Nvidia GeForce 3D Vision Inverness
Nvidia GeForce 3D Vision
After several early hands-on sessions and an enthusiastic preview in our 3D: Coming to a Screen Near You feature, a full GeForce 3D Vision kit finally arrived this week to send the gamers among us into overdrive.
The bundle comprises two key elements: the GeForce 3D Vision set of battery-powered glasses and emitter, and a monitor capable of refreshing its image at 120Hz - Samsung and ViewSonic have produced the first two capable 22in desktop TFTs, and it's the former we have here.
The Samsung SyncMaster 2233RZ is a fairly standard 22in TFT in most respects: 1,680 x 1,050 resolution, 300cd/m2 brightness and 1,000:1 contrast ratio, along with Samsung's curved design and some rather odd flowers etched into the rear. But that 120Hz refresh rate is the vital component, as it allows 3D Vision to produce a sufficiently smooth image to keep things headache free.
Unlike standard polarised glasses, in which the monitor has a filter over the screen to split the image for each eye, Nvidia's active shutter glasses do the hard work themselves. The 3D Vision driver produces a slightly different perspective for each eye and rapidly alternates them on screen, while an LCD over each lens is opened and closed in time so each eye sees only its intended perspective 60 times per second. The brain does the rest to produce the 3D image.
The glasses are necessarily a little chunkier than traditional polarised specs, in order to house the battery and the USB port for charging, but as you'll get 40 hours out of one charge you needn't worry about being tethered to your PC.
The eyes-on experience
Setting the system up was as simple as installing the 3D Vision driver over the top of the standard GeForce driver, and plugging everything in. Many of the most popular games are fully supported, with others rated Good, Fair or Poor. A full list of compatible games can be found on Nvidia's website, and every game displays a status message on startup containing recommended tweaks to settings.
Starting with games rated Excellent on Nvidia's list, Far Cry 2 works brilliantly if you follow Nvidia's advice and disable bloom. Backgrounds come to life, proving far away objects are more than just flat window-dressing, while characters, vehicles and water are all rendered with believable depth. Only a few clouds noticeably fail to translate, but they don't spoil the effect.
Games rated Good by Nvidia prove the real test, though. Burnout Paradise appears to work well, although there are noticeably fewer foreground objects to really show off the effect; it's more of an immersive world than a constantly noticeable effect. Mirror's Edge failed to run at all in 3D on our test machine, although in previous hands-on tests we found it similar to Burnout in its immersive feel.
But then there are games like Crysis. Put simply, it's unplayable in 3D. The Nvidia advice upon loading is that it's rated Good, but that clouds and water reflections don't render correctly; in actual play this means water is horribly blocky and stands out a mile from the environment. Considering water features so prominently in Crysis it's a real deal-breaker, and that's before you see the flat muzzle flashes that simply don't work in 3D. Call of Duty: World at War has similar glitches, and the big problem is that even a small glitch in a title rated Good, if common enough in-game, is enough to totally kill the 3D effect.
Behind the scenes
So when it works properly - and compatibility should improve with every game release - it's superb. But with two images being produced we were keen to see just how much extra strain the 3D effect puts on the PC itself. Nvidia is very clear that you'll need Vista or Windows 7, a dual-core CPU and at minimum a GeForce 8800GT, 9600 GT or GT 140, all of which are roughly equivalent across the graphics card generations.
But we'd recommend a fairly hefty gaming rig to do 3D Vision justice. Nvidia had told us previously to expect around a 50% drop in framerates with 3D enabled, and that proved not far off. The precise figures varied between 60% and 40% of the non-3D performance, so many gamers will need to lower settings or buy a faster Nvidia card, which is surely what the company is hoping with this launch.
And that brings us to the price. At £347 exc VAT for the full package (assuming you already own an Nvidia card), it certainly isn't cheap. But this is a smart technology aimed at early adopters, and once you see the results with your own eyes, it's a highly tempting proposition. Yes, it has its early flaws, but with Nvidia wielding such clout in the world of gaming we can see GeForce 3D Vision making slow but steady progress towards the mainstream.
Monitor: 22in 120Hz TFT; 1,680 x 1,050; 300cd/m2 brightness; 1,000:1 contrast ratio; 5ms response time; 2 x DVI; 2yr RTB warranty; 516 x 209 x 421mm.
Glasses: 40-hour battery; mini-USB connector; 50g.
IR emitter: 15ft range; mini-USB connector; 63 x 63 x 38mm; 47g.
When it works as intended - and that's patchy - it's a superb addition to any gamer's hardware.
Author: David Bayon