Test System And Benchmarks
Our time to put this story together was relatively limited, so we chose to test the graphics cards that make the most sense. We already know that enabling stereoscopic 3D causes a performance hit. So, in general, interested parties should come to the table with the highest-end graphics hardware they can afford. AMD’s HD3D driver is not yet able to benefit from two Radeon cards in CrossFire, so the best-case scenario is a single Radeon HD 6970.
On the 3D Vision side, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 570 is comparable to the Radeon HD 6970. In addition, since 3D Vision does support multiple cards in SLI, we're also including a high-end GeForce GTX 580 SLI configuration.
Finally, we want to show you what to expect from low- to mid-range cards. Our original plan was to use a Radeon HD 5770, but both of the models we have on-hand refused to work with the TriDef driver, reporting that they cannot detect the 3D monitor over DisplayPort. So, we had to go with a Radeon HD 6790 to represent AMD’s entry-level 3D card. With Nvidia's GeForce GTX 460 768 MB no longer available, we chose the similarly-priced GeForce GTX 550 Ti to represent the bottom of Nvidia’s line-up.
TriDef’s Virtual 3D Mode
We tested each Radeon card twice: once in the default TriDef 3D mode, and once in TriDef’s Virtual 3D mode. Virtual 3D mode often provides a performance benefit by rendering a single viewpoint and using the depth buffer to extrapolate the image for the second eye. As an added benefit, this mode is usually impervious to shadow and lighting artifacts suffered by the default TriDef 3D mode and 3D Vision.
Virtual 3D mode often comes under fire because it’s misunderstood. To be clear, Virtual 3D mode is not a poorly simulated 2D-to-3D conversion like the ones you might find on 3D televisions and in DVD playback software. Instead, Virtual 3D mode uses data in the scene‘s depth buffer to create a separate image for each eye. This is a valid model, and Crysis 2 uses the same technique to create stereoscopic 3D for Nvidia's 3D Vision technology.
This mode is not perfect, though. The depth buffer can’t account for transparent textures, so objects behind chain-link fences appear flat. Virtual 3D mode often struggles to identify the user interface, and as a result it's often distorted by the objects behind it. The edges of objects are sometimes blurred, as the software extrapolates pixels from limited data. It also doesn’t appear to work with multi-sample anti-aliasing. Despite those issues, Virtual 3D mode often serves up better image quality than the default TriDef 3D mode, so it’s a valid option to test. If a game we’re testing game has significant problems, we’ll point that out.
Here are the particulars of our test system:
|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/sSamsung 470 Series SSD 256 GB, SATA 3Gb/s|
|Graphics Cards||2 x Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 in SLI (for 3D Vision)Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 (for 3D Vision)Nvidia GeForce GTX 550 Ti (for 3D Vision)AMD Radeon HD 6970 (for AMD HD3D)AMD Radeon HD 6790 (for AMD HD3D)|
|Displays||Asus VG278, 27" 1080p 3D Vision monitorSamsung S23A750D, 23" 1080p monitor|
|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|
|Graphics Driver||GeForce: 285.38 Beta, AMD Catalyst 11.9|
|Stereoscopic Driver||TriDef 3D 4.6|
|StarCraft II||version 184.108.40.20669|
|World of Warcraft||version 220.127.116.116|
|Lost Planet 2||version 18.104.22.168|
|Left 4 Dead 2||version 22.214.171.124|
|Metro 2033||version 126.96.36.199|
|DiRT 3||version 0.1.0.11|