Hands-on With LG's Film Patterned Retarder (FPR) 3D TV

We've written extensively about the new 3D TVs headed your way in 2011, especially the new polarized 3D displays coming from Vizio and LG. But how do they stack up against the old guard of active-shutter glasses 3D TVs? I had a chance to try them out side-by-side in an LG Displays-hosted demonstration.

Image Quality

Active-shutter 3D glasses have two glaring problems with image quality: refresh-rate related flicker and "crosstalk". Since the lenses are essentially LCD screens designed to dim each lens really quickly, any other lights in your viewable area will appear to "flicker", which will most likely give you a headache and make your eyes tired. You can get around this by turning off all the lights in the area, but if you're using active-shutter glasses in a room where you can't completely control all the lights, you're just going to have to deal with it. "Crosstalk", on the other hand, occurs when the TV and the glasses can't switch from the right-eye image to the left-eye image quickly or cleanly enough, meaning you end up seeing "ghosted" images in both eyes.

LG's FPR glasses simply don't have to deal with this, which makes for a much more pleasant viewing experience--especially since you can sit down and actually enjoy the movie instead of being bothered by the image quirks.

However, if you're simply not impressed by the actual depth of the home 3D experience (the literal "pop", as it were), you probably won't be impressed by LG's new set. While the overall experience is improved by fixing the crosstalk and flicker issues, it doesn't make the image itself look any more impressive. Perhaps this is a shortcoming of the content, or the display size (when compared to a movie theater's 3D movies), but either way, LG's FPR sets don't come any further in that regard.

Comfort Factor

Active-shutter glasses are a pain. They're expensive, they're heavy, and they look ugly. Passive 3D glasses win big in this category, simply because they're cheaper (LG's will cost less than $20, and four pair come included with each 3D TV), and since they don't require any electronics to work, designers can be much more flexible with the actual physical design of the glasses.

They're still not quite comfortable to wear over corrective lenses, but LG had a few FPR 3D glasses inserts (similar to the sunglasses inserts you can get from your eye doctor) so you can watch your 3D TV without having to wear glasses over your glasses.

As an unexpected bonus, LG's FPR glasses allowed for a bit more flexible viewing angle--you can tilt your head or switch positions around the room without worrying about losing the 3D image, or worse, de-syncing your glasses from the IR emitter and disrupting the image completely. This means you won't be stuck in one ideal viewing position and can move around a bit more naturally while you're watching TV.

Health Hazards

LG Displays made a big deal about the health risks of active-shutter glasses, particularly the part that involves putting batteries and IR sensors right next to your head and wearing them for prolonged periods of time. (They are continuing to sell active-shutter panels, although they did say they intended to halt sales of active-shutter panels soon.)

Naturally, epileptics and parents everywhere will probably prefer the FPR glasses, since they don't involve electronic headwear or rapid flashing. However, we're not sure how much of the health worries about active-shutter glasses were overblown or not, though we have written in the past about how they weren't for the drunk, tired, or pregnant--so if you're one or more of the three, you might want to give LG's new 3D TV a shot and see if it works better for you.

Check out PCWorld's complete coverage of CES 2011

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