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GeForce 3D Vision Vs. HD3D: Another Close Race

Stereo Shoot-Out: Nvidia's New 3D Vision 2 Vs. AMD's HD3D
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This article addresses both Nvidia’s new 3D Vision 2 technology, along with the performance implications of 3D Vision versus AMD HD3D. Let's consider each focus independently.

3D Vision 2

We'll start with 3D Vision. With brighter LED-backlit monitors, more aggressive timings, and upgraded glasses, 3D Vision 2 is a much-needed fix for our biggest complaint about the original version: everything appeared too dark. With the hardware upgrades, content on-screen and items off-screen are far easier to see, and you no longer have to turn off the lights to play games. In addition, the new, larger glasses are a bit more affordable, and that’s always a good thing.

On the other hand, Nvidia has new competition from Samsung’s new 750- and 950-series 3D monitors, products that frankly put Nvidia’s original 2.5+ year-old standard to shame when it comes to brightness and display quality. In addition, Samsung is being aggressive with its pricing of monitors and 3D glasses.

The bottom line: Nvidia needed a 3D Vision update in order to keep the products in its ecosystem competitive with some of the technologies emerging with support for AMD's own initiative, and we're glad to see the response.

Nvidia 3D Vision 2 vs. AMD HD3D Stereoscopic Performance

A lot of people (myself included) assumed that the extra load applied by rendering in stereo would almost require a dual-card graphics configuration, and that AMD's lack of support for CrossFire would be a huge detriment in this regard. Surprise: that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Yes, the GeForce GTX 580 SLI setup wins all of the benchmarks we run, but the Radeon HD 6970 gets surprisingly close (particularly when anti-aliasing isn't applied). There are two factors at work here: a 60 FPS frame rate limit imposed by rendering in stereo, and a relatively low 1080p maximum resolution shared by 3D monitors. With these restrictions in place, Nvidia’s SLI technology doesn’t have much room to strut it’s stuff. Conversely, the Radeon HD 6970 seems just about right-sized to handle 1920x1080 at the performance levels needed to make gaming in stereo playable. 

But there’s more to the story: anti-aliasing. Running a pair of high-end cards in SLI seems to be the only way to push enough performance for 4x MSAA across the board, and the only game that forces two GTX 580s under 50 FPS at 1080p is Metro 2033. Even in this cruelly-demanding title with anti-aliasing enabled, this duo of flagships musters 47 FPS. Contrast that with the TriDef driver’s complete inability to handle MSAA in Virtual 3D mode. The default TriDef 3D mode only supports MSAA on rare occasions, leaving AMD’s morphological AA to be the closest thing to a dependable solution. We’ll take MSAA over MLAA any day of the week, and AMD's morphological solution really puts a hurt on performance. This is HD3D's Achilles' heel.

There's one more thing to consider: multi-monitor support. If you're looking for the ultimate 3D experience and absolutely stoked about throwing money at evolving technology, there's always the option to purchase a triple-monitor setup for more immersive stereoscopic 3D. At the ultra-high resolutions demanded by 3D Surround and Eyefinity, multiple graphics cards are a must. Granted, this is a niche setup. But it's an obvious win for Nvidia and SLI until AMD can deliver a CrossFire-capable HD3D driver.

The bottom line is, Nvidia has an undeniable advantage with SLI support, especially when anti-aliasing is considered. Nevertheless, AMD’s Radeon HD 6970 should not be discounted, as it musters at least 45 FPS at 1080p in every game we tested, as long as AA is disabled. As far as lesser cards like the GeForce GTX 550 Ti and Radeon HD 6790 are concerned, skip over them entirely if you’re serious about putting together a stereoscopic 3D gaming rig.

Final Thoughts

If you were hoping for a definitive winner in this match-up, we're almost happy to say that there is none. Almost. It's not a clear-cut competition, to begin, as both AMD and Nvidia still have significant issues that would keep any gaming from being completely satisfied. This is a complicated issue and there are no easy answers.

As we mentioned in our previous review, certain games remain completely unplayable on one solution or the other. Enthusiasts interested in dabbling with 3D are forced to include their favorite titles as they calculate which standard to adopt. The good news is that both 3D Vision and HD3D are viable, and there are excellent displays available, no matter which one you choose.

If you’ve made the decision to try stereoscopic 3D, but you’re struggling to find information on what games work best with 3D Vision and HD3D, you may want to check out the GameGrade3D database. This is a new evaluation system from MTBS3D.com, an independent stereoscopic 3D advocacy group. It seems they’ve taken our concerns about possible confusion caused by their previous rating system to heart, recently adopting a rating system that features separate indicators for visual quality and 3D controls. To us, this seems like a very promising way to rate a 3D gaming experience, and we look forward to seeing their final product. The beta version of this new stereoscopic 3D game rating system is scheduled to go live on October 17th at www.gamegrade3d.com.

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