The Next Step: 3D

Moving on, NVIDIA’s ace in the hole here is clearly 3D Vision Surround, offering a feature that AMD is still months off from being able to match. By combining their existing 3D Vision technology with NVSLS NVIDIA can offer ultra-widescreen 3D, and having seen it in person at CES we’ll be the first to profess that it definitely looks impressive. With respect to 3D Vision there’s nothing new here – it’s just the same glasses now looking at more than 1 monitor – but it’s a natural extension of the technology.

For those of you interested in the nuts & bolts of how 3D Vision Surround will work, NVIDIA also released some additional technical details on the feature. With 3D Vision Surround NVIDIA is faced with a great deal of rendering to do: not only do they need to render a very large frame to cover 3 monitors, but then they need to render it again for the other eye. In doing this, they have taken an interesting approach to dividing up work – this image from their press kit pretty much says it all:

In short NVIDIA has opted to stick with Alternate Frame Rendering while at the same time having 1 GPU render both the left and right eye versions of any individual frame, rather than having each GPU work on each eye. It’s truly alternate frame rendering rather than alternate eye rendering. Under normal circumstances having the same GPU render two images in a row would increase input lag, but when it comes to 3D Vision there’ s no penalty since the second image represents the same gamestate as the first image, meaning the pre-rendered frame count isn’t actually higher as it would initially appear.

Meanwhile 3D Vision Surround also puts further restrictions on the hardware compared to NVIDIA Surround. A big difference will of course be performance due to rendering another image for the 3D effect, but there’s also a matter of monitors. For NVIDIA Surround the monitor requirements are analogous to Eyefinity: 3 monitors at the same resolution, refresh rate, and sync polarity. However for 3D Vision Surround, monitors must be more than similar: they must be identical. This is because 3D Vision is heavily reliant on V-sync timing to match up a frame with blocking the correct eye, and different monitors can have slightly different refresh timings even though they operate at the same refresh rate. As a result all 3 monitors must be the same to ensure they all refresh at the exact same moment.


LCD Monitor Requirements
NVIDIA Surround 3D Vision Surround
Similar: Resolution, Sync, and 60hz Refresh Rate Identical Monitors, 120hz Refresh Rate

The other interesting quirk when it comes to 3D Vision Surround and monitors is portrait orientation. For NVIDIA Surround, NVIDIA holds parity with AMD straight down to the support of landscape and portrait orientations. But with 3D Vision, horizontal linear polarization comes in to play: because both the monitor and the glasses are polarized for glare reduction and image blocking respectively, they have to be properly aligned. Anyone who has tilted their head when viewing 3D through a linear system has seen what happens if the screen and glasses are not aligned: the polarization blocks the entire image. As  a result 3D Vision Surround is not currently usable in portrait mode when used in conjunction with an LCD monitor – only projectors are supported.

Last but not least, there’s a matter of software. While NVIDIA is 9 months behind AMD overall when it comes to triple-monitor gaming, they’re starting off in a better position than AMD did. It wasn’t until March of this year that AMD delivered on bezel correction for Eyefinity, meanwhile NVIDIA is launching with it today. Even on this timeline NVIDIA is still behind AMD, but with this taken in to account they’re not as far back as it would first appear. Grouping groupies may be disappointed however – while we don’t have the software in hand to confirm this, it doesn’t look like NVIDIA has any monitor grouping features at this time.

First Thoughts

Without the software in hand there’s not much more we can say about NVIDIA Surround and 3D Vision Surround at this time. We are of course interested in the performance of NVIDIA’s solution, not only in comparison to AMD’s Eyefinity, but also comparing the GTX 200 series to the GTX 400 series and seeing the performance hit to moving to 3D Vision Surround from NVIDIA Surround modes. Teething issues will also bear watching as this is NVIDIA’s first beta driver : we already know GTX 200 series 3-way SLI isn’t supported, and that anti-aliasing modes above 2x on 3D Vision Surround are also unsupported – both things we would hope to see NVIDIA fix down the line.

Perhaps the best news for the moment though is that this should help to further legitimize the concept of triple-display gaming with game developers. While it’s not a difficult technology to work with, having only 1 GPU manufacturer support it made it yet another manufacturer-specific feature. With NVIDIA on board this will provide further incentive for developers to take the technology in to consideration. Since the biggest thorn in the side triple-display gaming continues to be the lack of proper aspect ratio support, any progress here in converting developers will be of benefit for both sides.

In the meantime stay tuned for our full review of NVIDIA’s 3D Vision Surround later this month.

NVIDIA Launches 3D Vision Surround
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  • hackztor - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    Over the weekend I was at DesertBash lan in Arizona and they had a setup for 3d vision surround and it was pretty cool.
  • Sp12 - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    Honestly, I think requiring two cards is a significant increase in the cost of entry barrier, and frankly gives ATI a significant advantage.

    I am not an enthusiast buyer. I buy for value, yet I have an eyefinity setup, and my cost of entry was 350$.

    Granted, I already had two IPS monitors for photoshop and needed a new videocard anyway, but I was able to buy one ATI 5850 for 250$ and am able to drive demanding games at 5040*1050 with at least 2xAA and 60 frames.

    I think that's a pretty good value. If I had to upgrade to a dual GPU-setup to do so, I would've ended up buying a new PSU, mobo, and a second video card.
  • seonjie - Friday, October 1, 2010 - link

    demanding game in 5040x1080 with single 5850 is a big no no.with 5040x1080 u only can play old or low detail game.
  • rgladiator - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    >>In the meantime stay tuned for our full review of NVIDIA’s 3D Vision Surround later this month.

    So that's tomorrow then? :)
  • RaistlinZ - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    Why is it that we can develop 3D vision technology but still can't make a freakin' LCD with a thin bezel?
  • Ninjahedge - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    The problem may not be in the ability to do so, but in protection for the components.

    I wonder how they would be able to protect the edge of the screen from shipping damage (limit loss #s) with an ultra-thin edge....

    The only other thing I can think of as a problem would be getting the wiring around the corner to be on the same plane as the LCD screen... Maybe they need to focus more on thin edge than thin front-to-back?

    Would that be feasable?

    BTW, WT(H) is up with 3D everything? No doubt it is a neat novelty, but until you can actually reach out and TOUCH something in a game, it may be a wasted effort. Most games do not allow that kind of close contact,. and those that do can be hard to control. (Remember Die By The Sword?)..

    Oddly enough, racing games may be the best use for this (both 3D AND 3 Screens)......

    Ah, I remember the game I was having problems with... Heroes of Might and Magic....
  • dailo23 - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    instead of making ultra-thin edge, i think the solution to the bezel is to have removable bezel on lcd screen. so for normal usage, you still have the bezel for protection.. but if you want to add more monitor, just remove one of the side (or both), and maybe have some mechanism to lock up with another monitor
  • TGressus - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    Great idea!
  • james.jwb - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    I like :)
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    Yeah, how could they possibly manage to ship something as fragile as LCD monitors without edges.... Did you ever have something like glass shipped?

    And this solution still sucks, we need either:

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