What Is Passive 3D TV?

Passive 3D TV is the latest breakthrough technology in 3D TVs, and has added to the growing list of the multiple different types of model either available already or under development.

First appearing in mid 2011, passive 3D TV models sporting lighter and cheaper glasses quickly became popular with 3D fans who have always been unhappy with the heavy - and highly expensive - active 3D glasses sets. Although only a few manufacturers have so far embraced the technology, it already looks like passive 3D TV will continue to remain popular until reasonably priced 3D TV without glasses models arrive.

Some of the terms used to describe these 3D products can be a little baffling, and a great example of this is the difference between Active and Passive 3D TV, and you’d be forgiven for asking for a description in the simplest of terms. After all, what’s the use of an explanation if the terminology used is just as confusing as the topic?

On this page we'll examine just why passive 3D technology is challenging active technology for supremacy, take a look at how the technology works, and list the best of the models available. I'll explain the key differences between the new passive 3D TV models and the more established active 3D TVs, and I’ll tell you which is better! Simple, easy and fast.

What's The Difference Between Active And Passive 3D TV?

The January 2011 Consumer Electronic Show presented the first chance to see the established active 3D TVs and the new passive 3D TVs side by side. Active 3D TV sends the information on the screen to both of your eyes simultaneously, whereby Passive 3D TV separates the information, sending the image intended for the right eye to the right, and the image intended for the left eye to the left. Each TV requires a different type of 3D glasses - the Passive 3D TV glasses being far cheaper and lighter, in fact very similar to the ones you get at the cinema that require no power supply.

Aside from the viewing technology that determines how images are seen, there are some other key differences.

Despite the fact that Passive 3D is used in most cinemas, the reason is primarily for cost saving purposes rather than effective movie-viewing. The Active 3D TV experience is far more expensive due to the glasses required to view the images. Active 3D glasses are bulkier and heavier than their passive counterparts and require battery power as well. In fact you can get passive glasses for just a few dollars, compared to up to $100 for active glasses. This has enabled manufacturers to put together enticing bundles that include multiple pairs.

Passive 3D TV glasses are lighter and more comfortable to wear. They
look and feel like normal spectacles that you'd wear to correct eyesight defects, and the lightest models can weigh around one quarter of the weight of some active models.

And I mentioned battery power just a minute ago. Passive glasses don't need an external power source, whereas active glasses need either a rechargeable or disposable battery. Clearly that impacts on convenience. If you've got an active 3D TV, you need to make sure that either you have batteries charged up or spare ones at home on the ready. To watch 3D content on a passive 3D TV, you just pop the glasses on and away you go.

What's Best? Active Or Passive?

So what is better? How do you choose between the two?

I already mentioned the cost and comfort reasons that put passive models ahead of active. There's no doubt that the glasses that come with passive 3D TVs are significantly cheaper and more comfortable, especially during longer viewing sessions.

But that's not a great help to us if the picture quality suffers.

Fortunately there have been many reviews carried out side by side to determine exactly which one gives the best quality results. And it'll be no surprise to learn that passive 3D TV models do hold their own in any comparison.

The way that passive models split the resolution of images actually results in them displaying half the resolution of active sets. This is a drawback. Because of this - and although they promise reduced flicker, brighter images, more comfort, and all at lower cost - the reality is that when compared side by side they can't quite compete with the overall active picture quality. You'll easily notice the better image depth and finer detail - but the differences in quality overall are sufficiently low enough to make the passive sets a great buy on overall balance.

Which Manufacturers Have Passive 3D TV Models For Sale?

Currently there are three manufacturers who all have passive sets released - LG Electronics, Vizio, and Toshiba. You can see a full list of passive 3D TV models higher up on the page.

LG were the first manufacturer to release passive models with their highly popular Cinema 3D TV range. Vizio - well known as one of the cheaper manufacturers - followed up with their Theatre range. Toshiba are the latest to break ranks with the rest of the active manufacturing brigade.

Are There Major Differences In Pricing?

At first, the passive sets stood out because of the low cost of passive glasses when compared with active glasses. As the popularity of the new technology grew, it forced those manufacturers still focussed on working with active 3D TV technology to begin reducing their active glasses prices.

Now the differences are not as massively wide as they were at the beginning, although still shocking. Samsung in particular have managed to get their active glasses down to around the $50 mark. That compares with passive glasses at a few dollars a pair.

Prices of the sets themselves compare well. You will find a number of active models both more expensive and cheaper than passive, but when you factor in all the benefits of the passive models the pricing ends up being very competitive.

The 42 inch display Vizio E3D420VX is a good example of a competitively priced passive 3D TV, with a price tag of around $730.

More Info & Valuable Resources

One of the great ways to get information on any product or service is to search the many article and product information websites. These are used by experts in their fields to post articles online - some good and some not so good - which cover just about everything you're likely to want to know. Here's a good selection of passive 3D TV articles and resources......

CNET.com carries a well researched article which disseminates a study that suggests passive 3D TVs are superior to active. The article carries a number of comments from subscribers.

PCMag.com carries a number of valuable 3D TV related articles in general, and their offering on the reasons why passive 3D TV is becoming increasingly popular are spelled out in a well written and informative piece titled 'Passive Aggression: The Only Way 3D TV Will Succeed'.

This ConsumerReports.org page contains a number of useful video guides covering both active and passive 3D TV technology in general - including tests, comparisons, and specific model reviews.

Aside from the gadget review type websites, it's always useful to see what the manufacturers themselves say about their products. Each manufacturer has a section on their sites devoted to passive technology and their passive models. Take a look at these:

Vizio Passive 3D TV     Toshiba Passive 3D TV     LG Passive 3D TV

Future Developments - Hybrid Active-Passive 3D TV?

...And if it wasn't enough that passive 3D TV presents yet another choice to anyone looking to buy a 3D TV, there is new technology under development by RealID that aims to deliver a hybrid active-passive solution.

In early 2011
the manufacturing giant announced a joint licensing agreement with Samsung to manufacture TVs which combines elements of both active and passive technologies to deliver full resolution 3D images to each eye via RealiD 3D polarized cinema glasses. The prototype was shown at the January 2011 CES show, but in late 2011 we've seen a new announcement that Samsung are no longer pursuing the partnership. We wait to see if RealId can form a new venture with an alternative partner.

The hybrid technology works by moving the control of the active shutter technology away from the glasses and into the TV itself. Then an active polarizing filter in the 3D TV itself will control how a left eye image gets polarized in one direction while a right eye image gets polarized in the other. Add the standard polarized passive 3D glasses and there's the hybrid solution.

If the hybrid glasses are successful, it's likely to push passive 3D TV popularity to new heights. It's not hard to see why when you'll get full resolution 3D images combined with the key benefits of passive 3D glasses.


Until high quality no glasses 3D TVs arrive at an affordable price it seems sure that the battle between active and passive 3D TV will rage on. There is no doubt though that passive models have very quickly made their mark in the market. In 2012 we're likely to see improved models from LG, Vizio, and Toshiba that will push passive technology to even higher prominence - and maybe even more manufacturers breaking away from the expensive active glasses technology.

Passive 3D TV
3DTVGuide.org - Passive 3D TV

Cheaper - Lighter - More Comfortable 3D Glasses...

High Quality 3D Images
November 4th 2011
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''the key differences between the new passive 3D TV models and the more established active 3D TVs, and we’ll tell you which is better! Simple, easy and fast...''
Manufacturers & Models

LG Passive 3D TVs

LG Infinia 65LW6500 65-Inch Cinema 3D 1080p 120Hz LED-LCD HDTV with Smart TV and Four Pairs of 3D Glasses by LG

LG 65LW6500 Buyer Reviews

LG Infinia 55LW6500 55-Inch Passive Cinema 3D 1080p - 240HZ LED LCD 3D TV with Smart TV. Ships with 4 pairs of glasses.

LG 55LW6500 Buyer Reviews

LG Infinia 47LW6500 47-Inch Passive Cinema 3D 1080p 240Hz LED-LCD HDTV with Smart TV and Four Pairs of 3D Glasses

LG 47LW6500 Buyer Reviews

VIZIO E3D420VX 42 Inch Class Theater Passive 3D LCD HDTV with VIZIO Internet Apps

Vizio Passive 3D TVs

VIZIO 32 Inch Class Theater 3D LCD HDTV with VIZIO Internet Apps, E3D320VX

Vizio E3D420VX Buyer Reviews

VIZIO XVT3D650SV 65-Inch Theater 3D Edge Lit Razor LED LCD HDTV with VIZIO Internet Apps, Black by Vizio

Vizio E3D320VX Buyer Reviews

VIZIO XVT3D554SV 55-inch 1080p 480Hz 3D LED HDTV with Full Array TruLED, Smart Dimming and VIZIO Internet Apps

Vizio XVT3D650SV Buyer Reviews

Toshiba Passive 3D TVs

Toshiba 55TL515U 55-inch Natural 3D 1080p 240 Hz LED-LCD HDTV with Net TV, Black

Toshiba 55TL515U Buyer Reviews

Toshiba 47TL515U 47-Inch Natural 3D 1080p 240 Hz LED-LCD HDTV with Net TV, Black

Toshiba 47TL515U Buyer Reviews

Comprehensive Guide To Passive 3D TV

What Is Passive 3D TV?     What's The Difference Between Passive And Active?     Which One Is Best - Active Or Passive?

          Who Makes Passive 3D TVs?     Pricing     Hybrid Active/Passive Technology     More Info