Samsung has been actively waging a campaign against passive 3D TV technology (Ok, maybe not so “active,” but I liked the joke), even hosting press events to show journalists the difference between their displays that use active glasses and a competitor’s passive displays (To be fair, LG Display has also held press events doing essentially the opposite). So it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn that Samsung and RealD—the company behind most of the passive-3D commercial theaters—have formed an agreement to jointly develop 3D TV LCD panels that use passive polarized glasses.
Of course, there’s a significant difference here. The passive 3D panels produced by LG Display, and used in new LG Electronics Cinema 3D TVs, some Vizio TVs and potentially some Toshiba TVs, use a technology called Film Pattern Retarder, which uses a system of polarizing filters to send a different image to each eye for a 3D viewing experience without active-shutter glasses. The catch though is that the system delivers only half resolution to each eye, which means that your left eye and right eye, individually, aren’t seeing full 1080p high definition. The proposed Samsung/RealD system is designed to deliver full 1080p resolution to each eye, thereby eliminating the main concern of many video critics.
“Full resolution viewing is key to experiencing 3D as a filmmaker intended, and when combined with the comfort and practicality of RealD 3D cinema glasses, this display technology will set a new standard for 3D in the home,” stated a RealD press release. The press release notes that the new technology is able to achieve full resolution by incorporating active shutter technology in the display itself, rather than in the glasses. The glasses would then be ordinary circular polarized 3D glasses such as you’d get in a RealD 3D cinema—in other words, cheap glasses.
“3D displays should not compromise image quality by degrading resolution, it’s simply not the premium viewing experience consumers have come to expect from 3D” said Bob Mayson, President of Consumer Electronics at RealD.
Samsung says the technology will be available in PC monitors up to 27 inches sometime next year and in TVs up to 55 inches at an unspecified time after that.
I’m pleased by this new development, as would be anyone who’s had to wield battery-powered active glasses to enjoy a movie. How this news will impact Samsung’s active-shutter TV business is yet to be seen. It could be a few years until we actually see these products at home theater sizes.
On the other hand, I’ve been spending time with a 55-inch LG Cinema 3D TV lately (review to come soon), and overall, my impression of passive 3D so far is pretty good. Yes, the system does impact resolution, but it’s not as noticeable as I expected, and on Blu-ray discs, the picture is perfectly acceptable (resolution not necessarily being the most critical factor in picture quality). However, 3D cable content takes a double-whammy hit, which I’ll explain further in the coming review.
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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.