New 2011 TVs Cut 3D Resolution In Half

December 30th, 2010 · 15 Comments · 3D HDTV, News

TV makers at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas will roll out a new category of 3D flat panel HDTV that permits the use of inexpensive, passive 3D glasses, like the ones you get for free in movie theaters.

LG and Vizio have already announced new LED-LCD “passive” models and we expect other TV makers to offer these new 3D sets as entry-level models.

Vizio and LG  fail to mention in their press releases for these products that the technology, called “Passive Pattern Retarder”, halves the vertical resolution of all 3D content!

Blu-ray movies contract from Full HD 1920 x1080 to 1920×540. It gets worse. Cable and DirecTV currently broadcast 3D sports, events and movies in the side-by-side format, typically at a resolution (per eye) of 960 x 1080. Viewed on the new Passive Patterned Retarder sets, the resolution of the side-by-side format drops to 960×540 (per eye), just one-quarter of Full HD.

Many of these reduced resolution patterned retarder sets will also have Internet streaming capabilities and apps. The industry will be calling them Smart TVs.

How They Work

All HD full resolution 3D TVs to date use active shutter glasses that synchronize the left and right eye with each respective image, which is displayed on the HDTV with all 1080 lines sequentially (left, right left right etc.).

A Passive Pattern Retarder (PPR) film coating on the surface of these new 3D TVs, allows the left lens to view only the odd numbered lines (1,3, 5 etc.) for the left eye image, while the right eye lens simultaneously passes only the even numbered image lines (2, 4, 6 etc.). Thus each eye only sees half the vertical resolution at 540 lines per eye.

This technology has been available for some time on LG sets sold overseas and on a JVC and Hyundai professional monitors. In demonstrations we’ve seen, the lower resolution is noticeable, with the wider spaced, fewer lines of resolution visible and reminiscent of the old 525 line analog NTSC standard definition. This is “progress?”

In a press release out of Korea, LG boasts its LW6500 series 3D TVs make 3D viewing more comfortable by using their latest passive glasses that weigh 16 grams (slightly over half an ounce).

They also claim the sets are flicker free, a claim with which we do not disagree since the glasses contain no shutters. However, a number of 2010 Full HD active shutter 3D TVs we’ve tested also had flicker free images.

One more note about PPR 3DTVs, they suffer from a reduced vertical 3D viewing angle when compared to active shutter designs. Depending the distance and angle of view, you could lose the 3D effect if you’re viewing from too high or low of an angle, as when you stand up or sit down.

Will these new entry-level 3D half-resolution sets fly with the public? We will report reactions next week from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Have a question for the HD Guru?

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15 Comments so far ↓

  • Joe

    Hi HD Guru,

    You state that all Samsung TVs are Full HD, but this is also misleading… The D6xxx range cut the vertical resolution in half also:

    I have a D6750 myself and can confirm that the resolution is disappointing.

    You comment about different models sold in Europe that I have no access to and cannot test therefore I can’t comment about them.

    HD Guru

  • Don White

    Thank you HD Guru. Your help is invaluable! I have been looking through TV specifications for some time now. They are USUALLY misleading. NONE of them specify that there is a loss of resolution in passive 3D mode. NONE of them specify that when 3D can only be produced at 24Hz on a 120Hz TV (like on the latest Sony KDL32EX720).
    Again, thanks for REAL information.

  • Johann

    Also a quick note, I think the resolutions are wrong here. This is my understanding:

    Side-by-side is used exclusively on 1080i 3D broadcasts, resulting in left eye and right eye images that are anamorphically squeezed into the same video frame. For side-by-side 3D, each image winds up with 960×1080 resolution, while top+bottom images are re-sized to 1280×360. The lost pixels must be interpolated when each frame is anamorphically stretched back to its original size, which is why neither 3D system looks particularly sharp when compared to 3D Blu-ray discs.

  • Johann

    You are all forgetting that when resolution is “halved” the brain combines those images back into full resolution in your head. Now the effect isn’t perfect, and like some of you state, sometimes you can see the scan lines, but, we must remember that we have source resolution, loss of resolution, and received resolution. As in 1080p to start, cut in half to every other line, to every other eye, then into the brain, with a full resolution picture. so 1080p becomes a kindof 1080i in the head. In the end, it comes down to what it looks like in person. I personally want to play a game, are these passive TV’s going to be compatible with 3D TV Play from nVidia or the xBox 360/PS3 ?

  • Zoltari

    I have just seen the LG passive 47″ TV and it was fantastic. I have no idea what you are talking about: when you said that the image was so much lower resolution, I had images in my mind of something akin to YouTube quality pictures, but I can honestly and truthfully say, I liked the 3D better: it pops out the screen more; the image looks sharper, there are no strange strobe effects on fast moving images; the glasses fir over my own glasses just fine and are lighter and easier to wear for 2 hours!

    In short, I found the passive 3D to be way, way, way better than active 3D. The shutter glasses make me feel ill with that constant flicker (I could never get away with DLP either – I just have sensitive eyes. I can see flicker on ALL shutter glasses: Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba… It’s my eyes not the technology I guess).

    As regards image quality: watching a complete film (monster v aliens) I would say that passive is not only more comfortable to watch (it didn’t give me a migraine) but the image is absolutely fine. I’m a real nit picker as regards image quality, and to be honest with you, I can’t see your problem with passive at all. 3D isn’t something I would want to watch every film I own in anyway, it’s gimmicky and good for a laugh, but until it advances to a point where it really is 3D, it will never be a ‘must have’ for anything – it’s not in the same realm as the invention of colour for example… I think that in or 6 years (maybe less) it will become good enough to be used for everything, but as it stands it’s, shutter glasses or passive, it really isn’t there yet.

    Passive image quality is way good enough for anyone but the most picky people out there and those people probably spend too much time watching the screen when they could be watching the movie – it’s like audiophiles who spend so long listening to the cable quality or the material the cones are made from, they never hear the music.

    You made passive sound like it would be abysmal, low quality – I imagined it would look like an 80s arcade game with the scan lines clearly visible, but it just doesn’t; you made it sound like it would be worse than watching an early 90s Spanish satellite feed, but it isn’t – it’s lovely and bright, and clear and sharp.

    To reiterate: Passive looks just fine people, don’t wrote if off based on what you read. Take a look for yourself, you will be surprised how good it really is,

  • infinitr

    Film at 24fps can be more enjoyable to watch than programming at 30fps.

    I am not saying that we should settle, but that a good experience is not always just in the numbers. A lot of people tend to just shop for numbers rather than real world experience.

    For me, current active shutters are not an enjoyable experience. I am glad to see different technology to try.

    If anything, it should be the majority of the retail stores who get a slap on the hand for not properly displaying the technology for consumers to compare with their own eyes.

  • Michael

    I saw the Vizio passive 3D 65″ TV at CES, and, yes, the resolution was disappointing. I could actually see the “scan lines” due to gaps between horizontal rows of pixesls blocked for each eye. The passive glasses are great for simplicity and cost, but you really take a hit in image quality. My eyes also had trouble with parallax with this set. Panasonic still has the best 3D, although this year, I did see some flicker on a couple of their demos, that I didn’t see last year.

  • Shawn Turnbill

    The only way to get full 1080p in both eyes would be to purchase a Panasonic Blu-ray player. Other wise your 1080 lines of resolution are halved on all 3D content no matter what. So why is this passive solution such a big deal, active solutions are already 540???

    Incorrect all the 2010 “Full HD” active shutter glasses TVs have 1080p 3D. They are available from Toshiba, Samsung, Sony Sharp, Panasonic.

    HD Guru

  • Destro

    It will be interesting to see if the the RealD Z-Screen will be ever implemented on anything but projectors. If so, hopefully they will show some prototype at the CES which is not a version of their “Monitor Z-Screen”. I would like to see how the 2D performs through the screen . Manufacturers like Samsung have very bright televisions which makes their sets look great in the stores. Projecting through a screen is likely to reduce the overall brightness by up to half. 2D performance (as seen on a store shelf) will be important to overall sales since thats how many people will decide on their purchase when they look side by side with other sets (even through it shouldn’t actually be a factor)

  • Paulb

    Destro, I beg to differ, strongly. I am very thankful that reviewers like HD Guru brings this to light an I do think it is something that needs to be called out as deliberate omission by manufactures and as such, is an attempt to mislead consumers. Worse than the ‘LED TV!’ nosense that was designed to make less educated consumers think they were buying something different and more advanced than LCD tv’s.
    Reducing full resolution image quality vs. other technologies and simply advertising the technology as if the only difference is the improvement by using passive glasses is effectively lying, decieving consumers. Without sites like this calling it out aggressively, all consumers will see is the information from sites who parrot press releases.

  • HiFiFun

    If the passive 3D makers charged half the price, then then the reduced resolution might be acceptable.
    As it is $3500 is the same street price for full 3D displays. Go figure!

  • cypherstream

    So why not make the display 1920×2160 and this limitation is overcome.

    My iPhone4 has a retnia display in the palm of my hand. I can’t barely see the pixels that make the picture because they are so small. At a 40″ TV or above, 1920×2160 should be technically possible. The pixels STILL wouldn’t be as small/densly packed as an iPhone4 screen.

    1920×2160 = problem solved.
    2160 line doubled with 2D content.
    2160/2 = 1080 unique lines per eye with 3D content.

  • Blade

    HD Guru. You really need to take a breath and step back and READ what people are saying to you.

    Noted. Please read our latest response to Destro.


  • Destro

    Don’t get me wrong, HD GURU normally does a very unbias 10,000 foot reviews but in this case you seemed exceedingly bias toward a technology which serves a niche which is not served by the current one. I’m all for the additional information about the technology and its limits but your whole article comes off as if LG and Vizio are doing something underhanded or intentional to cheat their customers. This happens to be the nature of the Technology if you want a passive 3D tv there is really no other option. As I understand it they are still full HD sets for 2D . When the screen resolution of these panels double then Passive FullHD 3D will be possible but then people would be complaining about that.

    These companies are still making sets with active shutter so what they are doing is giving people a choice (Something other companies are not at the moment) , if your use for the set is large gatherings of people 6+ then this may be worth it instead of spending another $600 on proprietary glasses which may not work with your next set.

    I would just say to try to be a bit neutral with your article. Any valid points trying to be made were lost due to its flaming nature.

    Thanks for the additional comment. As previously stated, we am happy with consumer choice, however we felt this was really a glaring omission. Vizio just announced a full line of PPR 3D TVs from 22″ (we have issues with small 3D TV screens but that is a completely different technical topic we may address at a later date)

    There will be another passive option coming with the RealD Z-Screen technology (see our 2011 Predictions) which like movie theaters has full resolution. We are waiting for an announcement as to when it from which vendor(s) it will debut.


  • destro

    Try viewing it before posting nonsense. 1080×540 is false. No downconverion takes place. It is true that half the pixels are lost but the image size does not change . Its simply the nature of the beast at this time. Vizio ad LG are not “Conspireing” If you want a passive display now then this is how the technology works. I guarentee you will not even tell the difference.

    So why not actually get the set and review it instead of spewing your misinformation as fact.

    We never stated “downconversion” and there is no “misinformation”.

    As far as viewing is concerned, yes we have seen examples of passive displays including the Vizio , an LG , JVC, and Hyundai. When you and others do, we are confident the line structure will be noticed, it is not a subtle change.

    We have no problem with TV makers offering consumers choices, however, readers should be aware of the difference between PPR and Full HD 3D TVs and this should be disclosed by the set
    makers. We will continue to point out performance issues of HDTV and 3D products.

    If you don’t want full information, there are a number of other TV websites that never report product limitations.


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