Passive 3D TV, what is it?

You used to be able to go to a department store and purchase a television just based on the size you wanted. Now there's a lot more to consider, especially when it comes to 3D television. Just as with any appliance or piece of technology, the quality of passive 3D TVs depends on the manufacturer. Popular manufacturers include LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Samsung and Toshiba. The quality of the picture depends on the type of technology; for example, there is plasma, LCD and LED. Each has its pros and cons. But one of the main differences actually comes in the glasses used to view the 3D movie or TV show.

Active vs. passive glasses

With an active 3D TV, your eyes cannot detect it, but you are actually seeing rapidly alternating frames. (Use a pair of glasses low on battery power, and you'll see it.) With a passive 3D TV, your eyes are actually seeing two separate images.

Active glasses are battery-operated; passive aren't. Because active glasses require a battery within the frame, active glasses are heavier. Most people find it more comfortable to wear the lighter passive glasses, especially those who wear prescription eyewear. The technology also makes active glasses more expensive. For example, a pair of passive 3D glasses costs about $10 and an active pair of 3D glasses can cost more than five times as much.

All of those factors may sound like passive wins, hands down, as the best way to watch 3D TV. 3D passive glasses do have to compete in one other category, though: the number of pixels. Active shutter glasses provide 1,080 pixels to each eye, in line with what you could get with a high-quality DSLR camera. That means the images you see will have cleaner, sharper lines.

When it comes to 3D TV, passive models are usually less expensive. Just as with any appliance or piece of technology you purchase, consider your budget and then look for deals. 3D TVs, like many electronics, tend to get cheaper closer to the holidays, when people are making large purchases as gifts. Tax season is another good time to look for a deal on a 3D TV. Prices are reduced with the hope that those who have tax refunds will use them to purchase those expensive electronics. You can also try during the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl season; many retailers compete over game-day preparations.

There are some who say that active models provide the better 3D picture, especially when viewing a TV from a variety of angles. There are others who say the 3D passive TV provides the better 3D picture, depending on the size of the screen and how close you sit to it. While the active vs. passive debate will likely continue for a while, the general consensus is that, for TV screens smaller than 55 inches, passive is better. Active is better for the extra-large TVs. Explore the options for yourself; it'll be the most enjoyable research you ever do.

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