Component Reviews

XpanD x104 Universal 3D Shutter Glasses

The first totally compatible (all shutter-system 3D brands) and IR or Bluetooth-capable 3D glasses.

Published on September 21, 2012

XpanD x104 Universal 3D Shutter Glasses
SRP: $119, RF dongle: $40

Universal for all brands of 3D TVs using shutter-type glasses
3 sizes & weights: small 46gr, medium 46gr, large 47gr
3 colors: dark grey, white, red
Rechargeable battery using supplied USB cable to any computer
Free PC-only app allows modifications for each user
2 different rubber nose bridges supplied
Lens cleaning cloth
Streamlined design, heavy temples
Rigid Case
Small RF dongle for Bluetooth (if ordered)

U.S. Office:
1017 Cole Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
310-309-6705
www.xpand.me/home/


Intro
We reported some time ago that all the makers of HDTVs using shutter-type glasses for 3D collaborated with the Consumer Electronics Association on the design of a universal model which would work with all shutter-type 3D sets, no matter the brand. Until then one had to buy the proprietary glasses from the manufacturer who made the set, and it was unlikely that the Panasonic glasses, for example, would work with a Sony 3D set. Most were also priced very high and usually none were offered with the 3D set when you purchased it. (With sets that use the simpler passive 3D technology (Samsung makes both) you can use any cheap polarized 3D glasses without batteries, such as those they give out to you at most 3D theatrical showings. Not sunglasses, by the way.)

XpanD was already the major maker of recyclable shutter-type 3D glasses for theatrical showings, they now produce the universal 3D glasses for home use, which can also be used for viewing theatrical 3D screens using shutter technology. They now seem to have three different models. I have a pair of the x103s, which have a Lithium-ion watch battery in them but are not rechargeable. They work with IR signals from the display for the shutter effect. The glasses are supposed to have instructions with them which explain the different codes used to sync up their operation with the particular brand of TV you have. With my Panasonic plasma display the code is four presses of the button on the bottom side of the glasses.

The instructions were missing from my x103 glasses, so I called up Panasonic support to find out how to get them to work. They informed me the XpanD glasses didn’t work with their system and I should purchase the $150 a pair proprietary Panasonic 3D glasses instead. I immediately went online instead, found out about the four button presses to sync up the glasses and they have worked fine.

The x104s
are the latest in XpanD’s universal 3D glasses line. They are officially designated with the embarrassing name XPAND YOUniversal Electronic 3D Eyewear. A number of enhancements over the x103 model have been made. The glasses are more stylish, with heavy temples, though I think a bit heavier. They are completely compatible with all shutter-type sets, whereas the earlier models sometimes were not. They can be recharged from the USB connection on any computer, a feature of only the top-of-line shutter 3D glasses from other manufacturers. A charge lasts about 35 hours. The cable connects to a small USB port on the tip of one of the temples, which is also the port for attaching the tiny accessory RF dongle, which—when additionally purchased and attached—makes the x104s the first and only IR/RF hybrid 3D glasses. Some of the latest 3D sets use Bluetooth radio frequency signals to operate the shutter glasses instead of the usual infrared.  The main advantage is that the user can be way to the side of the screen—out of line of sight—and still have the glasses operate properly.

XpanD sent me the medium-sized x104s, which fit fine. I suppose you’re just guessing as to what would be the proper size for yourself, since the glasses are usually not available in stores to try out. The width range goes from 139.7mm for the small to 160.6mm for the large. Though a bit heavier than some 3D glasses, I found them comfortable. My wife, however, was troubled by all three nose bridges that were supplied with the x103 glasses, and hasn’t tried the x104s yet. I discovered something when researching 3D glasses online: The most expensive models claim they are wearable over users’ prescription glasses, but I found that all 3D glasses work fine over the user’s own glasses—otherwise there would be a lot more complaining at theatrical 3D showings than there is.

PC users can benefit from an extra with all XpanD 3D glasses (another case of we 10% Mac users being ignored): It is specialized PC software which can be downloaded at the XpanD web site and allows users to tweak the eyewear shutter timings beyond the default timings with which the glasses come. (I think it’s free.) A broad spectrum of other shutter responses may be achieved with advanced option sliders labeled “Open delay” and “close delay.”  The offset may also be changed. Instructions with the software explain the procedure. The idea is that each user’s viewing requirements and environment vary, and the software allows optimization for every person’s eyes and facial structure.

The x104s also have a feature I don’t believe the x103s do. That is automatic IR protocol detection. You merely point the glasses at the display, press and hold the button for three seconds. The red LED on the side of one of the temples (there is also a separate battery condition LED) will blink until the auto detection is completed, which may take up to a minute. Once the IR protocol is detected it is stored in the memory of the glasses and each time you turn them on it will start in that mode. By the way, both models can either be turned off by pressing the button once, or they will turn off automatically after receiving no IR or RF signal for five minutes. The Quick Install User Guide provided with the glasses is very clear and well laid out. It mentions firmware upgrades, and I understand there is a new one for the X104s. But it only mentions PCs, so again I don’t know if Mac users can benefit from firmware upgrades.

I had a major struggle getting the x104s to sync up with my Panasonic display, although I had had no problem with the x103s. I finally discovered I needed to sit much closer to the display for either the automatic or manual detection to work. The degree of darkening of the screen image is similar to the x103s.  I don’t have a problem with that because my Panasonic immediately switches from the Custom to the Vivid setting—which is brighter—when I press the 3D button on the remote.

Conclusion
The x104s are more striking-looking and more substantial than the x103s. (The x103s didn’t come with so many accessories, including a nice hard plastic case.) If they had sent me the bluish-gray ones instead of the white I suppose I would achieve a sort of nerdy Buddy Holly look wearing them. I also like the ability to recharge them, though the Panasonic display has IR and I don’t need the RF dongle. Using one of the two rubber nose bridges, I found them comfortable. As with many such electronics products today, you don’t need to pay the listed retail price.  I found them for $55 online, and everything in between that and the $119 retail. I paid $45 each for my x103s and I see Adorama currently has a deal of a pair of them for $75. Still, I think when I purchase additional 3D glasses for guests, I will get the x104s. They would be especially important for those who want to watch 3D on other brands of shutter-type sets, as well as theatrical shutter 3D showings.

—John Sunier




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