Last year, three of the "big four" television manufacturers announced along with 3D glasses maker XpanD they were pooling their resources to create a single standard for active 3D glasses, called the Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative. Until now, glasses built by one manufacturer weren't able to be used on a TV by another. A single standard means you can, for example, take your glasses to your friend's house to watch the Olympics in 3D--provided he or she has a compatible active 3D TV.
While Sony's 2012 3D TVs like the HX750 still use proprietary glasses, Samsung and Panasonic are now selling 2012 glasses and TVs that comply with the standard and earn the special logo. Of most interest will be the cheaper glasses, the Samsung SSG-4100GB, which sell for $20 online. The Panasonic TY-ER3D4MU glasses go for around $60. Both will work with any 2012 Samsung or Panasonic active 3D TV and any future TV that complies with the Full HD 3D standard.
Design and fit
The SSG-4100GB glasses are quite lightweight, which is a plus, but the construction is plasticky and doesn't feel as hard-wearing as the Panasonic's. The glasses arrive in three pieces: the main frame housing the lenses, and two temples (the legs of the glasses that extend from the lenses to the ears). Some assembly was required.
We snapped the temples into the frame to either side of the nose bridge and immediately noticed they were quite short. If you wear them over regular prescription glasses, the bridge perches uncomfortably on the end of your nose. Additionally, the snap-on temples detach quite easily from the rims that hold the lenses, so longevity could be an issue. By contrast, the Panasonics have much longer temples that are hinged for better rigidity, and are quite comfortable regardless of whether you fit them over prescription glasses.
The on-off control on the Samsung is situated just above the nose, and holding down the small button pairs the glasses to the TV. We had no trouble pairing them to either TV as long as we held them close to the screen. The glasses use Bluetooth instead of infrared so they don't need a physical view of the TV, which means you don't have to resync them if you lose line of sight for some reason. Between the lenses there's a small compartment that houses a watch battery (size CR2025); Panasonic's TY-ER3D4MU glasses are rechargeable, whereas the SSG-4100GBs are not. Samsung claims the glasses last for 150 hours before needing a new battery.
The Samsung and Panasonic glasses performed about the same, although if we had to pick one based on picture quality alone, it would be the Panasonic.
To compare the two glasses we used the movie "Hugo," as the opening 5 minutes make an excellent 3D test. We compared both manufacturers glasses on both a Panasonic TC-P55ST50 and a Samsung PN50E8000, both set to the default Cinema modes for 3D.
Switching quickly between the two glasses there is a slight but noticeable difference in black levels. The image viewed through the Panasonic glasses seemed just a bit darker on the screens of both TVs. We're not sure if this difference is caused by the lenses themselves or simply by the Panasonic's fit -- the more closed design blocks out more ambient light even in our completely dark room.
There was almost no difference in color between the two sets of glasses, and the ghostly outlines of crosstalk appeared identical as well. Both varied depending on which TV we watched -- for the record the Samsung was superior in both areas -- but the glasses had a negligible impact.
In terms of fit, the Samsung glasses felt cheaper, were uncomfortable, and again didn't block out as much light from outside. These factors made wearing the Panasonics an overall better and more immersive viewing experience.
As far as longevity, neither pair is particularly immune to breakage -- we actually have a pair of each with cracks in the lenses that broke during shipping (better packaging next time, guys). The cracks expose the liquid crystal layer, which makes them useless. Moral of the story is: don't leave these out for people to stand or sit on. And if this is a problem, get a passive LG TV where the glasses are much cheaper and don't have the gooey LCD center.
Opinions are split on whether passive or active is the best 3D technology. Ty prefers passive as the interlacing artifacts aren't as annoying as the eyestrain that results from the crosstalk still found in active technologies. David finds those artifacts more objectionable than the mild crosstalk seen on the best active TVs.
If 3D is a secondary consideration (as it should be) here's what we'd recommend. If you're looking to save money on active glasses and own a compatible 2012 TV, buy a pair of the Panasonics for yourself to use most of the time, and then buy a few more pairs of these cheaper Samsungs for when the whole family sits down together. Just don't forget to put them away afterward.