The Truth About Active Vs Passive 3D. Mike Abary Sets the Record Straight.

by Team Sony 07/01/2011

You may have seen LG’s new marketing campaign claiming that in 3D TV tests, 4 out of 5 people choose  LG 3D cinema over Sony and Samsung.

It’s an interesting strategy: use combative language on a Times Square billboard or in full page ads in national newspapers to get consumers’ attention. But is it relevant? Not entirely.

If you follow the little asterisk after the statement, you’ll see that these results should come as no surprise since the survey was commissioned by LG.

Drawing on a small sample universe they found that in fact some people do prefer passive 3D technology to active shutter. This is not news, but the fact is consumers, as a whole, are actually buying more televisions with active shutter 3D. According to an NPD study conducted in May 2011, people who walk into a store choose active technology from Sony, and even Samsung, six time more often than they select passive technology like LG ‘s. Now, that type of independent research paints an entirely different picture than the claims made by LG. So let me take this opportunity to share some facts about why active 3D provides a better viewing experience than passive 3D.

Another truth – only active 3D technology can provide you with a high definition picture in 3D. The filters that enable passive 3D TV diminish brightness and reduce resolution in 3D, as well as 2D. Passive 3D glasses effectively halve 1080p resolution thereby delivering only 540 lines to each eye. With Sony, active shutter technology, we deliver 1080 lines of resolution to each eye — Twice as much as passive.

Yes, TVs with passive 3D glasses are less expensive – but you get what you pay for. The lower cost directly translates to lower performance and the fact of the matter is that active 3D technology provides a bright and clear image that cannot be achieved with a passive set.  And quality viewing is what 3D is all about. If you’ve made the decision to choose 3D — whether it is to watch sports or an action movie — then you are someone who values picture quality. Naturally you would choose the best possible viewing experience.

And that brings up the last thing you need to know about active technology: you need a great 2D set to deliver stunning 3D performance. So a passive 3D screens’ filter puts it at a disadvantage to a full 1080p Sony BRAVIA with 3D.

There you have it – some truths about active and passive 3D television. And just in time to take advantage of some great TV sales over this holiday weekend. We hope this information clears up any misconceptions. The reality is if you want to make sure you get the best possible 3D viewing experience, you’ll want to go with Active 3D technology.

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  1. Alejandro Leon Calad wrote: July 1, 2011 3:44pm

    Well, I have both home. Definition in my 55″ LG passive 3D TV is superb and brightness won’t be reduced as bad as you say, it’s just about the same as the shutter glasses in the Bravia TV’s.
    The only advantage is for Sony, since you get to sell more of those expensive glasses. How about the viewing angle? It’s so much better in the LG models with passive technology. I love Sony, and as I said, we have both systems home, but next purchase will be LG, the price is better and quality is great. Sorry. You’ll have to do better!

  2. Brandon Wittwer wrote: July 1, 2011 4:02pm

    I’m surprised so many people are in a fog on these facts. If you’re in the market for 3d you need to know the differences. People think they’re getting such a great deal with the cheap and simple passive 3d, but anyone that, as you said, values picture quality should ALWAYS put much more thought into active 3d with a high quality Sony Bravia tv. It just makes sense… don’t waste your money

    1. Anonymous wrote: December 21, 2011 10:13pm

      All 3DTV’s use tricks to make 3d!!! Like showing a full HD picture at for eye at a time, your cutting the HD resolution in your, and then your brain reassembles the picture. The Question is save money and headache and buy passive which has worked very well in theaters for years or buy active-shutter glasses are expensive, uncomfortable and get out of sync and also, flicker and give me real headaches.

  3. Kamil Rzadzik wrote: July 1, 2011 4:03pm

    sony is just great i got ps3 and i hope u are working for ps4 SONY u was are and will be the best for ever KAMIL!

  4. Ricardo Vargas wrote: July 1, 2011 9:09pm

    “Yes, TVs with passive 3D glasses are less expensive – but you get what you pay for.”

    Yes Mike Abar this is truth. That’s why 2 out of 3 TV’s; 3 out of four PC’s and all game systems in my house are sony. And all my headpones (a total of around 12, since i lose and buy a new one then find the lost one)

  5. Anonymous wrote: July 2, 2011 2:09am

    absolutely true…..people some times buy cheap stuff before buying any thing plz do some research about tecnology and product . I have worked as SONY 3D BRAND AMBASSADOR ….so sony is all make u believe and reality is there.

  6. Anonymous wrote: July 2, 2011 6:40am

    I got 2 active pair of glasses. Nvidia 3D Vision on 120Hz Acer Monitor and a Sony onesused on a VAIO laptop. They are grea. Excellent. That said. Bought one of the LG screens with passive glasses and I´m crazy about it. Superb. Wish Sony moved to that tech.

  7. Anonymous wrote: July 2, 2011 10:50am

    Of course Sony is going to say that theirs is better. Walk into a Best Buy and tell e which one looks better. I guarentee it will be passive. Wait and watch, Sony will have passive 3D soon. Samsung is already working on it too.

    1. Anonymous wrote: January 25, 2012 10:42pm

      agree…as a sony fan, Thats what I did…went to three Best-buys around to confirm LG 3D was indeed better quality, most comfort. Really, money was not my issue at all. On Quality and comfort, LG was an honest winner.

  8. KevinBarrett wrote: July 2, 2011 1:26pm

    Not to mention the potential screen-sharing benefits demonstrated in the 3D PlayStation TV.

    1. Anonymous wrote: November 11, 2011 10:56am

      LG has screen sharing tech coming to their passive sets

  9. Anonymous wrote: July 5, 2011 6:04am

    The manufacturers still like to play the number games. On the consumer side, a room full of friends watching hockey in 3D using $1 glasses non-powered makes more sense than everyone having their $150 glasses hoping all are charged up and none are malfunctioning.

    JVC Professional first introduced a few years ago a 46″ 3D-LCD using the same passive ‘XPOL’ method as LG’s consumer TV’s use today. Film Studios producing major 3D movies (including AVATAR) used JVC’s passive display for workflow and critical evaluation during the making of the film. The ‘passive’ method was found MUCH more pleasant to the eyes, without active shutters. Imagine a studio animator starring at an ‘active’-shutter display 14 hours a day, let alone the battery issues.

  10. Anonymous wrote: July 5, 2011 6:14am

    The claim by LG seems to be valid. They didn’t claim that customers buy more passive; they said that in a blind test comparing the technologies side by side, customers chose the LG passive most often. Based on what I’ve seen I’d say that is accurate. Sony and Samsung make great TVs with beautiful pictures, but I prefer the less expensive, more comfortable glasses for 3D viewing and, altho the resolution is a little better on the Sony, it isn’t dramatically so and that is ofset by the 60hz refresh rate on active vs 120hz on passive, a fact you didn’t address.

  11. Anonymous wrote: July 10, 2011 3:05am

    You Sony guys crack me up! Of course customers are asking for active, LG’s CINEMA 3D just became available a few months ago! Most customers don’t even know enough about it to ask for it. And how long have your active shutter TVs been on the retail shelves, Sony? Not to mention how many active glasses TVs are available versus the new passives from LG. Sony, I predict you’ll be eating your words in about six months… :-)

  12. Anonymous wrote: July 15, 2011 10:39am

    I would like to comment on 3D that all of you DV Disc producers are misleading to the people of the world by not producing 3D DVD as it will cost no more to the buyer as compared to the spending on the large screens.Where there is a will there is a way inspires everybody to do their best to achieve there goal.So let your investors and investigators engaged to produce 3D DVD but not the 3D screens.Thank You!

  13. Anonymous wrote: July 15, 2011 2:33pm

    What a pure idiot who wrote this column. I tell you what…have ANY human being go into a Best Buy…place the Cinema 3D glasses on their face…watch a 3D demo…then walk over to an active shutter demo and ask a cutomer what their thoughts are. Do this throughout…lets say a weekend. Also, add in the fact the pricing and ALL the features you get between the both. Lets see who wins nucklehead.

  14. Anonymous wrote: July 17, 2011 12:42am

    As someone who has owned both an active 3d tv and passive 3d tv I would like to go on record and say passive is far better for comfortable casual viewing

  15. D1RTYMAG wrote: July 20, 2011 1:01am

    How can people trust anyone now days. First off LG hired an external company to do the study so lets jut clear that up since it was not mentioned. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure if the results were not good for LG they would not have released them. Fact is Passive 3D beats Active in every way but one (resolution). Though resolution is an extremely important factor to consider when buying a new TV, it’s not they only one. True, you only see a 540 image half of a 1080 image per eye but because you have two eyes you see to different 540 images at the same time resulting in full HD 1080. Again, don’t get me wrong since one of your eyes is always seeing half the resolution you will notice a slight drop in resolution. Passive technology is still brand new and if 1 out of 6 3D TVs is being sold is passive that tells me that passive TVs are doing well. Considering that active 3D TVs are being offered by all the major TV companies even LG, while passive is only being offered by a select few. Bottom line this column is biased and commissioned by Sony who only offer active shutter technology. Of course they are going to say active is better. I think that Sony should jump on the passive band wagon and give the consumer more choice like LG and quit kissing Samsung’s !@#. Sony you were once KING and if you improve on FPR you could be again, but you have to try. Active 3d is an inconvenience it requires charging, syncing, flickering and protecting those valuable, expensive 3d glasses. Last thing I want when it comes to my down time of relaxation and entertainment is to be bothered.

  16. Anonymous wrote: July 22, 2011 2:29am

    With reference to my first comment I again suggest you while making the 3D DV Discs let all the scenes pierce one by one including the viewer as in the two player game if one is absent,thus a full fledged 3D DV Discs is manufactured ata lower cost and the consumer has not to pay huge amount for LCD or LED PC or TV monitor. Thank YOU!

  17. Anonymous wrote: August 11, 2011 8:09pm

    The biggest problem I have with passive 3D is it adds a polarizing filter on to the screen which has a significant impact on 2D viewing. While I think 3D is great I don’t want to watch everything in 3D. The majority of my viewing is 2D and I don’t want my 2D to suffer to get cheap glasses. Cheap glasses are also cheaply made and have poor optical clarity. If I was going to buy a passive 3D I would be looking to get quality optics to gie the best picture quality. Oakley sells an incredible set 3D glasses for about $180.00. There goes your cheap “freebie” glasses.

  18. Anonymous wrote: August 13, 2011 10:20am

    Do not wast your money on any 3-D tecnology at this time as 3-D products are limmited only to less than 10 filmed documentories and predominatly cartoons. There are a couple of movie formated blueray 3-D movies comming out in the futhure if you care to “Pre order”, almost like saying were not confident enough in our products to release and sale. I bought all the latest 3-d LCD,Blueray Glasses. just to watch the batteries in the glasses go dead… Save some money…This Tecqnology simply a novelty not a good investment these days.

  19. Anonymous wrote: September 8, 2011 8:10am

    The 540p agument is pretty lame think about it, if LG is providing 540p to each eye at the SAME time it’s 1080p! now active glasses are providing a 1080p image to each eye, but not at the same time its alternating between the two eyes at a high rate of speed. So at any given second only one eye is seeing the 1080p image and at any given second with passive technology you are seeing 540p image with each eye. Which the two images combining to create a 1080p 3D image. LG’s technology is provides a 1080p picture and most people who have seen both agree Passive is just as good if not better.

  20. Anonymous wrote: September 9, 2011 9:04am

    I viewed both types and actualy found the active shutter glasses way too dark for my liking. I turned the brightness up all the way and still not even close to the passive set I viewed. I was surprised to see that you thought the passive was too dark as I found the active shutter technology annoyingly dark.

  21. Anonymous wrote: October 11, 2011 6:11am

    witch is better 3d cinema lg or 3d sony samsung

  22. Anonymous wrote: October 12, 2011 3:38pm

    Image sharpness is a luxury.
    Minimal comfort is not.
    If i had to chose, I would chose comfortable viewing and gaming over detailed viewing and gaming. and most people will agree. Besides, the image quality difference is barely noticable. It’s hard not to notice heavy glasses and constant blinking of each eye alternating.

    More people may buy more Active sets, because passive sets are just coming out, and there is not much choice. Whereas there are many failed active sets sitting in retail stores everywhere.

    True, Passive technology is not perfect, but its certainly a step forward from active.

  23. Anonymous wrote: October 13, 2011 8:18pm

    Wow, this is complete manufacturer fluff. Passive sets by far offer a much brighter picture and you are in fact seeing 1080P. Even though each eye is getting 540P you brain is capable of merging the 2 together for 1080P, it’s called 3D fusion. Look it up. I have seen passive first hand and the quality of picture is just as good if not better than active.

  24. Anonymous wrote: October 21, 2011 11:16am

    True, passive is far better. just tell me, why IMAX is not using active technology if it suppesed to be better? :-)
    I agree with the prior post.

  25. Anonymous wrote: October 24, 2011 10:05am

    I disagree with this article, this is fluff. I own a 3d passive LG television and after carefull consideration I choose passive hands down over active 3d. Picture is sharp and bright, with great 3d fx’s with Real “D” cinama quality. As far as image quality your eyes fuses the image to a full 1080P.

  26. Anonymous wrote: November 6, 2011 5:41am

    I agree. Total fluff. As a loyal Sony purchaser (3 tvs, 2 dvd players, 3 av receivers, 2 camcorders, and a PS3) I just chose an LG because of passive technology. The picture is bright plus you don’t have to worry about heavy glasses that loose sync during 3D watching.

  27. Anonymous wrote: November 11, 2011 10:54am

    and this is all more believable because it’s coming from a Sony blog huh…? Look at message boards and av forums and see what real people are saying… active might have few advantages over passive but people are choosing passive after extensive research and testing of their own..

  28. Anonymous wrote: November 11, 2011 11:06am

    fine… lol here’s an article on the subject from a company who makes calibration tools for hdtv’s

  29. Anonymous wrote: February 16, 2012 10:53am

    I lost trust in the author of this article the minute he said that Active TVs were bright. I’ve taken the Pepsi challenge. Active 3D is darker and the reviews I’ve read back that statement up. That said both technologies have their draw backs and I think it is up to personal preference. For me having a bright picture is worth the quality trade off.

  30. Anonymous wrote: April 18, 2012 1:04am

    ” Active 3D is darker and the reviews I’ve read back that statement up. ” – complete garbage. The Sony glasses allow you to set the “brightness” of the glasses, and its good, if not better, and brighter, than passive.. With them set to the high brightness setting, they are as bright as the normal TV without viewing through the glasses.

    Did you even try the Sony 3d glasses before you made this comment?

    I work in AV, and have been involved in 3d projection for many years.

    Passive is garbage, half HD resolution to each eye.. Thats NOT HD..

    1. Anonymous wrote: May 7, 2012 3:30am

      Passive 3D is not as bad as you think. Yes each eye only sees 540 lines but both eyes are seeing 540 at once.. and your brain composes this information to form the full 1080p picture.

      The active shutter simply alternates between the two eyes, but with full 1080 lines each.

      That means when your left eye sees 1080 lines, your right sees nothing at that moment. This is why active shutter requires higher refresh rate to reduce flickering and perceived “lag”. But a lot of people still feel uncomfortable after prolonged use of active shutter glasses due to the flickering that is unavoidable.

      Active vs passive: they are simply two different approaches for 3D, but both give you 1080 lines of resolution in your brain.

      In terms of cost efficiency, it seems that passive is an unquestionably practical alternative to active 3D.

    2. conix67 wrote: January 12, 2014 7:08pm

      Active glasses are LCD shutters, which means it blocks the light coming from TV half the time, on each eye, effectively cutting the brightness by 50%. Contrary to what active supporters say, this is the weak point of active 3D.

      Anyway, all this is moot now most manufacturers producing passive 3D TVs including Sony.

  31. Anonymous wrote: November 24, 2012 10:08am

    a Sony defence article in a Sony’s blog? Yeah, like Imma believe it!

  32. RSR wrote: May 14, 2013 12:23am

    Sony generally introduce cream in US and europe and try to push thier outdated stuff in India.

    With nice competition like LG, not they need to release latest technology in India. They have lost lot of loyalty because of that in India.

    Now last week, Sony introduced Passive 3d in India. So we need to see what Sony tells about selling their new 3D tv with only 540 lines of resolution and how can they claim it 1080p.

    There is a limit for marketing…

    People are not fools and they clearly read reviews, see the things with their own eyes and take decisions.

    Sony was a great company, now losing charm, I have a PS3, half of the video formats it cannot play. Now my LG TV plays most of the Video formats without any complaint.

    With tough competition of mobile phones, laptops from Apple etc, Sony needs to catchup the competition to get its lost charm.

    I think now where Sony is doing well is digital cameras, they are investing and coming out with nice technology.

    1. Sony Support USA wrote: May 16, 2013 9:54am

      Greetings Raj,

      Sony strives to deliver product quality and customer service that exceed expectations to all of our customers, worldwide. We are committed to improving product and service quality from the customer’s viewpoint with the aim of maintaining and enhancing customers’ satisfaction, reliability and trust. This reflects Sony’s belief that our most important goal is to remain a highly trusted partner for you, our customer.

      Please relay your 3D Television question for further review to our Support Center for India at:

      Please feel free to contact Sony at your convenience.

      Thank you,

      Pat Kennedy
      Sony Support USA

      1. Noushad Anchal wrote: June 9, 2013 12:49am

        Hi guys…
        whether Active or Passive, now Sony is the best.
        SONY, The name itself means TECHNOLOGY.
        Have your Sony as possible as you can…

  33. Dzandar wrote: June 13, 2013 11:08am

    What if you have only one eye. How then you will use passive glasses?

  34. conix67 wrote: January 3, 2014 3:23pm

    So with Sony selling passive 3D TVs now, what is there to debate now? I personally own an LG 3D TV now, but I was more into active 3D before. I’ve seen latest 3D TVs from Sony /w passive glasses, and I was impressed..


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