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GeForce 3D Vision: Gaming Goes Stereo

Finding A Compatible Display

In addition to the GeForce 3D Vision kit, you’ll also need two other pieces of hardware before the technology is truly "enabled:" a compatible graphics card and a compatible display. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a $199 play, as you can see.

The graphics side of things will be easy for many enthusiasts who’re already running Nvidia-based cards. Any of the GTX 200-series boards will work, from the 260 up to the 295. GeForce 9-series cards from the 9600 GT and higher will work. And GeForce 8-series boards from the 8800 GT and up support the technology as well. However, consider those mid-range cards a baseline. In our testing, you’ll see that turning stereo on has a significant impact on performance, so maintaining playable frame rates at native panel resolutions will necessitate a fair bit of GPU power. Bear in mind also that the technology is only supported in one- and two-way configurations. A system boasting 3-way SLI won’t work.

The full kit, plus Samsung's 2233RZ 120 Hz display

Here’s the tricky part. Because each eye in an active configuration needs 60 Hz to maintain a flicker-free experience, typical 60 Hz LCDs aren’t enough. Just as Elsa’s old Revelators needed a refresh of at least 100 Hz (120 Hz was preferred), so too do Nvidia’s 3D Vision shades require 120 Hz displays. The list of compatible panels is particularly short right now: Samsung’s SyncMaster 22” 2233RZ and ViewSonic’s VX2265wm are the only two LCDs currently cited. But a number of Mitsubishi 1080p DLP TVs also support stereoscopic operation, as does one projector listed in Nvidia’s compatibility sheet.

According to Nvidia, the Samsung display we used for testing is expected to cost somewhere around $399. That’s pretty pricey, considering Samsung’s 22” 2233BW sells for about $240 and Dell’s own E2209W costs as little as $175. For the sake of comparison, the 22” iZ3D LCD, which AMD claims will soon work with its own passive stereoscopic technology as soon as support is built into its drivers, also costs $399. The difference, of course, is that passive glasses cost next-to-nothing. Unfortunately, we’ve yet to see AMD’s solution in action, while the company has briefed us on the technology.

Why not use a 120 Hz LCD TV and the 3D Vision glasses in a theater room? According to Nvidia, none of them include the dual-link DVI inputs needed for 120 Hz, and their HDMI ports only accept a 60 Hz signal. Thus, your options are truly limited when it comes to choosing a compatible display.


Ok, so you probably wouldn't wear them out...

The configuration process bears mention because it has been vastly simplified since the last time we remember using stereoscopic glasses. You unpack the 3D Vision kit, install Nvidia’s software, connect the hardware, and run a wizard that detects your display and tests the hardware’s functionality.

There’s are 10-foot and six-foot USB cables bundled with the kit, which offer plenty of room to run the IR emitter wherever it needs to go and still recharge the glasses off to the side of your PC.

We will mention that the graphics drivers we used to support GeForce 3D Vision were not the drivers we’d expect to see shipping. They're on a different code path than the drivers under development for the GeForce GTX 295 and, consequently, do not address some of the bug fixes going into that software package. Thus, we ran our tests on a GeForce GTX 280, which we hoped would be a bit more mature. Nvidia assures us that the next official driver release will see fixes for both products and converge into a single version.