Active shutter glasses, passive glasses, NO glasses? Why I’m still unconvinced by 3D TV

At CES 2012, TV manufacturers have been jostling to show off their latest 3D-capable TVs. Some have used the lightest-ever active shutter glasses, some have used cheap passive glasses, and some no glasses at all. But which, if any, is really worth buying into?

I’ll begin with a confession – I’m not remotely convinced by 3D TV. To quote a wittier person than myself, “if I want 3D entertainment, I’ll go to the theatre”. Well, I’m no theatre-buff myself, but I take their point.

I’ve seen some cutting edge TV displays in my time at Which?, and events like the CES technology show tend to be great opportunities to see the latest 3D efforts. But no matter what the technology, I’ve been left largely cold.

Active shutter 3D glasses – lighter every year

Sony was showing off its Titanium 3D active shutter glasses this year at CES – its thinnest, lightest glasses ever. And I was impressed by how light they were, no question. But I still have issues with active shutter in general.

Active shutter glasses communicate with the TV itself and provide a Full HD display to each eye independently. They’re expensive to buy and wildly impractical if you intend to watch 3D in a large group.

I’m glad to see these glasses are becoming lighter, but I still don’t like the idea of having to buy expensive equipment for every person who wants to watch the TV.

Passive 3D glasses – not just LG

LG Cinema 3D

LG backs lighter, simple cinema-style 3D glasses

I’ll say fair play to LG for backing cheap passive 3D glasses for its Cinema 3D TV range.

These are the same style of simple polarising glasses you’ll wear in cinemas. They’re cheap, they’re light, they’re as practical as 3D glasses get.

LG has so much faith in passive 3D that it’s even using this technology on its premium 55-inch OLED TV, debuted this year at CES. Panasonic and Philips have followed in LG’s tracks, offering their own passive 3D sets.

However, passive glasses don’t provide a Full HD display to each eye, and above all, they still leave you having to wear a pair of glasses to watch 3D entertainment. Surely there’s a better solution?

Glasses-free 3D

Glasses-free 3D

Glasses free – the future of 3D?

Ahh, the holy grail of 3D-watching. Frequently enjoyed in everyday life, 3D without the need for glasses is the inevitable future of 3D home entertainment.

We’ve seen some attempts at glasses-free 3D from a number of manufacturers, including an £8000 Toshiba TV that will be available this very year.

With virtually every example I’ve seen so far, I’ve been unconvinced for one reason or another – typically the sense of depth is worse than glasses-3D, you usually have to be precisely head-on to the TV, and in the worst cases, glasses-free 3D has been painful to watch.

So why don’t I like 3D?

Hey, I like 3D just fine. I’m liking it right now as I look all around me. I just don’t like it on my TV screen, or at least not in the forms currently available.

Back-track a few decades and I’m sure there were voices saying “these talkies will never catch on”. I’m not one of those.

I’ll readily concede that 3D entertainment is the inevitable future, but the versions we’re seeing right now just aren’t good enough. Why?

  • Having to sit head-on Every 3D set I’ve seen to date – active shutter, passive, glasses-free – demands you sit head-on to the TV to enjoy the 3D effect. Does that sound like something that would suit a two-sofa living room?
  • Wearing glasses  I don’t care if they’re passive or active, it’s unrealistic to expect people to put 3D glasses on to watch TV. What’s worse, I can’t stand the “dull” effect you get with the glasses – the world looks darker, and it strains my eyes.
  • Not wearing glasses  Eventually, I will happily accept glasses-free 3D. But not today’s versions. Why? You still have to sit head-on, and worse still, the sense of 3D depth is worse than what we’ve seen from glasses-required 3D TVs.
  • The 3D content itself  Endless shots of things coming towards the screen does not equal good entertainment. But more than that, some of the content I’ve seen in 3D just hasn’t “worked” for me. Football in 3D? I’m struggling so much with the weird sense of depth that I can’t even tell when the goals are going in.
  • It’s not future proof  I still think you’d be mad to buy a 3D TV today and believe it will be usable in five years’ time. 3D will evolve, will improve, will eventually win over curmudgeons like me. But it has a long way to go, and I still think the technology on today’s sets will be utterly outdated in just a few short years.

So no, I don’t plan on buying a 3D TV right now. If I was buying a TV tomorrow, I’d buy the best 2D TV I can afford, and if it happens to offer 3D as a side show, so be it.

When 3D home entertainment is a mature, developed technology that doesn’t come with more drawbacks than benefits, I’ll sit up and watch. In the meantime, I’m yet to be convinced by anything I’ve seen to date.

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One reply

  1. I couldn’t disagree more. I DO agree that 3D will improve, as will everything technological.
    You can’t predict what a Smart Phone will be like in 5 years, but I bet you’ve got one.
    I’m 67, and have just had my first 3D experience on a 2012 model Panasonic 42″ Viera Model with passive 3D glasses. I was blown away.
    A good 3D experience in your living room is here now. We just need more content broadcast.

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