Review: XpanD X104 Glasses

If you can't trust movie theaters to keep their 3D glasses operational, why not buy a pair of your own?

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


In May we reported on a disastrous press screening for The Avengers due to faulty XpanD glasses at Arclight Cinemas. We’re all about second chances at CraveOnline, so when XpanD told us about their latest line of consumer 3D glasses, we agreed to return to the Arclight for a second look. (We saw Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.)

The X104s are indeed some beautiful 3D glasses. They are as light as the disposable RealD glasses, so they’re unobtrusive on your nose. I did have some nose dents after the movie but it didn’t bother me during. Only these are not throwaway glasses. They contain the full active shutter technology, but don’t weigh your head down.

An XpanD rep explained to me that the reason the reusable glasses at Arclight and other theaters are so bulky is because they need a protective case to cover the electronic components. When you own your own pair, they don’t need to be worried about protecting the equipment from user to user, being cleaned between shows, etc. because if you own your own glasses, you’re going to take care of them (and keep them in the cool black case that also includes a dust cloth and USB cable.)

The X104s are charged via USB port on your home computer, so the owner is in charge of maintenance. Of course I made sure my pair were fully charged the night before, so there would be no more Avengers incidents at Abe Lincoln. Frankly, if 3D is going to last, it may have to fall on individual responsibility. I don’t see a feasible way to ensure a cinema checks all the charges between shows. At least, any serious filmgoer doesn’t have to risk it anymore. Just bring your own and charge them yourself.

The picture is still too dim but that’s not the glasses’ fault. The theater needs to project 3D brighter, but that issue has been well covered. With XpanD X104, you can guarantee a clear picture at whatever brightness level the theater presents.

I did compare the X104s to the standard Arclight glasses (this time the house pair worked too.) Aside from the weight, the big difference I noticed was speed. The old glasses take several seconds to sync up to the 3D picture. When I switched back to my X104s they were instantly synced to 3D. Back and forth, the X104 repeatedly provided a clear 3D picture while the old glasses delayed.

The X104 retails for $119.99 but you can find it for $75.99 on Amazon. That’s still a big investment so it depends how serious you are about 3D. If you love 3D and you have a major XpanD theater near you, absolutely buy your own pair. They work with 3D TVs too. You’ll never risk broken glasses again.

Or, if you’re in the industry and you can take it as a business expense, pick up a pair. Certainly as a writer who will be seeing lots of 3D movies, many screened at the Arclight specifically, I’m glad to have my own pair. Forget tech specs, it’s nice to have one’s own pair to keep clean. But technically, 3D aficionados will be able to appreciate the improvement in the latest line of personal XpanD glasses.

This doesn’t let theaters off the hook, but it gives some of the power back to the moviegoer.