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Active vs. Passive 3-D

When you're in the market for a 3-D TV, you'll have to decide on whether you want active or passive 3-D.  Although both types of television create a 3-D effect, they do it in two completely different ways. Make sure to take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each option to decide on what type of 3-D viewing experience would best suit you.

Active 3-D

Passive 3-D


Full resolutionHalf of total TV resolution



Weight of Glasses



Must sync with TVNo synchronization required


More expensiveLess expensive

TV Type Needed

Plasma, LCD or LEDPlasma, LCD or LED

Active 3-D

Advantages of active 3-D

  • Full Resolution - Image quality isn't lost since the picture doesn't have to be compromised in order to create the 3-D effect.
  • Fewer Instances of Headaches - Active 3-D systems may cause fewer headaches in viewers who are affected by passive systems.
  • Wide Vertical Viewing Angle - The 3-D effect will not be distorted based on the where the viewer is seated.

Limitations of active 3-D

  • Synchronization - If the glasses and the TV lose synchronization then the 3-D effect will be lost.
  • Flicker - Since the glasses block one side and leave the other open, the viewer may experience some flickering as the glasses shift back and forth.
  • Crosstalk - Crosstalk refers to a doubled image appearing when images meant for one eye are accidentally viewed by the other. This is more of a problem in LCD 3-D sets due to the backlight.

Passive 3-D

Advantages of passive 3-D

  • More Affordable - Passive 3-D is becoming the more common 3-D system. Also, since the glasses don't require any batteries, there is no battery replacement cost.
  • No Synchronization - There is no synchronization between the glasses and TV. Since the images are always overlaid, all the viewer has to do is put the glasses on, and the 3-D effect will be seen.
  • Flicker - Since the glasses don't shift sides, flicker is nonexistent for passive 3-D systems. There is never a break in the image or leakage of frames from one side to the other.

Limitations of passive 3-D

  • Resolution - Due to the overlaying of two images on the same screen, passive 3-D systems can only achieve half the resolution of a standard 1080p TV.
  • Headaches - Since the eyes see two different images at once, users sensitive to passive 3-D might experience headaches while viewing media.