As a treat to myself and my family, I purchased a Kogan 50″ 3D LED TV just before Christmas on pre-sale. The price was great (compared to what it is now), and I wasn’t expecting perfection. Needless to say, Christmas shipping was a trial in itself and it only managed to arrive on New Year’s Eve.
The box itself was quite thin and flat (as expected, as it minimises cost in shipping), and as per Kogan’s practices, no manual is included – you download it if you need it (chances are, you won’t!). Since I have no objective ways to gauge the “quality” of the TV, I’ll just make some subjective observations and comments –
- The black level is good – it doesn’t look grey, there’s no bleeding however, the black level uniformity is only average with a slight “rippling” across the screen.
- The brightness is too high as shipped, and the colours take a bit of tweaking to get “acceptable”, although it does feel a bit contrasty.
- Motion looks just fine – there’s no over-processed “drama film slow-mo” look, and there is no ghosting unlike with the cheapest TVs I’ve seen before. In 3D mode, there’s a bit of crosstalk and ghosting, which (depending on the “depth”) may get objectionable in rare circumstances.
- The speakers, as with many of those integrated in TVs, does a poor job of making a pleasant listening experience. There’s significant resonance and colouration, and EQing doesn’t really “fix” it.
- The controller inside behaves much like the Kogan 42″ LED TV I purchased earlier for my mum – the PVR and menus look identical (with the addition of 3D features).
- The remote control is good, and feels relatively solid.
- The inputs are good – there are four HDMI inputs which are nice, two USB (you might use one for PVR and the other for playback or charging 3D glasses), component, composite and HD15 VGA RGB.
If you’re thinking about buying one, I suppose you get what you pay for. It’s not perfection, but it’s likely to be enough for most viewers!
3D Mode – Active vs Passive Systems
For 3D TVs, there are two prevalent systems in use. There is the Active Shutter system, which utilizes battery powered liquid crystal lenses which alternately block each eye in synchronism with the TV displaying alternate left and right eye images. This method itself is rather elaborate as it requires smart glasses which are often expensive.
On the other hand, there is the passive system which often utilizes polarization glasses which only allow light of one polarization to each eye (e.g. left-hand circular to the left eye, and right-hand circular to the right eye). This is combined with a screen where alternating columns of the display emit one polarization only. As a result, this system only gives you half-resolution 3D. In 2D, you achieve the full resolution as your eyes (without the glasses) are not sensitive to the polarization of the alternating columns and perceive them equally. The advantage of the passive system is cheap glasses, and no requirement for batteries.
This Kogan TV is one of the first shipped by Kogan to utilize the IR Active Shutter system.
Unfortunately, the active shutter system is a minefield of compatibility issues as early adopters have realized – the synchronization method (IR, or IR+Bluetooth) and the protocol itself vary depending on the model and manufacturer. This has resulted in a plethora of incompatible glasses on the market which may or may not work with your TV. In some cases, compatibility is predicated on doing silly things like wearing your glasses upside down.
Luckily, over time, manufacturers realized a need to make these glasses interoperable to ensure consumer confidence in purchasing what is (at times) expensive eyewear. Likewise, many Chinese manufacturers have stepped up to the plate and have made “super universal” glasses which claim to be able to synchronize to many different protocols.
The problem is that Kogan provides only one pair of active shutter glasses with the TV, and the synchronization system in use is not noted. This is a bit sad, since it’s no fun watching 3D material (e.g. 3D Bluray or recorded Side-by-Side broadcast) knowing that the rest of the family can’t watch it along with you. While Kogan do sell active shutter 3D glasses (singly, in packs of two or in packs of four) which claim to be compatible with the TV, they price at around $42.25 – $49.00 a piece (some with additional delivery charge). This is a lot of money to spend, so can you buy other glasses?
[Disclaimer: You purchase these products at your own risk – I aim to provide information to which I believe is correct in my best faith. Lets just say, it works for me – but due to continuous product variation and occasional mis-labelling or sub-revisions of products, you may end up with a product that doesn’t work. You take this risk if you choose to purchase glasses elsewhere!]
Supplied Kogan Glasses
The supplied single pair of Kogan glasses actually look different compared to the separately available glasses, but provide a baseline to buy glasses with. The glasses were supplied in a white medium-walled cardboard box, with manual, charge cable, microfibre cloth, and cloth drawstring bag. I didn’t photograph these items as I had packed them away before the idea of this article came about. Sorry.
The supplied one was red in colour, with relatively flimsy plastic arms. There is a clear plastic power button on top with an LED to indicate power status – a single push turns it on, and a long hold with three blinks turns it off. While it is on, a short push allows you to reverse the frame order. The glasses start up with the correct frame order, so there is no need to do this.
The glasses themselves synchronize to the IR only signal from the TV, and are capable of “freewheeling” (loss of IR signal) for about four seconds before going into standby waiting for an IR signal. After a few minutes, they turn off to save power.
You can see the rubber plastic nose-bridge configuration, which holds the glasses relatively high up. This gives a big gap between the bottom of the lens and your face, which is a feature in that it allows you to manipulate remote controls without taking your glasses off, simply by glancing down. The comfort is not that high though.
The underside shows the microUSB charge port. A red LED illuminates to indicate charging is taking place, and extinguishes when the charge is completed.
As this is the only pair, I won’t take this one apart – but I don’t think I need to, once you take a look at this next one …
WORKS: Unbranded 3D Active Shutter Glasses
Several sets of this pair were purchased from eBay from a seller which no longer sells them for some mysterious reason. They were priced at just under AU$16 each, inclusive of postage from a Sydney-based warehouse.
They came nicely packed in a printed box, with a QC label seal.
The side of the box has a label which tells us what type of glasses is included inside – an IR glasses for 3D TV in Black colour.
That’s what’s inside. Notice something? Looks just like the Kogan glasses but in black rather than red!
Same plastic moulds, same clear button, same one-push green LED on indicator, long push, three blinks to off. But there’s a difference – this set of glasses boots up in inverted frame order, resulting in the right eye image entering the left, and the left eye image entering the right. This can be fixed with a short press of the power button after it synchronizes to flip the synchronization order.
How do you know you have the right frame order? Look at a menu where there’s text “floating” on a background. If you move your head left and right while looking at the TV, does the background seem to “move” in parallax? If so, then you’re good. If it doesn’t, or it seems strange and you’re not getting the 3D effect, then you need to invert your frame order!
The front of the glasses between the lenses houses the IR sensor through the red-black plastic window and logic for the glasses.
The nose bridge and charge port is the same as the Kogan supplied glasses too. It’s no secret that there are really very few OEMs that manufacture products in China, and they are rebranded numerous times and re-sold for a profit. The more people you cut from your supply chain, the less “costs” you incur – my purchasing of this from someone who imports it directly from China is literally the Kogan-ing of Kogan!
So what does your AU$16 get you? Lets peek inside! I highly recommend owners not to open their glasses as there are many thin flex connections which can be torn by careless handling which will render the glasses permanently unusable!
Undoing two small screws and removing the black plastic clip-in insert allows us to marvel at the insides. There’s really not much. You can see the glass-based LCD panels for each eye, basically a “single pixel” which is connected by a pair of connections to the PCB by flex cable.
What we see is the Li-Ion battery peeled back from the PCB – this is rated at 100mAh (the manual says 60mAh, I believe) which is something to be happy about. It should be good for 25-50 hours of viewing.
Here is it removed from the plastic frame. It is very fragile relying on the flex to carry the weight of the lenses. The PCB is silkscreened with PCB G9-7 V1.2 and has several test pads for I2C but I have not explored whether there are signals on these test pads.
Flipping the PCB over reveals a very simple design with very few components – there is room for more, although I’m not sure what it is for (maybe a better Li-Ion charger?) The IR receiver is centre – and it is appears to be a different receiver to remote-receivers which expect a 38khz carrier signal, as the IR protocol uses either direct pulses or 25khz carrier to avoid interference. The whole thing is driven by an Abov Semiconductor 96F5216U microcontroller, of which there is no substantial information available.
The shutter lenses themselves have flexes marked with FPC-SX0285 0327. That’s all there is to a pair of Active Shutter 3D glasses!
WORKS: Sainsonic IR Glasses
A pair of these were purchased from a different overseas eBay seller, listed for another TV (Sharp, although it is often listed for many different brands). Unfortunately, it was shipped using a method that took more than a month to arrive causing this article to be delayed (it arrived today, for the record). The listing for this particular product had the wrong image too, so buyer beware. The price has tripled as well. I purchased it for US$16 inclusive of postage. That’s likely really what these glasses are worth – Kogan expects to make a killing on these! Sainsonic is a large operation which sells many such products, as such, I’m not entirely sure which one this is.
It comes in a rather large glossy plastic box around a plain white cardboard box.
The inclusions for the SainSonic are a bit different – the charge cable is miniUSB rather than microUSB, and two nose-bridges are included possibly for better fit and in case they get lost as they are detachable. The manual itself has the SainSonic branding stickered on, so almost certainly this is OEMed by someone else!
The glasses themselves are much more substantially built with thicker frames and thick arms. In some senses, they’re a bit “too” thick and bulky to the point it starts impacting on wearer comfort. The material used in the manufacture is all made from that red-black plastic which you use on infrared remote controls – including the arms – an interesting choice.
I might question the design of this pair of glasses as being “older” due to the bulky chambers left and right – almost certainly the left one contains all the logic with the right one containing the battery. The flex is visibly running through the hinge fold area.
The controls are on the left side – initially, in order to get the glasses to work, you need to power on by pushing and holding the power button (left one) until the blue LED on top illuminates. Then you need to push and hold the second button for a few seconds until the blue LED blinks while your TV is outputting 3D. This sets it to acquire the 3D signal from the TV. It should synchronize within a second or two with the correct frame order by default from now on. You can swap frame orders by short pressing the second button. Powering on and off is achieved with the power button from thereon in.
On the right arm, you can see the flex, but you also see the QC label stating G03-A (probably the type). Unfortunately, since this pair of glasses is so well built without screws – it’s not obvious how to pry at the seams without inflicting possibly critical damage, so I’ve decided not to take it apart.
The underside of the left arm under the power buttons houses the miniUSB B charge connector with a LED which blinks red when charging and goes solid once charged.
DOESN’T WORK: Super Universal BT+IR Glasses
I purchased this pair from eBay as well, from a seller that offered it for about AU$22, as a “super universal” compatible with “all” TVs. This one is type G05-A (same QC label as the Sainsonic above).
Lets just say, it’s not compatible with Kogan TVs. This is a Bluetooth + Infrared system glasses and will not synchronize to Infrared only it seems. It’s probably better suited to Samsung TVs, although I’m not sure. I have two pairs, both will not sync to the Kogan, so it’s not like I have a dud.
I was too naive in thinking that BT + IR meant that it was compatible with both systems. I bought it because the physical sturdiness of its construction looked good – and it does wear well but it doesn’t work. The inclusions seem rather standard by now – same as the Sainsonic above, except it’s microUSB this time.
The glasses are finished in a soft-touch matte finish, and there is a small window on the front for the IR receiver.
From the top, you can see the thick fixed parts of the arms – this is to house the logic and battery. There is a clear button on the left that performs the power on/off and sync functions. Press and hold until it blinks to initiate searching for a signal (this should only need to be done once), but it won’t seem to work with the Kogan.
The underside houses the microUSB charge connector which is very well covered with a rubber plug – a great feature that none of the other glasses seem to have.
Seeing that it doesn’t work for me – it’s probably no harm to take it apart. A bit of prying and it opens up – logic on the left, battery on the right, all connected by a PCB which is on a very thin and moderately flexible substrate. The PCB is marked as GBSG05 V2.0 dated 7th December 2012. This gives away its OEM as Gonbes – this is a link to the IR version of this set, I’m not sure if that one works either. This one is almost certainly the Bluetooth version.
That’s the guts extracted from the plastic frame. The frame features many protrusions which engage the small holes in this PCB to register its position. It makes reassembly difficult, but not impossible.
The logic PCB houses a Energy Micro TG210F32 ARM Cortex-M3 CPU. The flex connecting the lens is marked with SH-L 3D7011-1.
The other side shows us its Bluetooth abilities, which come courtesy of the Broadcom BCM20730 Bluetooth 3.0 HID controller. A chip antenna is seen right next to it. There’s also an IC marked IF33, and another marked uP6671P whose function is likely related to charging and LCD driving respectively.
And finally, on the other side of the PCB, smack bang in the middle, is the IR receiver.
- Many times, products are made by a limited number of OEMs, and will be found under many brand names. Look at the product images to help you decide whether it looks like your “known working” product as an additional indication, although do remember that seller images are not always accurate.
- Avoid Bluetooth glasses – you don’t need them and they won’t work because they expect Bluetooth signal in addition to the IR signal. Don’t get fooled, BT+IR doesn’t mean “one or the other”, it means both.
- Try to sample by buying one or two for trial before buying more. This will save on losses – and don’t expect to send them back if they’re not the right sort as postage is often much more expensive in return.
- Look out for the lowest price for the same type of glasses – many times, the names will be varied to catch people looking for “compatible with brand X” but the products are the same.
- If you’re entirely risk averse, and don’t want to gamble, or if the price means it’s not worth gambling or maybe you can’t afford to wait – stick to what Kogan offers so as to avoid disappointment.
If you’re willing to take a gamble, you can almost certainly find cheaper glasses below half the price Kogan is charging that are compatible with your TV. Following the tips above should help you find something with a good chance of working – although prepare for possible disappointment since there has always been variations and incompatibilities in the active shutter system.
Unfortunately, at this exact moment, it seems that most sellers of 3D active shutter glasses have raised their prices for some unknown reason – so if you can afford to hold off, it might be a good idea. I got it for AU$16, so maybe you can too!
No 3D glasses were harmed in the production of this post – all of them were reassembled properly and continue to function.
If I have some time, I might do some measurement of the actual IR signal that comes from the TV to determine which protocol it is actually sending – but this will take me some time to set-up.
I’ve now stocked up with enough glasses for the foreseeable future – with any luck this will help others purchase compatible glasses for their TV. If other people have their own findings, feel free to share them for the benefit of others – however, I don’t think I’ll be testing any more types myself.