LG Passive 3-D TV

Review of LG 50LA6970 Passive 3-D TV

(Applies to similar LG LCD “Smart” Passive 3-D TVs)

I have had this TV now for over 6 months. At the time I bought it from Sam’s Club, it cost well under $700, and I paid under $100 for a Sony Blu­ray player, capable of playing 3-D Blu­ray movies, to go with it. This is an extremely satisfying, 50”diagonal TV set, especially for those of us who are 3-D fans. It is a “Passive” 3-D set, which uses the same inexpensive 3-D glasses you get at “Real D” 3-D Movie­ equipped theaters. These are the glasses that don’t require batteries or wires.

There have been many discussions about which is better. The “Active” 3-D TV system in theory should be sharper because the right and left eye images are displayed alternately, with each image using full screen resolution, but which requires the bulkier, battery driven (and more expensive) ”shutter” glasses. The “Passive” system on this TV in 3-D mode divides the screen into very fine alternately polarized horizontal lines ­ the even numbered lines are polarized to display the picture information for, say, the left eye view (and are polarized to correspond to the polarized filter in the left lens of your glasses), while the odd numbered lines are polarized to display the right eye picture information. I am a perfectionist and, having seen the excellence of the “Active” system, was convinced that I would find the “Passive” system significantly deficient. I am pleased to say that I was wrong. All the LG “Passive” TVs I have seen are capable of being amazingly bright with fully saturated colors when properly adjusted, and the slight loss of vertical resolution completely disappears when you are seated 7 feet or more from the TV, a perfectly acceptable viewing distance for a 50 inch set. Also, the “Passive” TVs appear to be much less expensive than the “Active” TVs. Where the “Active” TVs shine is more in the closer seating distances, where the lack of visible scanning lines and the better resolution can be impressive.

The one caution is that the the “Passive” display system requires the observer to be positioned opposite the vertical center of the screen. Otherwise, the image will appear to “ghost,” or appear with faint fringes of the view from the wrong eye (“crosstalk”). This problem can be avoided easily by tilting the TV up or down so that, while the TV is off and the screen appears black, the seated observer can see the reflection of his/her eyes approximately half way between the top and bottom of the screen. There is considerable tolerance here ­­ if the reflection of your eyes is within the middle third of the screen, you are probably OK. Your side to side position is essentially immaterial for the optimal 3-D effect ­ only the vertical position is necessary. Also, as in the modern 3-D movies, you can tilt your head somewhat without spoiling the 3-D effect. If you ever visit friends with passive 3-D sets who are dissatisfied with the “ghosting” they are getting in 3-D mode, you can be a hero by showing them how to tilt their screens so as to get gloriously sharp, crisp, and bright 3-D almost totally free of ghosts.

Another joy of this TV set is that it can display 3-D pictures and videos I have taken with my digfital Fujifilm 3-D W3 camera, and with other cameras friends have used to make digital 3-D movies and stills. If you want to get into this, I recommend checking out the LA 3-D Club, which has been in existence since the 1950s. Its members can be very helpful.

The “Smart TV” features of the LG include a link (you have to connet the TV to the internet) to a free 3-D site called “3-D World,” which contains some very good (and quite a few mediocre!) free 3-D programs of various subjects and lengths, including a few excellent free documentaries worth going out of your way to view. There are also several low cost 3-D movie rental options that can be purchased on screen for immediate viewing within 48 hours. Hooking up a 3-D­capable Blu­ray player will enable you to watch 3-D Blu­ray movies, which look fabulous on this set (and other passive 3-D sets as well). When you are not watching 3-D material, you should find tthat the normal 2D performance of this TV is excellent as well, with optimum HD sharpness and a number of high­tech adjustments that enable you to get the most satisfying picture possible.

One excellent feature for handicapped people is that when headphones are attached to the Audio Out port, the speakers can be turned on or off by settings accessed with the remote control ­ you don’t have to go over to the TV and physically unplug the headphone cable to do this.

The only problem I had at first was discovering that, for source material that was already in 3-D (such as Blu­ray 3-D Movies), contrary to what you would assume, I had to turn the 3-D mode OFF so that the TV could recognize the 3-D material and display it correctly. Otherwise, with the 3-D mode ON, the TV would try to “convert” the image to 3-D from 2D, which is an extremely unsatisfactory process that produces a computer generated “ersatz” 3-D effect on the fly and is therefore ludicrously bad in most instances. I recommend that you avoid using the “3-D” conversion mode – this kind of conversion from 2D to 3-D cannot be done effectively on the fly. Conversion to 3-D requires human judgement as to where objects in the 2D image need to be placed in space. Successful commercial studio conversions from 2D to 3-D require thousands of man ­hours of work and are expensive to produce. I guess that the novelty of instant conversion to 3-D, no matter how flaky it appears, may appeal to some, but I’m afraid the often terrible results may be thought “typical” of 3-D by others who therefore may never trouble to watch properly made 3-D on their 3-D TVs. Don’t fall into this trap!

In spite of this caveat, which shouldn’t prevent the savvy user from getting the utmost in 3-D satisfaction from this TV, I would definitely recommend this set to others.

However, if you can afford it, I recommend that you also consider an “Active” 3-D TV (uses the shutter glasses and has the higher vertical resolution). The Active 3-D TV would enable you to sit closer without being aware of horizontal scanning lines than you would with a Passive system – this means getting more of an “immersive” effect with the same size screen. You would have to decide whether this moderate quality increase is worth the extra money and the slightly more inconvenient, more expensive, battery ­driven glasses. Some of the new OLED, 4K, 3-D TVs are supposed to be spectacular as well, but as of now (July, 2014) you need to sell your children into slavery and mortgage your family mansion to afford one.

Copyright © 2013 Stereo Club of Southern California