With 1080p sets, active will give you the best resolution, but you will also get crosstalk. Some viewers are sensitive to flicker and get nausea and/or headaches. The glasses of course are battery operated (some are rechargable) and more expensive and fragile.
1080p sets with passive will reduce the vertical resolution by half in 3-D mode, resulting in a softer picture. However, the image is brighter, virtually crosstalk free (keep in mind you must have the screen in front of you from a seated position) and easier on the eyes. The glasses are the same simple passive polarized ones you get when seeing a Real D movie at a theatre, so you can relax if your kid sits on them or the dog gets to them. You will want to sit a few feet back from the screen as otherwise you may notice a scan line effect like old CRTs had.
The best of both worlds are the new UHD 4K sets that use passive 3D tech; most of them provide full 1080p HD images in each eye in 3D mode, the same resolution as the active sets. You get the brigher, virtually crosstalk free, easy to watch images benefits of passive without a loss of resolution and with no scan line effect. However, beware of Sony's 2013 55" X900 model, as it does not pass full HD in each eye, while the larger sizes do. Reviews indicate that LG's 55" model does offer full HD in 3D mode however. No word on how the smaller Sony 2014 models will fare in this arena just yet.
I have an 84" LG 4K passive set and the 3D is better than in the theater. I also have a 92" Mitsubishi DLP active set in the bedroom. The 3D was the best on the Mitsubishi until I got the LG. The passive glasses are cheap(free from theater) and do not reduce the brightness. The 4K upscales the picture to make up for the passive reduction so it looks great. So 4K solves all the problems and should revitalize 3D. I have not seen an active 4K 3D set.
However it will tell him whether the active glasses bother him or not and it will show whether he sees the passive as having only half the resolution as the active. A lot of people don't but that argument has been done to death. My point is whatever he likes he should buy. Your point is well taken that the settings will probably screwed up but there is no other way to compare the two.
I was yesterday at my local HHGregg store trying to figure out if I could change from Active to Passive, since my Active Samsung TV really bothers me and my wife even more, and I saw some of Pacific Rim in the new LG LB7200 and it seemed really choppy, very bad in terms of image quality. Next to that one was the Samsung UN55H7150 which really attracted my attention for its design and picture quality. I asked the sales rep. to put the same movie on the Samsung TV and I got to say that the picture quality was way better, but on the other side, there was too much flicker and crosstalk going on. Later on I took my Up 3D Blu-ray to a friend's house who owns a LG Passive, and I have to say that the picture quality and the 3D was amazing. I just don't know why I had such a different experience with those two passive 3D TVs, mind you, my friend's TV is a mid tier LG from 2012. Just my 2 cents.
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