth. Its there just go take a look for urself. But like the fella above said each person finds one tech more comfy to ones eyes than the other so less resolution and havingnto set further back is ok for some. Not this cat. Anyway, I ended up choosing Active for my new 3DHDTV by ways of a Panasonic plasma 55-ST30 because in the end, I'm a videophile on somewhat of a budget and Active gives me the best 3d home experience, with no uncomfortable side-affects. Nothing but cinema like or better 3D. Now in public cinemas Passive 3D, such as RealD 3D and IMAX 3D, are of top notch pq quality.

chrisheinonen's picture

Having seen a lot of displays and projectors, the only Active 3D that didn't really bother me was the SIM2 demo at CEDIA this year, which looked very nice I thought. Passive 3D I can easily sit back and watch a movie without eye strain or headaches. The loss of resolution bothered me when watching Tron Legacy, as the large amount of bright diagonal lines on a black background accentuated the resolution issue, but watching something like The Lion King was fine, and the resolution loss wasn't nearly as visible.

Until I can get active like SIM2, or passive like Runco, I'm likely to just hold off watching much in 3D unless I need to, but given the affordable choices now, I'd still take passive as active just causes me far too much eye strain.

steve1971's picture

3D is a fad and I have no use for it. Never have and never will. To me its just a waste of time and money.

Toushirou1989's picture

right now i dont like watching 3D movies and shows. right when i watch them like 10 to 15 mins in to watch them i will get a headache witch is not cool at all. and i have issues foucsing on 3d movies as i have astigmatism. plus i dont go to the movie to be in the movie more just in mores in the movie in 2D.
i dont plan on getting and 3d tv more the fact they are to price for me as i could barely get a 32in tv that was a little over $300. if the can get 3d tv down in price the will replace my tv right now i would go and get one but at this point i will not sped 2k or more on a tv when i dont even like 3d.

sedonamike's picture

You have to realize that in all electronics there is the good, the marginal and the ugly. Active requires a hotter picture due to the loss in brightness, even in a controlled lighting environment. So it is important to be able to set a TV set up, or in my case, a projector, to kick up the brightness substantially when displaying a 3D picture with active technology. Unfortunately not many sets offer this, so you can have “good” "active" success. As brightness improves, and sets supporting "active" technology have easily switchable brightness settings the experience will become more enjoyable and transparent. It is a process, and it is expensive to do it "right" the first time, however there are many sets where the experience is enjoyable plus the higher contrast of sets give standard Blu ray discs and 1080p sources a depth that was unattainable several years ago. Just wait - it all improves.

Halfmoonent's picture

Unfortunately, I and my wife, and we're told, as many as 8% of the viewing public, can not see in 3D regardless of the technology. To view 3D, one must see out of both eyes at the same time. I am far sighted in one eye, and near sighted in the other so only see out of one eye at a time depending on the distance of the object I am viewing. I was hoping that active shutter 3D glasses would work for me as they switch back and forth between eyes but for some reason that doesn't work ether. Maybe my brain can't switch fast enough? Sadly, I'll never know what three dimensions look like .... lol