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Active 3D vs Passive 3D

Which technology works best?

Which 3D TV technology will come out on top? We put three 3D sets side by side to see which 3D tech is the right choice.

Our test results

We watched two test scenes - the opening segment of Resident Evil: Afterlife and the opening segment of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - using a Sony PlayStation 3 to play the 3D Blu-ray discs, and an HDMI splitter to send the video signal to all three TVs at once.

Patrick's take
I have never been a fan of active-shutter 3D glasses because they're simply too heavy for me to enjoy comfortably, and Sharp's included 3D glasses were no different. After the first few minutes, I had got used to the feeling somewhat, but it was still annoying. Without a doubt, passive 3D glasses are lighter and cheaper, and generally make for a more pleasant overall 3D experience.

The big question, of course, concerns the image-quality trade-off. After all, what's the point of shelling out for a really nice LED-backlit 1080p 3D TV if it's just going to look like a low-quality YouTube video once you put the glasses on? The kids might not notice during their ninth time watching Ice Age 3, but 3D tech already has an unfortunate reputation for appearing 'blurry' to begin with, and further degrading the image quality simply isn't a good look.

While we were watching Resident Evil: Afterlife, I immediately noticed the image-quality problem with the passive glasses: The image seemed interlaced, as though I were sitting a bit too close to an older TV and could see the individual lines that composed the whole image. Say what you will about active shutter glasses - they don't look like that. (One of the drawbacks of reviewing TVs is that once you see something like that, you can't really un-see it, even if you're just trying to kick back and enjoy a movie.) The image through the active-shutter glasses, by contrast, looked crisp and clean.

By the time we made it to Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, however, my eyeballs felt a little more forgiving with the passive glasses. If I focused on a particular section of the screen for a prolonged period of time, I'd find myself getting annoyed at the interlaced effect again, but if I watched the clip the way I normally watch a movie, it looked fine.

I did notice that the LG passive 3D set produced a slightly 'deeper' 3D effect than both the Vizio and Sharp sets. The raindrops in Resident Evil and the cloudy cheeseburger from Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs both popped out a bit more on the LG set - meaning that while the choice of 3D tech is important, it isn't the only determining factor when it comes to how good 3D stuff will look on your TV.

NEXT PAGE: Tim's take

  1. Which technology works best?
  2. Our test results
  3. Tim's take
  4. The verdict

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