So, as I explained last week, forget about affordable or even workable glasses-free 3D for the foreseeable future. If you want 3D at home, you're stuck with one of two glasses-wearing options: "active" 3D HDTVs, which requires you wear glasses powered by batteries, or "passive" 3D HDTVs, which use the same sunglasses-like 3D glasses you use in a movie theater.
Before you say "I really don't care about 3D," bear in mind one thing: all 3D sets, regardless of active or passive, because 3D requires the highest-level of TV technology, are always going to be the best 2D HDTVs available and likely will be internet-connected "smart" TVs. Even if you swear you'll never wear glasses to watch TV at home, these 3D sets are nearly future proof.
But at least you don't have to make a 3D HDTV decision in the next 10 days. Fox isn't broadcasting the Super Bowl in 3D (although there will be a celebrity beach flag football game shown in 3D).
We now return to our regularly scheduled post.
Passive 3D at CES
At the recently concluded CES, JVC, LG and Vizio unveiled passive 3D HDTVs, although none gave pricing or availability details.
Will these passive 3D HDTVs be more or less expensive than active 3D HDTVs? In December, Vizio announced the first passive 3D HDTV, a 65-inch LED LCD model priced at $3,700, which is cheaper than many non-3D sets the same size. I don't expect JVC's or LG's passive 3D models to come in that cheaply, however, but my guess is they'll be priced similarly to active 3D models.
We do know the less sophisticated and battery-free passive 3D glasses will be much less expensive than active 3D specs, $20-$30 as compared to $125-$150 for active glasses. Vizio, for instance, is including four pairs of glasses with its passive 3D sets; active 3Ds usually are packaged with one or two pair.
I don't know when or how much the passive 3D's will be, but I did get a chance to see how do they look.
How passive 3D measures up
Technically, passive 3D can't look as good as active 3D. I had previously noted passive 3D is half the resolution of active 3D, and that's half right. Passive 3D resolution is actually 1920 x 540 for each eye, as opposed to "full HD" active 3D, which provides a full 1920 x 1080 image to each eye. If my math is right (never a sure thing), passive 3D is three-quarters of active 3D's resolution. (Is he right, class?)
(These figures represent the number of lines in a TV picture, and each line is comprised of dots. 1080/540 are the number of horizontal lines, and each of these horizontal lines is comprised of 1,920 pixels, each of the 1,920 vertical lines is comprised of 1,080 pixel, all of which creates a grid of more than two million pixels).
With only half the horizontal resolution, passive 3D can't look as good as active 3D. But will you notice these 500,000 missing pixels?
I did. At least I think I did.
How passive 3D looks
Both the JVC and LG passive 3D HDTVs looked shiny – sort of like the sheen cheap polyester pants get after being washed too often. I also detected more "ghosting" – sort of an after-aura surrounding moving object edges. Maybe it was the power of suggestion, knowing about the missing pixels, but I also sensed something was missing from the picture.
Vizio's passive 3D set didn't suffer from either of these deficiencies, which was a bit surprising since LG supplies Vizio its 3D panels. One reason may be the ambient lighting. I studied both the JVC and LG sets under the glare of the bright lights illuminating the Las Vegas Convention Center show floor. Vizio's wares were displayed under far dimmer lights in a showroom in the Wynn Hotel.
Another reason for the difference between my perception of the JVC/LG sets and Vizio's may be processing. Vizio's passive 3D set is already on sale, so the processor controlling the 3D image is a finished product. Since neither the JVC nor LG models are as yet on sale, they also may be as yet unfinished.
All of these passive 3D sets, though, paled in comparison to the master of 3D at home, the Panasonic TC-P65VT30, an active 3D plasma, on which I was mesmerized by the 3D Blu-ray of Avatar.
I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me that Panasonic or – no 3D for me.