As we squeezed our over-stuffed post-Xmas bodies into our plane seats and jetted off towards the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 4th, frankly the only concern we had was about how we were going to squeeze back into the same seats after a week of tucking into Vegas-sized dinners.
We certainly had no expectation that we were about to land straight into the middle of another AV storm to rival the unseemly scrap between HD DVD and Blu-ray. In fact, aside from a few half-formed rumours, we thoroughly expected the 2011 CES to be that rare thing in technology: a year of consolidation.
We especially expected this to be true of 3D. For after a rather inconsistent 'toe-dipping' 2010, it seemed almost inconceivable that 3D wouldn't start to offer a more cohesive story and more consistent performance levels in 2011. As it turned out, though, nothing could have been further from the truth.
The drama all started at 8am (Vegas time) on the 5th January - the main CES press conference day. LG kicked proceedings off, as it always does, and immediately unleashed a huge bombshell. For it quickly became apparent that a good half of LG's entire 2011 3D TV range wasn't going to adopt the full HD active approach adopted by the vast majority of 2010's 3D TVs. Instead LG is going to use the passive 3D system on all of its upcoming LCD and LED TVs bar its top-end new 'Nano' models.
This really was massive news. Especially when it was backed up by hints during a separate press briefing from the LG Display group suggesting that LG might ultimately only make passive 3D screens at some point in the not too distant future.
LG's announcement was so dramatic because it immediately made it blindingly obvious before the show had even begun that the full HD Active approach to home 3D wasn't going to be the only domestic 3D approach. What's more, LG didn't just offer an alternative to the active approach with its passive 3D series; rather it wasted no opportunity to diss Active 3D in surprisingly strong terms.
"Active 3D suffers crosstalk while passive doesn't", they cried. "Active 3D pictures look far less bright than passive 3D pictures", they continued. "Active 3D pictures are prone to blur while passive ones aren't". "Research shows that 88 per cent of people who were shown active and passive 3D tech apparently preferred the passive approach". "Active glasses are expensive and cumbersome while passive ones are cheap and light…" So LG’s list of reasons for choosing passive over active 3D TVs went on, with perhaps the most surprising declaration being that active 3D's tendency to generate flicker could have health implications.