Does Passive Glasses 3DTV Add Cost?

Up until Vizio’s stunning announcement at the end of last year, I was convinced that we would not see 3DTV flat screen TVs that use passive glasses any time soon. My reasoning was that the patterned polarizing retarder required to make this work was an added material expense, and panel makers are fighting to reduce costs, not increase them. Also, this extra film layer must be precisely aligned, which adds to the assembly costs. In the hypercompetitive flat panel market, who could afford to add to the cost? Consumers would be willing to pay extra for the active glasses to get 3D, but wouldn’t want to pay more for the TV itself. And I was wrong.

Now we have news of a report from DisplayBank that analyzes the costs of the new LG 47LW5700 television which uses passive glasses. The report compares this set with last year’s LG 47LX6500 that uses active glasses. According to the analysis, the total parts cost of the newer set is $711.20, compared with $871.90 for the older model. If you look at the cost breakdown by category, the new model only has a slight advantage in all areas but one. Almost all the difference comes just from the panel cost: $490 versus $640. LG has managed to reduce the material and manufacturing costs so much that they can produce the panels for less than it cost to create an active glasses panel of the same size last year.

This is an impressive indication of how much innovation continues to happen in the LCD television panel market. The fierce competition among many manufacturers continues to drive down costs while adding new features and technology. And I’m thrilled that I was wrong.