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

Nvidia 3D Vision Vs. AMD HD3D: 18 Games, Evaluated
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It’s about time that someone performed a meaningful comparison of 3D-enabled games using Nvidia’s 3D Vision and AMD’s HD3D. We put 18 different titles under the microscope to determine which technology gives you the most playability, most often.

Nvidia launched its 3D Vision technology back in January of 2009, giving consumer-level 3D gaming the biggest endorsement it had ever received. The company's proprietary combination of 120 Hz active glasses, licensed monitors, and in-house driver solution enabled early adopters with all of the puzzle pieces needed on the hardware side. The only missing piece was software, and Nvidia's infamous ISV relations team went right to work on getting 3D Vision considered as games were being developed. To this day, 3D Vision is not perfect. But it's unquestionably the more comprehensive end-to-end solution for 3D gaming currently available.

AMD didn’t counter with an alternative until almost two years later, in October of 2010. The introduction of its Radeon HD 6800-series cards was accompanied by AMD’s HD3D initiative, a vastly different approach to 3D on the PC: instead of a proprietary system, AMD provides driver hooks to software developers and leaves 3D displays and glasses to third-party providers. Because of its more open environment, we've had to wait a lot longer for HD3D to become a viable angle. After all, other companies had to provide all of the hardware and software to support it. But now, roughly a year later, 120 Hz DisplayPort monitors are on the market, enabling a meaningful comparison.

We should also mention Intel’s HD Graphics 2000/3000 engines, built into all of the Sandy Bridge-based CPUs. Thanks to a lot of fixed-function decode hardware, Intel does a surprisingly good job playing back Blu-ray 3D content. The main focus of this article is serious stereoscopic gaming, though, and the HD Graphics hardware is far too weak to handle such a taxing workload. If you're a home theater enthusiast interested only in Blu-ray 3D, be aware that the Intel option is wholly capable.

We’re not getting into the fundamentals of stereoscopic 3D because we've covered that in a number of stories already. However, if you do want more information, you can start with Build Your Own: Wall-Sized 3D Gaming, Just Like Theaters Do It.

A Quick Comparison

The best way to illustrate the differences between Nvidia’s 3D Vision and AMD’s HD3D is with a chart:


Nvidia 3D Vision
AMD HD3D
Graphics Hardware:Various GeForce cards
(click here to see list)
AMD Radeon HD 5000 or higher
(Radeon HD 6000 series required
for hardware-accelerated
Blu-ray 3D playback)
Supported Displays:3D Vision Monitors over
DVI-D
(60 FPS/1080p)
3D-ready TVs over HDMI
(24 FPS/1080p or 60 FPS/720p)
3D-ready 120 Hz monitors over
DisplayPort 
(60 FPS/1080p)
3D-ready TVs over HDMI
(24 FPS/1080p or 60 FPS/720p)
Glasses:3D Vision:
120 Hz Active 3D Vision Glasses

3D-ready TV over HDMI:
Active
or Passive
(depends on the display)
Active or Passive
(depends on the display)
Game Software:3D Vision monitor:
GeForce Driver

3D-ready TV over HDMI:
3DTV Play
Depends on application: TriDef or iZ3D
drivers for games, although two titles
currently come with native HD3D support
Blu-ray 3D Software:ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre, Cyberlink PowerDVD, and
Corel WinDVD
for Blu-ray 3D movies
Multi-card support: Yes (SLI)
 No (CrossFire not yet supported)
Multi-monitor 3D support:
Yes (with SLI)Yes (single-card only)


Open Or Closed?

Based on the chart, there don't seem to be too many differences between what 3D Vision and HD3D can do. Practically, the division comes down to this: when you’re looking to build a 3D-capable gaming system, Nvidia's approach is simpler because you're only looking for one proprietary certification, 3D Vision. You need a 3D Vision kit with active glasses, a 3D Vision-ready GeForce graphics card, and a 3D Vision-ready monitor. You can even look for 3D Vision-ready game titles if you want to make sure you’ll have a good 3D experience (although the number of validated 3D Vision-ready games is pretty small). On a side note, you can use multiple cards in SLI to boost performance, and that's a nice option to have since stereoscopic 3D effectively halves frame rates, often demanding more potent graphics hardware.

With an AMD HD3D-based solution, you buy an AMD Radeon HD 5000 or 6000 graphics card, a TriDef or iZ3D 3D middleware game driver (or both), and a 3D-ready 120 Hz DisplayPort monitor with companion 3D glasses. There doesn’t seem to be an official TriDef or iZ3D game certification, so you’ll have to do a little research using reviews like this one. Unfortunately, there aren't many stories out there that tell you which games work and how well.

Games with native HD3D support do not require middleware, but there are only two examples: Deus Ex: Human Revolution and DiRT3. The next game claimed to include native HD3D support will be Battlefield 3. AMD Radeon cards cannot yet be used in CrossFire to boost stereoscopic 3D performance, so that’s another thing to bear in mind if you don't already own a board potent enough to withstand a significant hit to its frame rates in your favorite title.

The situation isn't all bad for AMD's HD3D technology. You can still get an excellent 3D experience from this solution. In some games, it's even able to outshine Nvidia's 3D Vision implementation. The aforementioned approach to enabling 3D dictates the effectiveness of each initiative, though. 3D Vision is the proprietary Apple-like solution with tightly controlled components, while HD3D is closer to a PC model, with standards that separate component providers must follow. Neither approach is right or wrong. But each has its own advantages and limitations.

Display 112 Comments.
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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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