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Test System And Benchmark Setup

Nvidia 3D Vision Vs. AMD HD3D: 18 Games, Evaluated
By

We’re not testing performance this time around. Instead, we want to concentrate on the quality of the 3D picture you're presented, and the overall journey to get there. Having said that, our test system boasts a Core i5-2500K processor overclocked to 4 GHz. We're using AMD’s Radeon HD 6970 for HD3D testing and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 570 for 3D Vision. If a game runs too slowly on this enthusiast-oriented system, we’ll let you know.

The goal is to answer questions like: Is the game playable in 3D? Are there anomalies or artifacts? If there are, can they be dealt with via manually-configurable settings, or are they inescapable? Do those anomalies wreck the 3D experience, or can they be tolerated? We're asking those questions on a game-by-game basis in order to get a thorough feel for how these competing implementations compare to each other.

Test Methodology

We originally considered reporting the MTBS3D certification ratings for this article. MTBS3D.com is an independent 3D certification and advocacy group, which provides an online tool that asks users questions about their 3D game experience. We ended up deciding against this because the rating assigns a significant percentage of its final score to the presence of 3D convergence control. Consequently, a game with flawless 3D reproduction but no convergence control can have a lower score than a game with significant visual anomalies. We don’t think this scoring equation yields ideal results, but we do give MTBS3D props for at least trying to address the state of 3D.

Without an existing stereoscopic rating system that we find acceptable, we’ll simply describe the steps we take to get the best possible image quality from each technology, and whether or not the result is usable and enjoyable.

Rating
Description
ExcellentThis game facilitates a solid 3D experience without distracting anomalies or artifacts
Good
This game facilitates a solid 3D experience, enabled by reducing certain quality settings or incurring minor anomalies
Not Recommended
This game does not work in stereoscopic mode, or it functions so poorly as to be practically unplayable


Test Display Considerations

We’re testing two displays: a 40” Samsung 7000-series 3D-capable TV and a 27” Acer HN274H 3D Vision monitor. The 3D Vision-certified Acer HN274H is perfect for demonstrating 3D Vision at 1080p/120 Hz. Since it also supports HDMI 1.4a, AMD’s HD3D works at 1080p/24 FPS or 720p/60 FPS. The Samsung television is also used to show how AMD HD3D and 3D Vision cope with games and Blu-ray 3D over HDMI, and while it’s limited to 1080p/24 FPS and 720p/60 FPS, this is a likely scenario for home theatre PC users.

Unfortunately, we aren’t able to test one of the Samsung 3D-capable DisplayPort monitors that allow Radeon cards to push 1080p/60 FPS. Simply, we weren't able to get our hands on one in time for a story that required a significant lead time and lots of testing. That display would have let us put HD3D to the test without the debilitating limitation of running at 1080p/24 FPS over HDMI.

In order to keep things fair, though, since the Samsung screens are available now, we're not putting the emphasis on performance. Again, we're more concerned with usability and how games look after they've been run through each company's respective technology. We’ll follow this piece up with a performance-oriented story once our Samsung display shows up.

Because we had to test AMD’s 3D solution over HDMI, we learned some valuable information: in DirectX 9 mode, the TriDef driver scales output to the desktop resolution. That's not an issue in games based on the DirectX 11 API. However, it's something you'll need to know if you're playing a DX 9 title over HDMI. In order to achieve 720p/60 FPS, set your desktop to 1280x720 first.

When you're using 3D Vision in conjunction with a 3D television that requires an HDMI input, Nvidia’s 3DTV play software has to be installed. This software is free to folks who’ve purchased a 3D Vision kit with a USB emitter, but costs $40 if you plan to use a 3D-enabled TV and a proprietary glasses system.

Finally, we noticed visual anomalies in some cases when v-sync was not enabled, particularly at 1080p/24 FPS over an HDMI connection. While tearing anomalies caused by low refresh rates can have unpleasant consequences on a 2D monitor, we found it actually distorted the depth effect on a 3D monitor, resulting in a visually unpleasant experience. This problem is solved by enabling v-sync. Unfortunately, a handful of games suffer from significant input lag at 1080p/24 FPS with v-sync enabled.

Cross-View 3D Demo Images

We'd like to show everyone how these games look in stereoscopic 3D. There is a way to experience 3D depth without spending any cash on a 3D monitor, and it's called “cross-viewing.”

The picture below is a cross-view image; the left side is for your right eye and the right side is for your left eye. A good way to allow your eyes to focus on the stereoscopic result is to hold your finger about half-way between the screen and your eyes. Focus on your finger and move it toward or away from the display until three identically-sized images appear behind it (instead of two). Then, shift your focus to the center image and move your finger out of the way. If you do it properly, you'll see three images: a clear 3D image in the center and blurry 2D images on each side. It's easier for some folks to achieve this effect by increasing the distance between your eyes and the monitor. Not everyone will have success with cross-viewing, but it is a nice option for folks who can experience it.

This is a demo 3D crossview image. Click it to view a larger version in a pop-up windowClick on the cross-view image above for a pop-up window that features a larger versionThis is a demo 3D crossview image. Click it to view a larger version in a pop-up windowClick on the cross-view image above for a pop-up window that features a larger version

If you can't wrap your eyes around cross-viewing, these images can still be used to point out any anomalies between right- and left-perspective views.

Test Hardware
Processor
Intel Core i5-2500K (Sandy Bridge)
Overclocked to 4 GHz, 6 MB L3 Cache, power-saving settings enabled, Turbo Boost disabled
Motherboard
MSI P67A-GD65, Intel P67 Chipset
Memory
OCZ DDR3-2000, 2 x 2 GB, at 1338 MT/s, CL 9-9-9-20-1T
Hard Drive
Western Digital Caviar Black 750 GB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s
Samsung 470 Series SSD 256 GB, SATA 3Gb/s
Graphics CardsNvidia GeForce GTX 570 (for 3D Vision)
AMD Radeon HD 6970 (for AMD HD3D)
Displays
Acer HN274H, 27" 3D Vision (DVI) and HD3D (HDMI 1.4a) compatible
Samsung 7000 Series, 40" 1080p LED HDTV 3D (HDMI 1.4a) compatible
Power Supply
Seasonic X760 SS-760KM: ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Gold
CPU Cooler
Cooler Master Hyper TX 2
System Software And Drivers
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX
DirectX 11
Graphics Driver
GeForce: 280.19 Beta, AMD Catalyst 11.8 Pre-release
Stereoscopic Driver
TriDef 3D 4.6
Games
StarCraft II
version 1.3.6.19269
Civilization V Demo
version 1.0.0.1
World of Warcraft
version 4.2.0.2506
Lord Of the Rings Online
version 1.27.0.1
Star Trek Online
version 2011.6.7.308
Bulletstorm
version 1.0.7147.0
Crysis 2
version 1.9.0.0
Just Cause 2
version 1.0.0.2
Lost Planet 2
version 1.0.1.129
Aliens vs. Predator
version 1.0.0.0
Left 4 Dead 2
version 2.0.8.5
Metro 2033
version 1.0.0.1
F1 2010
version 1.1.1.129
Need 4 Speed: Hot Pursuit
version 1.0.0.0
Mass Effect 2
version 1.1.0.15
Dragon Age 2 Demo
version 1.1.0.18
Deus Ex: Human Revolutionversion 1.0.579.0
DiRT 3
version 0.1.0.11
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Top Comments
  • 22 Hide
    the_krasno , September 29, 2011 5:27 AM
    3D is over hyped in my opinion, it will be some more time before games can correctly exploit it.
  • 21 Hide
    cleeve , September 29, 2011 2:09 PM
    Quote:
    here is a misarable pro-Intel campaign. Those reporters dedicate the article to AMD and Nvidia and they consider necessary to remind about Intel. Why? How much money you get for this hidden campaign pro Intel?


    So for you it'd be responsible journalism if we noticed a problem with hardware and buried it so our readers wouldn't find out?

    Or are you saying we shouldn't report negative findings we notice from any product? Or do you mean just AMD?

    From where I'm sitting, what you're suggesting isn't even handed and fair journalism...
  • 16 Hide
    cleeve , September 29, 2011 2:11 PM
    Quote:
    you jerks messed up the cross view images. why did you include empty black space between the frames. the need to touch, the further apart and the larger the images the harder it is. I can do it fine with the pictures on Wikipedia but these ones are impossible.


    No. The borders are there to help you focus. If the images were touching, your eyes would pick out the discrepancy on the edge and make crossviewing more difficult.

    And what's with "jerks"...? Was name calling really necessary? :) 
Other Comments
  • 3 Hide
    Kamab , September 29, 2011 5:10 AM
    Except for the ones where it's not recommended. Good thing I have one on this rig! Now I just got to shell out some cash for some 3D Tech.
  • 22 Hide
    the_krasno , September 29, 2011 5:27 AM
    3D is over hyped in my opinion, it will be some more time before games can correctly exploit it.
  • 3 Hide
    falchard , September 29, 2011 6:11 AM
    Everytime nVidia pushes out a proprietary format they shoot themselves in the foot. They just can't make it marketable with such a low market share. You need something like Microsofts 90% market share to think about making a closed standard.
    Anyone notice the bevel on the Samsung model. That beautiful for multi-monitor.
  • 4 Hide
    Scanlia , September 29, 2011 8:25 AM
    Great comprehensive review! Loved it.
  • 3 Hide
    alyoshka , September 29, 2011 8:56 AM
    Nice one, and really long awaited.
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , September 29, 2011 9:41 AM
    i tried Tridef in EVE online, absolutely stunning. :) 
  • 6 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , September 29, 2011 9:43 AM
    Quote:
    During preliminary testing, we noticed that a decent Phenom II X4 had some trouble providing smooth frame rates, and mid-level graphics cards were cut down to their knees


    Time for Bulldozer!!!
  • 8 Hide
    assassin123 , September 29, 2011 10:00 AM
    i loved it great review keep it up
  • -4 Hide
    RazberyBandit , September 29, 2011 10:35 AM
    Would it kill Tom's to use high-resolution pop-up pics? It's nearly impossible to discern any differences in detail or artifacts when comparing such low-resolution images. C'mon...1024 x 317? Seriously?
  • -9 Hide
    shin0bi272 , September 29, 2011 11:27 AM
    I thought we just had a report a month ago that 3d stuff was bad for your brain. shouldnt we be waiting to see if there's any real permanent damage from this tech before we jump right in and start using it?
  • -9 Hide
    bradleyg5 , September 29, 2011 12:23 PM
    you jerks messed up the cross view images. why did you include empty black space between the frames. the need to touch, the further apart and the larger the images the harder it is. I can do it fine with the pictures on Wikipedia but these ones are impossible.
  • 0 Hide
    hyteck9 , September 29, 2011 12:35 PM
    The unwritten message here is that this is all totally unacceptable. If I had shelled out major cash for 3D hardware, and then discovered only some 3D games are playable... I'd be yelling "shenanigans" from the highest mountain top. WHAT YEAR IS THIS? Nobody puts up with this "incompatable" crap anymore... its not 1980. Kudo's to Nvidia for trying to lock down polished experiences. Shame on any Game Software vendor that uses the 3D logo and doesn't deliver the goods. that is "False Advertising" as far as I am concerned and they better put a leash on it before they get sued. It sounds like Nvidia has a framework that succeeds when licensed, and game companies shy away from it due to its cost and/or red tape. Fine... Then don't release a 3D game!!! Sheesh. The more broken 3D crap Vendors put on the market, the more people will assume 3D itself is broken, which clearly isn't the case. Stop ruining the reputation of 3D by releasing half-ass'd titles please!
  • 11 Hide
    hyteck9 , September 29, 2011 12:49 PM
    Props to BulletStorm and Metro 2033 for being the only titles that simply "worked" on both Nvidia and AMD soltuions.. They have provem it "can" be done and everyone else should hang their head in shame.
  • 0 Hide
    drwho1 , September 29, 2011 1:05 PM
    Still not interested on 3D, nice article though.
  • 0 Hide
    pro-gamer , September 29, 2011 1:29 PM
    wow! man whats a battle between nvidia and amd
    in my opinion both are great......
  • 21 Hide
    cleeve , September 29, 2011 2:09 PM
    Quote:
    here is a misarable pro-Intel campaign. Those reporters dedicate the article to AMD and Nvidia and they consider necessary to remind about Intel. Why? How much money you get for this hidden campaign pro Intel?


    So for you it'd be responsible journalism if we noticed a problem with hardware and buried it so our readers wouldn't find out?

    Or are you saying we shouldn't report negative findings we notice from any product? Or do you mean just AMD?

    From where I'm sitting, what you're suggesting isn't even handed and fair journalism...
  • 16 Hide
    cleeve , September 29, 2011 2:11 PM
    Quote:
    you jerks messed up the cross view images. why did you include empty black space between the frames. the need to touch, the further apart and the larger the images the harder it is. I can do it fine with the pictures on Wikipedia but these ones are impossible.


    No. The borders are there to help you focus. If the images were touching, your eyes would pick out the discrepancy on the edge and make crossviewing more difficult.

    And what's with "jerks"...? Was name calling really necessary? :) 
  • 9 Hide
    cleeve , September 29, 2011 2:14 PM
    Quote:
    3D is over hyped in my opinion, it will be some more time before games can correctly exploit it.


    Hype: maybe.

    But as far as games that correctly exploit it, they are already out there. There are some game titles that have superb stereoscopic support already.
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