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Active vs. passive vs. glasses-free 3DTV Guide | CNET Asia

November 30, 2012

It has been almost three years since 3D TVs first appeared in the consumer market. Now, there are three predominant 3D display technologies used by the TV manufacturer. Panels based on active shutter 3D goggles are the first to arrive on the home 3D entertainment scene. This was quickly followed by their passive 3D glasses counterparts, as well as glasses-free versions which have only been recently debuted.

While all three flavors are far from perfect, each of them offers some unique propositions that will likely appeal to different users. Here is an overview of what you can expect in terms of performance, comfort, usability and costs.

Samsung UA55ES8000 active shutter 3D TV.


A capable 3D TV should deliver strong depth without ghosting or crosstalk. Currently, both active shutter and passive models generally produce stronger depth than their glasses-free rivals. Meanwhile, passive and glasses-free TVs are noted for their crosstalk-free visuals compared with some active shutter models which still exhibit light ghosting.

Another important factor if you have a room with stronger ambient lighting is the screen brightness. The glasses-free 3D TVs excel in this area because they do not employ 3D glasses with tinted lenses. Passive 3D TVs are also better than active shutter models with “shuttering” goggles which block up to half of the brightness.

It would have appeared that passive 3D TVs are the best as far as picture quality is concerned except for one major caveat. Observant viewers who prefer to watch 3D content from short viewing distances may notice jagged edges and alternating black lines.

Active shutter Passive Glasses-free
Pros Strong depth; crisp visuals Strong depth; crisp visuals; brighter images than active shutter TVs Crosstalk-free; brightest pictures; accurate hues
Cons Mild crosstalk; halves the TV’s screen refresh rate; dimmer images than passive 3D TVs Jagged edges and black lines when viewing 3D movies at shorter distances Shallow depth; blurrier background 3D objects; 720p effective resolution in 3D
Verdict Good Good Average

Comfort and usability

Without cumbersome and bulky goggles, glasses-free 3D TVs boast the most comfortable and natural 3D viewing experience here. A small drawback is the mandatory calibration to optimize onscreen 3D effects according to each user’s seating position.

LG 55LM8600 passive 3D TV.

We also like the lightweight passive 3D glasses, though the newer active shutter goggles are only slightly heavier. However, these passive models are known to have limited horizontal viewing angles. The active shutter equivalents also tend to blackout when tilted to 90 degrees and can flicker visibly in bright rooms. Moreover, they run on batteries which have to be regularly replaced or recharged.

Active shutter Passive Glasses-free
Pros Very wide viewing angles Flicker-free; lightest 3D glasses; eyewear runs without batteries Most natural way of viewing 3D
Cons Mild flickering; heavier 3D goggles; glasses require regular battery charging Limited horizontal viewing angle Supports only up to nine viewers
Verdict Average Good Good


Here are three high-end panels to help illustrate the price disparity between the passive, active shutter and glasses-free 3D TVs. All these models feature an LED-edgelit panel with a 55-inch screen size and the Toshiba 55RZ1 is the only large-screen glasses-free 3D TV available in Asia.

Active shutter Passive Glasses-free


(Samsung UA55ES8000)


(LG 55LM8600)


(Toshiba 55RZ1)

Based on the latest pricing, the total cost of ownership for a Samsung UA55ES8000 comes up to around 30 percent higher than the LG 55LM8600. For the price of a Toshiba 55RZ1, you can also easily purchase two Samsung UA55ES8000 or three LG 55LM8600.

Toshiba 55RZ1 glasses-free 3D TV.


At this point in time, an active shutter or passive 3D TV is probably a more logical choice for most users. Aside from a higher price premium, most active shutter 3D TVs can deliver good picture quality in darker rooms. If you have a limited budget, nothing beats passive 3D displays with their equally strong 3D visuals, save for the visible artifacts at close viewing distances.

With better performance and affordability, glasses-free 3D panels will be a lot more appealing, but not for now.

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