I came home from last week’s Consumer Electronics Show with six new pairs of 3D TV glasses, none of which work with the two 3D TVs I currently have in my house. That’s because all the glasses I left Vegas with are the polarized variety and not active shutter glasses, which all 2010 consumer 3D TVs utilize.
Several manufacturers (LG, Toshiba, JVC, Sharp, Philips, Vizio) touted the benefits of Film Pattern Retarder (FPR) TVs—the technical, and really awful, term for the technology that works with passive polarized 3D glasses.
Passive polarized glasses have three major benefits over the active shutter style: the glasses a smaller and lighter; they’re much less expensive (under $20 compared to $150 and up); and they don’t require any batteries. Furthermore, most of the passive glasses are compatible with most FPR-style 3D TVs as well as most commercial 3D theaters, so you can take your glasses from home over to the local digital cinema.
On the other hand, say the makers of non-passive 3D systems, FPR TVs have some significant drawbacks: the polarization process cuts the vertical resolution in half; the polarizing filter may reduce the TV’s light output; and they have a narrower vertical viewing angle.
Active shutter glasses also have flat lenses, like goggles, while passive glasses can be curved. Flat lenses can contribute to back reflection when light leaks in from the side. Best use them in the dark.
No plasma TVs use passive polarized glasses, because plasma technology is fast enough to not produce crosstalk, and the polarizers would reduce the light output too much.
We haven’t spent enough time personally with these systems to say who’s right, but at least it makes for a lively debate. And proponents of both technologies are doing their best to make their glasses fashionable.
By the way, the polarized glasses used with the new breed of 3D TVs don’t make very good sunglasses. They use circular polarization, rather than the linear polarization of regular sunglasses (so they’re useless against glare), and the tint is very slight.
Here’s a look at some of the glasses you may be spending time with later this year.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.