NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision


posted 12/9/2009 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
One Page Platforms: PC
At CES and recently in the news, a few companies are pushing 3D as the next big thing. 3D can be a hit or miss as I've been to some great 3D movies and others where it was more annoying to watch than it was fun. NVIDIA's looking to establish themselves in the area of 3D gaming before anyone else with the release of the GeForce 3D Vision set. Today we have the setup that will take your gaming into the next dimension. But does it look good and is it fun to play with? NVIDIA was kind enough to send us the basic package of glasses and a Samsung 120Hz monitor to test the setup with.

Let's start off with the basic package. For starters you get the 3D shutter glasses which are wireless and rechargeable. If you've been to a recent 3D movie such as Up or G-Force or even some IMAX 3D movies like James Cameron's Titanic, it's sort of like that but the way 3D is accomplished is a little bit differently. While you put on very large goggles in an IMAX movie and paper glasses with Up and G-Force, the 3D Vision glasses are lightweight and fit relatively comfortable on the face. On the front right is an IR receiver which I'll get into more later. Each lens consists of liquid crystal which can turn clear of black to block out any images to the eye. A combination of this alternating shutting off of the lenses with the offset picture that's produced on the screen will trick your brain into thinking the image in front of you is in 3D. The package comes with two other nose pieces which you can interchange to see if it fits your face better.

The glasses are pretty lightweight and when I wore them they didn't feel awkward like say some of the IMAX 3D goggles I've tried in the past. The arms are straight and keep the glasses on your face with some light pressure. The design also lets you put these glasses over prescription eyewear as well. As a former eye glass wearer for 20+ years, there's one thing I would've done to the design of the glasses. The hinges of the arms are one area where I can see being fragile and I've had my share of glasses break at that point. That is until I got spring-loaded hinges that allowed the arms to fold out a little more and snap back into place. Since these glasses are pretty expensive, I would've liked to have seen spring-loaded hinges on the glasses as it would ensure people with wider heads to not put too much pressure on the hinge area of the glasses or those that are accident prone with taking glasses off. These puppies cost $150 on their own and having to replace one because of a broken hinge can be a shock to the wallet. I can't say if it would have been inexpensive to design the hinge with a spring but if NVIDIA's looking to make improvements for an update on the product, that would be one of my biggest suggestions.

Remember the IR receiver I mentioned? Well there needs to be a way to synchronize the picture with which lens needs to be turned off for the 3D effect to work. The GeForce 3D Vision kit comes with a small pyramid like device that transmits the signal needed to the glasses to let it know which one to turn on and off and when to do so. On the front is a button that will easily turn 3D Vision on or off if you didn't want to use a keyboard shortcut. On the back you can see the USB connection that's needed to connect to the computer, a connector that will be needed if you plan on hooking the unit up to a DLP TV or projector, and a jog dial that can adjust the amount of depth you see in the game. The front also has a NVIDIA logo that glows green when in use.

NVIDIA's way to enable all this to work occurs down at the driver level.  It's natural considering who they are and what they do that they would be able to program the drivers to accomplish this. From what I was told, it takes a significant amount of work to get it working correctly so it's not a simple affair according to NVIDIA. Since they are doing this with the driver, plenty of games are compatible right off the bat. Now, NVIDIA's doing a lot of the grunt work in creating the profiles needed to ensure that the 3D quality is as best as it can get and this takes a lot of the work in getting a good picture to play with. It's not going to work well in all games and you'll get variations on quality through the 350+ games that NVIDIA has listed that works with the setup.

Unfortunately, you'll probably need a brand new monitor if you want to use the GeForce 3D Vision kit. A 120HZ monitor such as Samsung or Viewsonic is required so that's another big added cost to the setup. Why 120Hz? Well, to help with eye strain and flickering, each lens will flicker at a speed of 60Hz. At this speed most people should see a smooth image and should take care of eye strain as well. I remember when ELSA tried this many years ago and while it worked out OK, I just couldn't use it long enough to be worth playing with. Now, the technology we have today with the monitor refresh rate should help combat this and provide a long and smooth playing experience.

With the way the 3D is done with the GeForce 3D Vision kit, one of the benefits over something like the old red-blue or anaglyph technique is that you get the entire range of colors for the image. With anaglyph, the red and blue aspect of the image really limits the color range that can be displayed and still produce a 3D image. The stereoscopic technique of the kit allows you a truer image and one that's not limited in color thereby producing a lot better experience. It truly beats the pants off of anaglyph, which you can use if you own a NVIDIA card and have the latest driver to see for yourself. There's really no comparison and seeing a 3D image in color really makes for an awesome experience with the GeForce 3D Vision kit.

As soon as you run a game and turn on the glasses, you'll see the room slightly darken. This will let you know besides other little indicators that the glasses are now working and turning on and off. I do wish the glasses didn't darken the image but it's not too bad and something you do get used to pretty quickly. It's such a difference though once the glasses turn off when you hop out of the game and see the image on the Samsung monitor and around you light up to its true brightness.
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