Talk about a blast from the past with a 2009 twist. Nvidia’s GeForce 3D Vision kit addresses a number of the issues that plagued active stereoscopic solutions a decade ago. Setup, to begin with, is much less complex. You install the software, connect the hardware, and it’s on, with only one setting—depth—to tweak. Performance is much less of an issue now. Back then, it was all about 800x600 and 16-bit color to help boost performance a little bit. Now graphics processors are capable enough to push 1680x1050 with the settings ratcheted up and still maintain reasonable levels of performance. Finally, the fact that you can get 40 hours of wireless connectivity per charge makes the glasses far less cumbersome than the active solutions of old.
But the GeForce 3D Vision also isn’t part of a bundle deal. And you can’t use it with your CRT that just so happens to support 100 or 120 Hz refresh rates. The active shades come with a $199 entrance fee. We can guarantee you don't have the necessary monitor technology yet (as of January 2009, that is), either. And that will cost you another $399. Already you're at $600 bucks just to get in the door, assuming your PC has ample GPU muscle to drive the whole setup.
To top it off, AMD has its own stereoscopic response in the works—although it’ll also need a $399 monitor and may siphon off more performance than what we’ve seen here as software support is added to the Catalyst Control Center. We’re not fans of iZ3D’s lack of CrossFire/SLI support or the fact that its monitor eats two DVI inputs. AMD has some catching up to do, given the clean integration of 3D Vision control in Nvidia's driver.
GeForce 3D Vision reminds us a lot of 64-bit processing, multi-core CPUs, and hardware-accelerated transform and lighting (T&L). It’s a product based on technology with the potential to completely change the way you do something—in this case, game. However, the caveats shouldn’t be ignored. The cost of entry is high, enabling the functionality often means turning off other quality-enhancing features, and you’ll need a fairly potent graphics subsystem in order to really enjoy it.
This next line is going to be flame bait, but the ace up Nvidia’s sleeve has to be its The Way It's Meant To Be Played (TWIMTBP) program. TWIMTBP might just give the hardware vendor enough sway on the software side to not only make sure upcoming titles are wholly compatible with GeForce 3D Vision, but that they also include additional features, such as content able to pop up through the latest 120 Hz screens. GeForce 3D Vision cannot truly succeed without some sort of embrace from game developers, and that's what we imagine Nvidia is working on right now. Until that happens, we’d be inclined to let the prices on those brand-new monitors and glasses come down a bit. The technology is remarkably novel—there’s just so much else you can do with $600 right now.