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Blu-ray 3D On The PC: The Tom's Hardware Review

Conclusion: Blu-ray 3D Looks Promising On The PC

As far as its potential impact on the consumer space, it seems a foregone conclusion that Blu-ray 3D will be the first 3D media technology that will successfully break into the mainstream. Consumer 3D media solutions have come and gone many times in the past, but never before has the movie industry and TV manufacturing industry poured their collective weight behind a single 3D media display format to this extent at the same time.

3D movies are being released at an accelerating rate in theaters, and there is a lot of incentive for these companies to cash in on a new format--a premium 3D media format, if you will. The blockbuster Avatar has proven that 3D content can appeal to the mass market. If 3D ever had a chance to make it in the home, it's now.

On the whole, we find Blu-ray 3D played on full-resolution 120 Hz LCD screens to be the ultimate consumer-level 3D display available today, and it will likely remain in that position for many years to come (perhaps until a full-resolution, glasses-free solution arrives). The clarity is wonderful, the 3D effect is breathtaking, and 3D Vision technology is ideal for bringing these advantages to the PC user.

Full Length 3D Movies By Year
YearNumber of Feature-Length 3D Movies
201021 (announced so far)
source: www.3dmovielist.comlist does not take short films or IMAX-exclusive films into account

Having experienced the early days of LCD shutter glasses in conjunction with slower 60 Hz and 85 Hz refresh rates, I admit I was a little skeptical when it came to the potential of the new 120 Hz re-spin of the technology. But after trying it out and getting a lot of feedback from test subjects, I can happily report that 3D Vision didn't cause headaches or unpleasant side effects. That's not to say everyone's experience will be the same as my own, but it's certainly very promising compared to the previous-generation, LCD shutter glasses technology. It's not quite perfect. The relative darkness of the experience is an issue. But it's the best consumer option I've seen so far.

When it comes to hardware, a budget dual-core system equipped with a sub-$100 GeForce GT 240 graphics card and a Blu-ray drive is more than sufficient to push great Blu-ray 3D performance, thanks to Nvidia's GPU-accelerated MPV decoding. A 3D Vision kit and 24” 3D Vision-compatible monitor will add the largest chunk of change to the system, and don't forget CyberLink's PowerDVD 10 Ultra Mark II to finish the list of everything you need for Blu-ray 3D playback. The cost of the whole setup is a lot less than the cheapest 120 Hz 3D-ready LCD TVs available right now, but the tradeoff is a 24” display size instead of 40” or more. Of course, in a few months, Nvidia will remedy this situation with 3DTV Play, software that will enable PCs to accommodate Blu-ray 3D data over an HDMI 1.4 connection.

Indeed, Nvidia and CyberLink have worked hard to prepare the Blu-ray 3D infrastructure for the PC, and the initial results we've seen are very impressive. As with all pre-release hardware and software, it wasn't a perfect experience, but the foundation is solid, and the potential is undeniable.

As all of the components mature over the months ahead, Blu-ray 3D will further cement its place in the PC ecosystem. And so it begins. More Blu-ray 3D hardware means a larger user base, a larger user base means there will be more incentive to create 3D content, and the snowball will keep rolling. Who knows how far it will go? Maybe in 30 years, people will think back nostalgically about today's 2D video, the way we currently think of black-and-white movies. For now, though, it's a reality and early adopters are on the verge of taking Blu-ray 3D home to their PCs.

(Here's a shout out to Ryan Malzensky from the Regent Avenue Future Shop in Winnipeg for helping us complete this review. Thanks Ryan!)