Talk about a long gestation period. First previewed last year at the 2010 CEDIA show with promised availability by the end of the year, Monster Cable’s Monster Vision MAX 3D universal active shutter glasses are only now trickling out to retail store shelves.
As is still the case today, 3D TVs that require the use of active shutter LCD glasses similarly require using 3D glasses offered by the same brand, as there’s no unifying standard among the various brands. A 3D TV active glasses working group has recently been established to define and promulgate a universal standard, but those efforts often take years, not months, before reaching fruition.
Also, the 3D active shutter glasses supplied with most 3D TVs last year and with a number of this year’s models aren’t rechargeable, and have a typical battery life of around 75 hours or so. It wasn’t until late in the year rechargeable 3D glasses, which naturally are more expensive than battery-powered models, became available as an option.
Monster’s Vision MAX 3D glasses solve some of these issues. First, Vision they are rechargeable (via connection to any USB port), and feature a battery level indicator via a flashing red LED in the headband. With battery-powered and even rechargeable types, there’s usually no indication of battery strength, which can lead to misery if your 3D glasses quit right in the middle of a 3D movie.
They’re also universal, which means they’ll work with virtually any brand of 3D TV that needs active shutter glasses. The starter kit ships one pair of the Monster Vision MAX 3D glasses along with a small matchbox-sized converter module and an infrared sensor that’s placed near the 3D TV’s infrared 3D IR sync window (typically somewhere along the TV’s lower front panel bezel). The module picks up the infrared 3D sync signal via the IR sensor, and translates it to a data stream compatible with the Monster Vision MAX 3D glasses. Along with the IR sync detector, there’s also a mini-DIN adapter cable that allows the IR-RF converter module to be connected directly to any 3D TV that has a wired 3D sync output jack (few 3D TV sets come with this feature, however).
The data stream is then transmitted to the glasses via radio frequency, not infrared (IR), which solves two other issues. First, a viewer doesn’t have to be glued to the set. With conventional active shutter IR 3D glasses, the glasses usually turn off after a minute or two of not receiving the IR signal in order to conserve battery life. Second, as the 3D sync signal is RF not IR, there’s no issue regarding where in the room a viewer needs to sit. With IR-based 3D glasses, there’s usually a fairly defined operating “window”—sit too far off axis, and the 3D sync signal coming from the TV might be interrupted or simply not captured by the glasses.
The IR-RF converter module itself is upgradeable via PC software, so that if down the road a manufacturer changes their 3D IR sync codes, the Monster Vision MAX 3D glasses won’t become obsolete. Even though we’re only in the second year of 3D TV in the home, one 3D TV maker (Samsung) has already upgraded their 3D glasses for this year’s new 3D TV models (last year’s glasses won’t work, apparently). Having software upgradeability is definitely a big plus.
Tested with Panasonic’s new ST30 50” 1080p 3D plasma TV, the Monster Vision MAX 3D glasses worked perfectly. The IR sensor was placed a few inches away from the TV’s IR sync transmitter window, and the converter module’s five LEDs lit up in an instant, delivering the requisite 3D sync signal to the glasses, and with various 3D content from a number of Blu-ray discs, the Monster Vision MAX 3D glasses delivered an entirely satisfactory 3D experience.
It’s important to note however, that while the glasses are able to work with multiple brands of 3D TVs, they’re not exactly 100% “universal,” as there are small but important differences between the 3D glasses that various manufacturers offer with their 3D TVs. For example, the 3D glasses that came with the Panasonic ST30 have a higher light attenuation (dimming effect) than the Monster Vision MAX 3D glasses (which have somewhat higher translucency, but are not completely transparent). With the ST30 properly adjusted for correct contrast and brightness (black level) for the Panasonic 3D glasses, perceived picture brightness with the Monster Vision MAX 3D glasses was much higher, necessitating a re-adjustment to bring the set’s contrast and brightness levels back where they should be. That means that in a situation where some viewers in a room wear Panasonic glasses, while others wear Monster Vision MAX 3D glasses, some will see the optimum 3D image, while others will not.