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Active v Passive 3D TV: Which One is Best?

3D TV is all the rage at the moment and is certainly one of the most increasingly popular technology ‘must-haves’ for 2011. But do you really know how 3D TV works and which one is best for you?

Once only available at selected cinemas across the country, over the last few years 3D TV has moved from the cinema firmly into British homes making significant breakthroughs in the world of sport and movies in particular. Sky in particular has made a firm commitment to 3D technology across a number of their most popular channels including sport, movies and documentaries.

Sky recently offered the ‘Haye v Klitschko’ heavyweight fight in 3D, and they plan to show more Premier League football matches in 3D this season, too. The BBC has also got in on the act, showing both of the recent Wimbledon Singles’ Finals in 3D.

It’s not just sport that is benefitting either. Broadcasters are waking up to the fact that the viewing experience can be considerably enhanced for movies and documentaries as well. With TV companies making the technology widely available across a whole range of programmes, could it be time for you to look into the benefits of joining the growing band of 3D users throughout Britain?

The two main 3D technology used in domestic 3D TVs are Active 3D and Passive 3D technology. In this guide we’ll explore how they work and why they are popular. For an idea of the wide range of 3D TVs available, visit Comet.

Passive 3D technology


This is one of the most commonly used types of 3D technology, similar to the system used in cinemas. A screen with a special layer sends out the images for both eyes to receive at the same time. The images are sent out at different angles which each lens in a special pair of glasses then lets through separately. Each eye therefore only receives the appropriate image, the other image is filtered out.

Championed by LG, the main benefit of passive 3D is the simplicity of its low cost glasses, making them more affordable – perfect for buying a number of pairs. Whether you are having your mates around to watch the ‘big fight’, or you simply want to settle down and watch the latest movie with your family, passive technology works well. The passive glasses offer an unlimited lifespan and are pretty  cheap and easy to obtain so that you have no excuses not to invite everyone around to your place to show off your new 3D TV.

Passive 3D TV’s are also well suited to extended viewing sessions. Recent feedback has suggested that passive is more comfortable to watch over an extended period such as 2 hours, and the glasses are not as heavy as their active counterparts.

Active 3D technology


Active 3D is currently the leading form of 3D used in TVs, with most of the major television manufacturers having already released active 3D TV models, or have model due out very shortly. The technology works well and offers the highest resolution, but requires each viewer to wear ‘shutter glasses’ which are heavier and more expensive than the polarised glasses required for passive 3D TV technology.

In active 3D TV, the screen switches rapidly between showing the image intended for each eye, and the glasses are synchronised with the TV to block each image from reaching the wrong eye. It switches between images at least 120 times per second, sometimes even more frequently on a number of 3D TVs. The Samsung UE46D8000 and the Panasonic TX-P42ST31 are both great examples of the latest and most innovative Active 3D TV’s available at the moment.

Active 3D glasses need to be recharged after roughly 30 hours of use. Even though this doesn’t appear to compare favourably with passive technology at first, if you are looking for the ultimate 3D experience then this is definitely the way to go. Because active 3D shows a separate image for each eye (as opposed to passive, which mixes the images together). it can show full 1080p HD per eye, twice as much as passive. This offers the viewer a sharper picture overall, enhancing the visual quality immeasurably.

Finding the right 3D TV for your specific needs and budget can be a tough task and hopefully this article has offered a good introduction on what you need to think about before you buy.

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