One of the major concerns for 3DTV is the cost of the active glasses. These can range from $100 - $250, with brand-name glasses sold with 3DTVs typically at the high end of this range. While these prices are expected to come down as the volumes go up, there are other problems with active glasses. Like keeping the batteries charged, or replacing them if the design includes non-rechargeable batteries.
Professional users of 3D displays almost universally demand passive glasses. Mostly these are passive polarized glasses, similar to the RealD glasses used in most US 3D cinemas. These glasses for the cinema are cheap enough to be disposable, about $1 per pair.
Vizio has put a 3DTV on its website that uses passive glasses, although it has not made a formal announcement of the product nor does the website have an availability date. This unit is a 65-inch edge-lit LED TV with all the premium features you would expect from a high-end unit. Featured technologies include:
- XVT Extreme Vizio Technology
- Smart dimming, with 32 zones. (Smart dimming is only active in 2D mode)
- SRS TruVolume to eliminate volume inconsistencies between different programs
- SRS TruSurround HD sound
- Eco HD: the system meets Energy Star 4.1 guidelines
- Dual-band 802.11n WiFi connectivity
- VIA VIZIO Internet Apps
- Bluetooth universal remote control with a slide out QWERTY keypad
One thing not on the website is: How do they achieve 3D with passive glasses? From our previous contacts with Vizio and AUO, we know this 3DTV will be based upon micro-polarizing elements. With this technology, alternate rows of the display have retarders to produce two orthogonal polarizations. When viewing 2D material with no glasses, you get full resolution, in this case 1920 x 1080. With 3D content and glasses, the vertical resolution for each eye is cut in half since alternate rows are used for the left and right images.
In professional applications this reduced resolution causes little problem when viewing video images. Displays with this technology are typically used to edit 3D content. However, it is known to cause two problems in 3D mode: restricted vertical viewing angles and problems with reading small text. Until Vizio actually demonstrates this unit, we won’t know if they have overcome these limitations — and how significant they really are for TV viewing. We would anticipate that Vizio will demonstrate passive polarized 3DTV at CES.
The micropolarization elements add cost to professional displays, and if this is how they do it, they will add cost to the Vizio TV. The price on the website is $3700 and the price includes 4 pairs of the required passive glasses. On their website, Vizio also offers a similar high-end 55-inch 3D LCD TV that uses active glasses. The price of the 55-inch unit is $2400 but it comes without glasses. The Vizio active glasses are $220 per pair so if you want 4 pairs like come with the 65-inch unit, you will spend an extra $880, for a total of $3280. This means the 65-inch unit has a premium of only $420 compared to the 55-inch unit. Have a big family and want 6 pairs of glasses? The 65-inch unit is actually cheaper, assuming you bring your 3D glasses home from the next 3D movie you see, and they work correctly. While Vizio doesn’t say how much extra pairs of passive 3D glasses will cost, They could be easily packaged and sold for $10, which would make the cost of the 55-inch and 65-inch units with 6 pairs of glasses exactly the same.
The bottom line? If you want to watch 3D TV, especially in a large group, the 65-inch unit will be a better deal, when it is available, than the comparable 55-inch TV from Vizio. If you are buying a 3D TV because of its high-end features and performance when showing 2D content, stick with the Vizio or some other active glasses set—and don’t buy the active glasses.