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Building It: 3D Vision Surround And Surround 2D

Nvidia 3D Vision Surround: Is This The Future Of Gaming?
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Putting The Pieces Together: Displays

There are a handful of requirements you’ll need to satisfy prior to using any 3D Vision Surround configuration, the first of which is getting your hands on compatible displays. Because there are only eight desktop displays on Nvidia’s list (five 1920x1080 LCDs and three 1680x1050 models), it’s probable that you don’t have one, much less three of these things.

1920x1080 Desktop Displays
Acer GD245HQ
Acer GD235HZ
Alienware OptX AW2310
Asus VG236
LG W2363D
1680x1050 Desktop Displays
Samsung SyncMaster 2233RZ
ViewSonic FuHzion VX2265wm
ViewSonic FuHzion VX2268wm
Projectors
Acer X1130P
Acer X1261
Acer H5360
Lightspeed Design DepthQ HD 3D Projector
ViewSonic PJD6220-3D
ViewSonic PJD6210-3D
ViewSonic PJD5351
ViewSonic  PJD5111
ViewSonic PJD6381
ViewSonic PJD6211
ViewSonic PJD6221
ViewSonic PJD6241
ViewSonic PJD5112
ViewSonic PJD6251
ViewSonic PJD6531w


Beyond the handful of LCDs imbued with Nvidia’s patented technology, 120 Hz 3D Vision-capable projectors also do the trick here (and can even be used in portrait mode, unlike the polarized LCDs). There are twice as many projectors on the approved list, 11 of them from ViewSonic. If you have lots of room to play and hate the idea of bezels, a projector-based setup might be the way to go.

DLP HDTVs, which worked with the original 3D Vision launch, are synched from the display, and cannot be used in multi-monitor configurations. That’s fine, though. Who wants a trio of DLPs stacked side-by-side, anyway?

GPUs And Physical Connections

With its first 3D Vision Surround-enabled driver release, Nvidia is supporting GeForce GTX 400-series (480, 470, and 465) and 200-series (295, 285, 280, 275, and 260) cards. The specific configurations and connectors supported get to be a little complex though, so you’ll need to pay close attention when you’re mixing and matching GPUs to displays.

Two-way SLI is perhaps the most straightforward (and luckily, the most common). You can use any two 400- or 200-series cards to turn on Surround or 3D Vision Surround. For Surround mode, use any three matching digital or analog connectors. In 3D Vision Surround mode, you have to use a trio of dual-link DVI connectors—no HDMI allowed.


Surround (2D)
3D Vision Surround
GPU
SLI Mode
Supported
GPU Connector
Supported
GPU Connector
GeForce GTX 480, 470, 465
GeForce GTX 285, 280, 275, 260
2-way SLI
Yes
Any three matching digital or analog connectors.
Yes
3D LCDs: 3 x Dual-Link DVI
3D Projectors: all connectors
GeForce GTX 480, 470, 465
3-way SLI
Yes
Any three matching digital or analog connectors.Yes
3D LCDs: 3 x Dual-Link DVI
3D Projectors: all connectors
GeForce GTX 295 (2 x DVI, 1 x HDMI)
Multi-GPU
Yes
Any three matching digital or analog connectors.Yes
3D Projectors: all connectors
Quad-SLI
Yes
Any three matching digital or analog connectors.Yes
3D LCDs: 3 x Dual-Link DVI
3D Projectors: all connectors
GeForce GTX 295 (2 x DVI)
Multi-GPU
No

No

Quad-SLI
Yes
Any three matching digital or analog connectors.Yes
3D LCDs: 3 x Dual-Link DVI
3D Projectors: all connectors


If you’d like to go 3-way (and who wouldn’t?), you’re limited to the 400-series cards. GeForce GTX 200s aren’t enabled in this driver release. The display requirements are similar. Use any three matching digital/analog connectors for Surround, and three dual-link DVI outputs for 3D Vision Surround.

The GeForce GTX 295 is a special case. There exists two versions of the board—one with 2 DVI and an HDMI connector, and one with just two DVI connectors.

If you have the DVI/HDMI version, you can use a single 295 or a pair in Quad-SLI mode to enable Surround (2D) mode. From one card, you can even do 3D Vision Surround, so long as you’re using projectors (LCDs aren’t supported). Using two, you can task three DVI outputs between the two cards with 3D Vision Surround, too.

The version of the GTX 295 with DVI ports obviously can’t do Surround or 3D Vision Surround. It simply doesn’t have the requisite outputs. Using two in Quad-SLI, however, you have the ability to game in Surround or 3D Vision Surround.

As far as motherboards go, obviously you need an SLI-capable platform to do any of this.

Going 2D

There’s a hefty premium on those 120 Hz displays, and the addition of a $200 3D Vision kit (plus $149 for each additional set of shades) makes 3D Vision Surround a pricey proposition. If you’re still onboard with widescreen gaming, but would prefer to stick with glasses-free 2D mode, Nvidia’s Surround capability enables that.

In Surround mode, gone is the 120 Hz requirement. You can use any three similar screens, right up to a trio of 30” 2560x1600 LCDs. The feature isn’t as flexible as Eyefinity—it still requires two cards with a cumulative four outputs. But when you’re talking about high-res widescreen gaming, you’ll probably want an SLI- or CrossFire-based configuration anyway.

Surround does support a wider array of output options. While you’re locked in to three LCDs in landscape mode by 3D Vision Surround, vanilla Surround allows for a trio in landscape, three in a portrait orientation, or four monitors—the fourth connected to the last available DVI port, separate from the primary display group.

A Stand: The Worthwhile Accessory

Having set up several multi-monitor machines, it’s worth noting that a stand goes a long way toward a clean installation. Three 24” displays take up a lot of room placed side-by-side, and if you’re short on desk space, you might find one monitor teetering on the edge. As part of this hardware package, Nvidia sent over an Ergotech Triple LCD desk stand, which I was able to configure in about 15 minutes.

If you have the money to spend on displays, graphics cards, and glasses, it’s absolutely worth considering the stand that de-clutters your desktop.

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