Active vs Passive 3D – What’s The Difference?

There are distinct differences between active 3D and passive 3D. But which of these 3D technologies is best? This guide will give you a complete answer.


Passive 3D TVs halve the vertical resolution of the display but have less flickering and crosstalk as well as cheaper glasses and better depth perception than active shutter 3D TVs.

Although 3D TVs are no longer produced, with the last model being released in 2016, many are still interested in this technology.

There are two types of 3D technologies when it comes to TVs – passive and active shutter.

Both have their fair share of advantages and disadvantages, even though most people find passive 3D to be better overall.

Active Shutter 3D TVs

passive 3d tv 4k

Active 3D TVs work by alternating between displaying frames for the left and the right eye while synchronizing with the 3D glasses.

When the frame for the left eye is shown, the right lens on the 3D glasses goes black. This is done very quickly, making it unnoticeable to the human eye. However, flickering is still present, and some users may experience headaches after prolonged use.

You will also be able to notice crosstalk or ghosting of fast-moving objects on the screen, though that also depends on the TV’s response time speed.

Because of the above-mentioned issues and the fact that glasses for active 3D TVs are expensive and require batteries, many opt for passive 3D TVs instead.

Passive 3D TVs

Passive 3D TVs combine two frames in one and only alternate between the horizontal lines of the frame, which consequently halves the vertical resolution.

So, on a Full HD TV, you’d get 1920×540 instead of 1920×1080, which isn’t particularly noticeable as the frames are well blended. It’s even less noticeable on 4K 3D TVs due to the higher screen resolution.

Additionally, glasses for passive 3D TVs are considerably cheaper as well as more comfortable to wear.

What’s more, there is less ghosting with fast-paced content and no screen flickering whatsoever on passive 3D TVs.

Keep in mind that both passive and active 3D TVs don’t have any effect on the regular 2D image. Furthermore, both types of 3D technology will make the screen dimmer when watching 3D content.

Lastly, HDR (High Dynamic Range) isn’t compatible with 3D images; in fact, even 4K Blu-rays don’t support 3D.

Unless you are really into 3D, we recommend getting a newer 4K TV with features such as HDR or OLED technology instead. If you want a 3D TV regardless, go for passive 3D.

SpatialLabs – 3D Without Glasses!

Acer SpatialLabs Pro

There are new monitors that use eye-tracking cameras and switchable lenticular lenses to produce a 3D image without the use of glasses. Two different images are projected to the viewer’s eyes, each at a slightly different angle.

This also means that the proper 3D viewing experience is only possible for one person sitting directly in front of the screen. These displays are intended for 3D design, gaming and entertainment.

You can watch regular 2D content and get the 3D effect as well via the provided AI software, though the quality of 3D will depend on the native content. SBS (side-by-side) content made for 3D and Visual Reality works even better.

At the moment, these displays are only available in the small 15.6″ 4K portable form factor for $1100 – $1500, and in a laptop, such as the Predator Helios 3D, which goes for ~$3,500.

Acer also announced a 27″ 4K 160Hz model, the SpatialLabs View Pro for Q1 2024, though pricing is not revealed yet. Lenovo’s model, the ThinkVision 27 3D with a 27″ 4K 60Hz panel is announced for February 2024 with a $3,000 price tag.

While these displays are definitely very exciting, it will take some time for them to become more widely available and at more affordable prices.

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Joseph Moore

Joseph has probably spent thousands of hours learning about displays in his free time and prior work experience at HP. He now writes and manages DisplayNinja to ensure it stays as the people's favorite resource.