3D TV Active vs Passive

Nathan Rizzuti Profile image

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Updated January 23, 2023

Once upon a time, the headlines touted 3D content as the best TV consumer viewing technology had to offer. But now, at-home 3D TVs have gone the way of the eight-track or Betamax. However, this hasn’t stopped us from jumping into the forgotten trenches of the past because today, we’re comparing 3D TV active vs passive. And if this isn’t enough 3D TV talk for one sitting, you can head over to our article that compares 3D Ready vs 3D TV.


  • Active shutter glasses use a screen’s full resolution to oscillate an image between each 3D lens to create a sense of depth.
  • Passive displays blend two images by alternating between the horizontal lines.
  • Passive 3D is widely considered superior to active 3D in cost and comfort.

Active vs Passive 3D TV

The main difference between either an active or passive 3D experience lies in how the display frames present themselves to viewers through their 3D glasses.

Insider Tip

Because of the necessary batteries, active 3D glasses are much weightier than the lightweight glasses used for passive displays.

Active glasses are battery-powered. Each lens switches from opaque to transparent about 120 times per second. While this happens, the TV alternates between display frames, so the eye picks up on two different images, seemingly simultaneously.

Passive displays create a 3D image by blending two display frames. This blending is performed by switching between the horizontal lines on the display. Additionally, passive glasses have separate polarized lenses, which trick the mind into thinking it picks up two individual images.

Although either 3D viewing experience accomplishes the same goal, there are other differences to consider. We’ll explore some of these variables below. We also have a great article covering 3D TVs vs non-3D for those interested.

How 3D Technology Works

Understanding the science behind 3D is crucial to knowing how 3D works and which type is best for you. Humans think they see in 3D because each eye computes different visual information, but we don’t. Instead, we combine two 2D images, one from the right eye and one from the left.

So, to create a 3D viewing experience, manufacturers of 3D glasses and televisions had to find a way for viewers to visually reconcile two different versions of an image to generate a sense of depth on a 2D screen.

Image Quality

Active 3D technology uses a screen’s full resolution, while passive 3D cuts it in half. So when it comes to a complete picture, active 3D holds the reins. However, many say the difference in resolution is marginal.


Because active glasses alternate between blocking light, this can create a flickering effect and lead to headaches or dizziness. On the other hand, passive 3D doesn’t block any light and uses lightweight glasses.


Active 3D glasses are battery-powered and are typically several times more expensive than passive 3D glasses.


Active 3D glasses have to be synced to the TV. When they aren’t synced, they can leak images, known as “Crosstalk.”


Is 3D viewing possible without glasses?

You can, but the image might often become blurry at times.

Can I use active shutter glasses on passive 3D?

Active glasses only work with an active 3D display. The same is true of passive glasses.

Do they still sell 3D TVs?

As of 2017, 3D TVs are no longer manufactured in the US, but there are still 3D offerings in movie theaters.

STAT: The percentage of households with 4k TVs increased from 31 percent in 2019 to 44 percent in 2021. (source)

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