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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  • nubie - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Huh, I bet I could make my own light engine and place panels on it.

    1. Find a 40" LCD TV with a cracked LCD, harvest backlight and frame.

    2. Mount 3 LCDs from computer monitors (with bad backlights or inverters) in front of single large backlight.

    3. ??

    4. Profit.

    Sounds great, especially if you can find the parts broken for little money.
  • miahallen - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    OK, you say that triple SLI doesn't work with GT200 series cards....but will the technology work with Quad-SLI (2x 295 GTX)?
  • TinksMeOff - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    I ordered two Galaxy GTX 465 as they blow hot air outside the PC Case and two (more) ASUS LCD 25.5" 2MS VW266H (1920X1200) which should arrive on July 1st. Not to sure what to do with my GTX 285. But right now I am psyched. This set me back $1,100 shopping at all the right places and I am broke but not broken. The two GTX465 were $500 shipped and will beat a single GTX480 in all benchmarks. Two of these cards will nearly have the same power requirements as one GTX480 and the heat from two Galaxy GTX465 is less than one GTX480. For those wanting less power, heat and a faster GPU setup, the GTX465 is sitting pretty if you want nVidia surround sound.

    I remember the Matrox G200 when working at CompUSA back in the day and we were all jazzed about the three monitor support. Neverwinter Nights and Diablo were beauts to behold for expanding your viewing scope. Those cards were $500 if I recall. Then the monitors cost of course. I never bought into it back then because Matrox was so far behind nVidia and ATI in terms of raw power and they didn't seem to want to compete in the raw power arena (and they didn't compete in the end). Now we have AMD and nVidia both offering powerful cards that can do three monitors. Just Lovely! This is the wave of the future. nVidia offering 3D Vision ups the ante.
  • Setsunayaki - Thursday, July 1, 2010 - link

    I remember when OCP did the review on 3x2 monitors on the ATI cards....and for shooters that did not work since the targetting reticle is always centered and the bezels get in the way. Nvidia of course has the same problem....

    I rather own one LARGE 40 - 50 inch LCD monitor under a 16 : 9 Aspect Ratio (so i can also watch DVDs and Blu-Ray disks at correct aspect Ratio) and even play games under the same Aspect Ratio, simply for synchronization purposes with most media out there...

    ...than have multiple monitors and video cards eating up kw of power just to find that I can't even maintain enough framerate to perfectly render this new technology at max settings due to the heavy graphical requirements for the next generation of games being released....

    Years and Years later....we still don't have one video card that can run Crysis on max settings and break 60 FPS...though we have the first video card combination SLI that can actually do it....which means next generation of games + this new Nvidia technology...Don't make me laugh when you have to wait YEARS to get a worthy 3D gaming experience due to the lack of Framerates, but if you are willing to go barebones in your graphics, im sure you can have some experience...but thats not what video cards are made go barebones :(
  • TinksMeOff - Thursday, July 1, 2010 - link

    Hardware Canucks put out some quick numbers for a GTX480 SLI. I am more interested in 2D Surround than I am 3D Surround. The numbers shown aren't depressing me one bit especially for beta drivers.
  • TinksMeOff - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    FYI Update, after upgrading my system last night with two Galaxy GTX465 Cards and two more ASUS LCD 25.5" 2MS VW266H (1920X1200), I got these benchmark in the built in Farcry2 Benchmark test. I particularly like the Min Benchmark findings

    Single Monitor SLI benchmarks
    Average - 107.21
    Max - 158.34
    Min - 82.44

    Three Monitor SLI - 2D Surround Benchmarks
    Average - 62.12
    Max - 81.12
    Min - 49.92

    System spec:

    CASE ANTEC 900 (ver 1)
    MB EVGA E760-A1 X58 Classified
    CPU INTEL|CORE I7 975 3.33G OC'd @ 30x133 4Ghz -
    TWO Galaxy GTX 465 SLI 1024MB
    Noctua NH-U12P SE1366 120mm
    2 WD Caviar HD WD6401AALS 640GB RAID 0
    1 WD Caviar HD WD6401AALS 640GB data drive
    SB XFi PCI
    THREE ASUS LCD 25.5" 2MS VW266H (1920X1200)
    Windows 7 64bit Premium
  • tnygwek - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    "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."

    I though that Nvidia 3DVision only used shutter glass technique for image blocking and no polarization at all.
    Do they really have additional linear polarization for glare reduction? I can not see anything related to that in any document from Nvidia or article.
    I do not have any 3DVision kit so I can not do the tilt test.
  • hcforde50 - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    I have not read through all of the post but a major problem I see with 3D as it is is that if one monitor goes down you are in deep trouble. They seem to change monitor models every 6 months or so. If one went out after a year or so you may have to pay a lot to find an EXACT replacement of buy three new monitors.

    Nvidia is going to have to deal with this somehow or face some dissapointed customers when a monitor breaks down.
  • TinksMeOff - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    Good Point. They need to have similar specs, not the exact same brand. Even yet, a Manufacture Brand that supplies an FL Inverter Board (an inexpensive small part that gives powers to the screen) with an easy replacement slot on the backside panel may solve a lot of FUD over the issue.

    On the flip side, you should still have two monitors available until the new/replacement monitor arrives. You may also have one great excuse to the wifey (or yourself) that you need to upgrade all three, LOL.

    Length of warranties or extended warranties will play a good factor I would think.

  • Fermion Alpha - Sunday, July 11, 2010 - link

    I try using the forum to post a question but it won't let me so I figure I could use this threat since is 3d related. Basically I am very confused in how to get a 3d setup working. I Have a Radeon 5850 and I read somewhere that AMD is now offering third party 3D solutions. But I can't find a review anywhere and an list of company I could get glasses from. The other thing, Will AMD 3D "vision" work on my Samsung 120Hz 22in monitor ? or is this monitor only good for Nvidia's 3D ? Finally my last question, I keep hearing you need a 120Hz monitor to play 3D on my computer. does that mean my game has to play at 120fps ? For instance Battlefield Bad Company 2 plays at 80 FPS on my computer and sometimes deeps to 40 frames. does this mean the 3d is going to look screwed up on my computer? One more final question, How much extra graphics power does 3D take. I keep reading it takes 2 times the power since the card has to render 2 screens. Does that mean my Battlefield Bad Company 2 will play between 40 and 20 fps if I use 3D? I read your website everyday and this place is grate to finding answers to technology questions. Thank you for reading.

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