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

Test System And Benchmark Setup

We’re not testing performance this time around. Instead, we want to concentrate on the quality of the 3D picture you're presented, and the overall journey to get there. Having said that, our test system boasts a Core i5-2500K processor overclocked to 4 GHz. We're using AMD’s Radeon HD 6970 for HD3D testing and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 570 for 3D Vision. If a game runs too slowly on this enthusiast-oriented system, we’ll let you know.

The goal is to answer questions like: Is the game playable in 3D? Are there anomalies or artifacts? If there are, can they be dealt with via manually-configurable settings, or are they inescapable? Do those anomalies wreck the 3D experience, or can they be tolerated? We're asking those questions on a game-by-game basis in order to get a thorough feel for how these competing implementations compare to each other.

Test Methodology

We originally considered reporting the MTBS3D certification ratings for this article. MTBS3D.com is an independent 3D certification and advocacy group, which provides an online tool that asks users questions about their 3D game experience. We ended up deciding against this because the rating assigns a significant percentage of its final score to the presence of 3D convergence control. Consequently, a game with flawless 3D reproduction but no convergence control can have a lower score than a game with significant visual anomalies. We don’t think this scoring equation yields ideal results, but we do give MTBS3D props for at least trying to address the state of 3D.

Without an existing stereoscopic rating system that we find acceptable, we’ll simply describe the steps we take to get the best possible image quality from each technology, and whether or not the result is usable and enjoyable.

RatingDescription
ExcellentThis game facilitates a solid 3D experience without distracting anomalies or artifacts
GoodThis game facilitates a solid 3D experience, enabled by reducing certain quality settings or incurring minor anomalies
Not RecommendedThis game does not work in stereoscopic mode, or it functions so poorly as to be practically unplayable

Test Display Considerations

We’re testing two displays: a 40” Samsung 7000-series 3D-capable TV and a 27” Acer HN274H 3D Vision monitor. The 3D Vision-certified Acer HN274H is perfect for demonstrating 3D Vision at 1080p/120 Hz. Since it also supports HDMI 1.4a, AMD’s HD3D works at 1080p/24 FPS or 720p/60 FPS. The Samsung television is also used to show how AMD HD3D and 3D Vision cope with games and Blu-ray 3D over HDMI, and while it’s limited to 1080p/24 FPS and 720p/60 FPS, this is a likely scenario for home theatre PC users.

Unfortunately, we aren’t able to test one of the Samsung 3D-capable DisplayPort monitors that allow Radeon cards to push 1080p/60 FPS. Simply, we weren't able to get our hands on one in time for a story that required a significant lead time and lots of testing. That display would have let us put HD3D to the test without the debilitating limitation of running at 1080p/24 FPS over HDMI.

In order to keep things fair, though, since the Samsung screens are available now, we're not putting the emphasis on performance. Again, we're more concerned with usability and how games look after they've been run through each company's respective technology. We’ll follow this piece up with a performance-oriented story once our Samsung display shows up.

Because we had to test AMD’s 3D solution over HDMI, we learned some valuable information: in DirectX 9 mode, the TriDef driver scales output to the desktop resolution. That's not an issue in games based on the DirectX 11 API. However, it's something you'll need to know if you're playing a DX 9 title over HDMI. In order to achieve 720p/60 FPS, set your desktop to 1280x720 first.

When you're using 3D Vision in conjunction with a 3D television that requires an HDMI input, Nvidia’s 3DTV play software has to be installed. This software is free to folks who’ve purchased a 3D Vision kit with a USB emitter, but costs $40 if you plan to use a 3D-enabled TV and a proprietary glasses system.

Finally, we noticed visual anomalies in some cases when v-sync was not enabled, particularly at 1080p/24 FPS over an HDMI connection. While tearing anomalies caused by low refresh rates can have unpleasant consequences on a 2D monitor, we found it actually distorted the depth effect on a 3D monitor, resulting in a visually unpleasant experience. This problem is solved by enabling v-sync. Unfortunately, a handful of games suffer from significant input lag at 1080p/24 FPS with v-sync enabled.

Cross-View 3D Demo Images

We'd like to show everyone how these games look in stereoscopic 3D. There is a way to experience 3D depth without spending any cash on a 3D monitor, and it's called “cross-viewing.”

The picture below is a cross-view image; the left side is for your right eye and the right side is for your left eye. A good way to allow your eyes to focus on the stereoscopic result is to hold your finger about half-way between the screen and your eyes. Focus on your finger and move it toward or away from the display until three identically-sized images appear behind it (instead of two). Then, shift your focus to the center image and move your finger out of the way. If you do it properly, you'll see three images: a clear 3D image in the center and blurry 2D images on each side. It's easier for some folks to achieve this effect by increasing the distance between your eyes and the monitor. Not everyone will have success with cross-viewing, but it is a nice option for folks who can experience it.

This is a demo 3D crossview image. Click it to view a larger version in a pop-up windowClick on the cross-view image above for a pop-up window that features a larger version

If you can't wrap your eyes around cross-viewing, these images can still be used to point out any anomalies between right- and left-perspective views.

Test Hardware
ProcessorIntel Core i5-2500K (Sandy Bridge)Overclocked to 4 GHz, 6 MB L3 Cache, power-saving settings enabled, Turbo Boost disabled
MotherboardMSI P67A-GD65, Intel P67 Chipset
MemoryOCZ DDR3-2000, 2 x 2 GB, at 1338 MT/s, CL 9-9-9-20-1T
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar Black 750 GB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/sSamsung 470 Series SSD 256 GB, SATA 3Gb/s
Graphics CardsNvidia GeForce GTX 570 (for 3D Vision)AMD Radeon HD 6970 (for AMD HD3D)
DisplaysAcer HN274H, 27" 3D Vision (DVI) and HD3D (HDMI 1.4a) compatibleSamsung 7000 Series, 40" 1080p LED HDTV 3D (HDMI 1.4a) compatible
Power SupplySeasonic X760 SS-760KM: ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Gold
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper TX 2
System Software And Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectXDirectX 11
Graphics DriverGeForce: 280.19 Beta, AMD Catalyst 11.8 Pre-release
Stereoscopic DriverTriDef 3D 4.6
Games
StarCraft IIversion 1.3.6.19269
Civilization V Demoversion 1.0.0.1
World of Warcraftversion 4.2.0.2506
Lord Of the Rings Onlineversion 1.27.0.1
Star Trek Onlineversion 2011.6.7.308
Bulletstormversion 1.0.7147.0
Crysis 2version 1.9.0.0
Just Cause 2version 1.0.0.2
Lost Planet 2version 1.0.1.129
Aliens vs. Predatorversion 1.0.0.0
Left 4 Dead 2version 2.0.8.5
Metro 2033version 1.0.0.1
F1 2010version 1.1.1.129
Need 4 Speed: Hot Pursuitversion 1.0.0.0
Mass Effect 2version 1.1.0.15
Dragon Age 2 Demoversion 1.1.0.18
Deus Ex: Human Revolutionversion 1.0.579.0
DiRT 3version 0.1.0.11