HP 3D: Passive vs. Active

HP announced a 3D PC display and a 3D PC today. To me, at least, the most interesting thing about them is that the company chose a different flavor of 3D for each device.

First the display. Its official moniker is the HP 2311gt 3D monitor, and it’s a 23″ LED-backlit display. Like most 3D movies you see in theaters, the 3D is passive, which means that its uses polarized glasses that don’t have any embedded electronics and don’t cost a lot of money. In fact, the display and two set of glasses go for $299.99, or about what you might pay for two pair of active-shutter glasses alone.

Then there’s the HP TouchSmart 620 3D Edition PC. It’s a whole touch-screen PC that also uses a 23″ screen, and it’s the first TouchSmart that does 3D (and comes with a built-in 3D Webcam). Unlike the 2311gt, it u

ses active glasses, and comes with one set of them. Other than the 3D, it’s a typical TouchSmart, with HP’s touch interface–until Windows 8 arrives, HP is the only company that’s put the effort into making touch work well on Windows–plus a fold-back screen and Beats audio. It costs $1899.99, with a $300 “instant rebate” that brings the price down to $1599.99.

HP showed me both new products last week. How’d the 3D compare? Well, I’m not the best person to render a verdict. I wear glasses and have a bizarrely wide head, so most 3D glasses (including HP’s) fit me poorly, hurting both the stereoscopic effect and my skull. Even aside from that, I find 3D gimmicky at best. (That said, I’m more excited about it for game-playing and creating 3D photos than I am for movie-watching, so 3D PCs are at least marginally more alluring to me than 3D TVs.)

It seems that HP went with passive 3D on the monitor to keep the price low, and chose active for the PC because it believes it to be the superior technology. (A representative of the company pointed out to me that active 3D has a wider viewing angle than its passive cousin.) I don’t see a dramatic difference between the two technologies–and again, I’m not a fan of either–but I’ve found passive to be easier on my own personal eyeballs. (I liked some sample 3D still images which HP showed me.) And it’s certainly easier on the wallet.

Active 3D has been around for computers for eons; passive is still just getting started. I’ll be curious to see if both technologies coexist, or one of them prevails over the other. Or maybe the whole world will largely lose interest in 3D…

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