3D Home TV: Passive & Active Comparison

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July 2022 update: years have passed and I was looking forward to 3D Passive with 4K TV but things have changed. The YouTube channel Linus Tech Tips summarizes it quite good in his May 14, 2022 video titled “Was 3D TV actually poo?”. I can also add that after watching many 3D movies that you get used to the 3D and it’s not as magical as the beginning. Seems like the brain gets used to the effect and you don’t see it as much. Add also the fact that the movie industry doesn’t try much to make the 3D effect really stands out for many different reasons. Turns out the viewing angle matters so much it’s a bit of a problem.

I was fortunate enough to test in the comfort of my home a 3D Passive TV for a full month, watched around 15 movies on it and then quickly test a 3D Active TV with the same movies but just watching parts of them for a comparison. Most of the differences between the two can be found on the web, however most blogs tested pre-2012 TV’s and some points they make are exaggerated, here’s a new simple 2013 comparison of my own personal experience dealing with two different 3D technology.

Both TVs were tested by being plugged into my computer. They both had to be set to “Gaming” mode so that the refresh rate doesn’t add a delay lag. I only tested movies, nothing else like video games.

The first TV I tested is a 2013 LG 55LA6205, LED, 1080p, 120 Hz, 3D Passive and the second one is a 2013 Samsung PN51F5500AFXZC, Plasma, 600 Hz, 3D Active.

Specifications of the LG 55LA6205 and Specifications of the Samsung PN51F5500AFXZC.

For a very short conclusion, 3D Passive win because it only took me 80 minutes of watching Green Lantern in 3D Active to start developping a small headache. This technology is also quite tiring on the eyes, I could feel it the entire time I was watching the movie even after just 5 minutes. It wasn’t pleasant at all. Green Lantern is packed with a lot of action but I watched other action movies with 3D Passive, even two movies in a row and never had any problem. Continue reading as to the why I think 3D Passive wins overall.

Let’s talk first about the picture quality, the Samsung TV wins, you can definitely see a much better quality with 3D Active. But by saying that, it really doesn’t mean that 3D Passive is bad looking, the quality is still there and it’s still quite good! The Samsung Plasma is quite proud to have a 600 Hz refresh rate, altough it’s a bit of a marketing hype, Plasma do have an awesome refresh rate. Does it make a big difference compared to a mere 120 Hz of the LG? A bit, but really not much. Even the LG has a fast enough refresh rate so that our human eyes barely see a difference.

Viewing angle: Another point where the Samsung Plasma win is the viewing angle, you can really go at a steep angle and still watch the movie without any distortion. It’s quite different compared to the LG LED! But, honestly, who watch a movie at an angle? This is such a useless comparison.

Brightness: Which brings me to the brightness of both technology. A 3D Active glasses have special lenses which darkens the vision much more than with 3D Passive. You have to set the brightness to the maximum allowed on the TV and it’s not enough, be prepared to watch a movie that is quite dark. A 3D Passive TV do have this problem but to a much lesser extent.

Ghosting: There isn’t much ghosting with the LG TV, however you have to be at the right angle when viewing the TV. Don’t tilt your head too much, don’t watch movies while laying on your side on the couch. Don’t be too low or too high compared to the level of the TV. It might sound bad, but if you just sit normally, you’ll be fine. 3D Active doesn’t have that much requirements but the TV I tested suffered from ghosting a bit more. Ghosting is really annoying.

ghosting on 3d television

Glasses: The weight of the glasses for a 3D Active TV is heavier, it is however, not a big deal, the glasses they make today in 2013 are light enough to not be annoying. What’s annoying is that they are rechargeable; meaning you need to recharge them or buy new batteries all the time. They are more expensive too, ranging from 30$ to 200$ each. 3D Passive glasses are cheap, very lightweight, no battery in it, hassle free.

Depth: The depth of the 3D was the same on both technology. Both are good but none of them pop-up like what you see in movie theater, like you can almost touch it. On both TVs you can configure the “depth” if you want more or less. It doesn’t make much difference to change it but it creates more ghosting. I would advise to not touch it at all.

3D home TV, though not perfect, are still a great enhancement. There’s more to come with 4K TVs. Although not much people have tried it yet in early 2013, supposedly 3D Passive will have the same picture quality as 3D Active with 4K movies. They’re also supposed to be around 9 GBs per hour so they can be streamed or downloaded. It’s definitely something to look for when their prices will come down around 2016.

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