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Nvidia just updated its stereoscopic 3D ecosystem with 3D Vision 2. We show you what makes this initiative different and how it compares to the competition. Then, we benchmark GeForce and Radeon graphics cards in a no-holds-barred stereo showdown!
At the very end of September, we published Nvidia 3D Vision Vs. AMD HD3D: 18 Games, Evaluated, an article that focused on the image quality of two competing stereoscopic 3D solutions in a variety of games. At the time, we were unable to compare frame rate performance because we didn't have all the necessary test equipment; now that the requisite gear is here, we’re able to complete our analysis and deliver a clear comparison between these standards.
On top of that, Nvidia just launched 3D Vision 2, which is an update to its more than two-and-a-half-year-old proprietary stereoscopic 3D ecosystem. So, before we do anything else, let’s have a close look at what’s new.
3D Vision 2
3D Vision 2 doesn’t mess with the fundamentals of Nvidia's technology; it works the same way it always has. Rather, it's composed of several hardware updates designed to improve the experience. The new standard is backwards-compatible, and that means you can use 3D Vision 2 glasses with a monitor based on the previous standard and vice versa. With over half a million of the original 3D Vision displays and notebooks in the hands of consumers, compatibility is a very good thing. Frankly, some television manufacturers could learn a thing or two from Nvidia's approach.
So, what did the company update, exactly? 3D Vision 2 sets a higher standard for display and glasses hardware. Let’s take a closer look at the glasses, first.
3D Vision 2 glasses have a 20% larger aperture than their predecessors, which allows for a larger viewing area and better peripheral vision. At the same time, interfering ambient light is blocked with a shield surrounding the rim. It's constructed of materials that are more flexible than the original, improving comfort and suggesting that the new model should be able to handle more stress. The arms are wider, and we find that they provide a more secure fit. Nvidia suggests that the new glasses accommodate headphones more comfortably, too. And while we were skeptical of this claim we found it to be true: the new, thinner arms sit closer to the head and afford more space for audio equipment.
Are these glasses a game-changer? Not really. But it’s safe to say that they are superior. The best news is that they’re cheaper than the originals. 3D Vision wireless glasses sold at a $150 MSRP, while the new glasses are priced at $99. That’s the same as the old wired glasses, so the situation is win-win for enthusiasts.
The main improvement tied to 3D Vision 2 is part of the display, and it’s called Nvidia 3D LightBoost. Our biggest complaint about 3D Vision is that it's very dark, forcing you to really keep ambient light under control for the best experience. Then, not only is the display difficult to see, but the glasses cut out so much light that it’s difficult to see peripherals like your keyboard in stereoscopic 3D mode. LightBoost addresses both issues with a brighter monitor backlight combined with optimized shutter timings.
Instead of outputting a constant level of brightness, the 3D Vision 2 LED backlight pulses twice as brightly. That's self explanatory, but the timing issue is a little trickier to describe. Stereoscopic 3D requires that each eye sees a separate vantage point, and the method 3D Vision uses to achieve this is called alternate-frame sequencing; it's the same method that most modern 120 Hz 3DTV's with battery-powered shutter glasses employ.
It works like this: the television displays a frame of video for the left eye, then a frame of video for the right eye, alternating back and forth. this happens at 120 Hz, or 120 times per second (so fast that, to the naked eye, it just looks like there's a blurry double image). That's where the shutter glasses come in. The glasses cover the left eye when the video for the right eye is displayed, and vice versa, alternating back and forth so quickly that you can't perceive that your eye is being covered and uncovered.
The diagram below shows how this works, but in slow motion:
During this process, there’s some overlap time between frames of video where both eyes are covered at the same time. This prevents ghosting by giving the monitor time to refresh over the previous frame. 3D Vision 2 exploits the better performance inherent to today’s monitors, allowing the shutters to remain open for longer, meaning your eyes have more time to collect light. Everything appears brighter, and that applies both to what’s on the screen and in your environment.
This makes a huge difference in practice. Now, we're able to read the keys on our keyboard when using 3D Vision 2 (something that was quite difficult with its predecessor). Moreover, backwards compatibility works like a charm; the older 3D Vision glasses enjoy the same benefit from the tighter timings on new displays with LightBoost.
We’re testing an Asus VG278H in this piece, a 27” model with a built-in 3D Vision 2 emitter and a bundled pair of new glasses. Nvidia also lists the Acer HN274HB and BenQ XL2420T/XL2420TX as 3D Vision 2-certified monitors you should expect to see in the near future. On the laptop front, Toshiba plans to offer the Qosmio X770/X775 and Satellite P770/775 with 17.3” 1080p screens incorporating LightBoost technology.
Now that we know how 3D Vision 2 compares to the original, let’s see how it compares to the competition!