NVIDIA’s 3D Vision Surround: A Game Changing Experience?

Author: Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig
Date: June 28, 2010
Product Name: NVIDIA 3D Vision Surround
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An Intro to NVIDIA Surround & 3D Vision Surround

Before we really get into what NVIDIA Surround and 3D Vision Surround is all about, it is suggested that you take a look at our dedicated NVIDIA 3D Vision article which explains all of the finer points of the 3D portion of this technology.

When you take a step back and look at the situation, NVIDIA is very much following in ATI’s surround gaming footsteps. It is more than obvious that the PC gaming market has somewhat stagnated and gamers are on the lookout for something which will distinguish them from the console crowd. Indeed, the number of games released that seriously push PC hardware to the limits seems to shrink with every year. So in a market where a $300 graphics card has absolutely no issue rendering console-centric games at the highest detail settings, surround gaming gives NVIDIA and AMD / ATI a justifiable means to push ultra high end GPUs. Like them or not, these extreme performance cards are the bread and butter of any GPU division.

Spanning three displays with NVIDIA Surround or any other technology on the market isn’t as straightforward as one would like since the ability to do so is very much dependant on settings with the game engine itself. There are very few games on the market which provide the necessary field of view (FOV) needed to make surround gaming possible without serious distortion. If certain ultra wide resolutions aren’t available, the game will usually have its image stretched much like an HDTV will stretch a standard definition signal but ten times worse. Naturally, drivers do have an impact when it comes to seamlessly displaying this type of technology but they need to work hand in hand with a compliant game engine in order to provide a pain-free gaming experience.

3D Vision Surround takes things to the next level by providing the immersive experience of NVIDIA 3D’s Vision but across a trio of monitors. With the right game, the experience of out-of-screen effects is supposed to be simply mind-blowing with monitors enveloping you on every side. There is however a downside to this; since SIX images (one each for the left and right eyes across three panels) have to be displayed at the same time, the amount of graphics processing horsepower needed is significant. Let’s put it this way: if you were gaming on three 1080P monitors running 3D Vision at 60 frames per second, the GPUs would need to push out about three quarters of a BILLION pixels every second.

Both Eyefinity and NVIDIA’s Surround technology share many similarities but there are some differences between the two which are quite significant. To begin with, the monitor selection is quite a bit easier with NVIDIA’s product since you won’t have to worry about buying an overpriced DisplayPort-equipped monitor or an ultra expensive active DisplayPort Adaptor to ensure compatibility. Naturally, taking another step forward into the 3D Vision Surround experience will necessitate the purchase of a somewhat rare and costly 3D Vision 120Hz LCD monitor or projector.

Unlike ATI’s Eyefinity which can use a single or multiple GPUs, NVIDIA’s Surround and 3D Vision Surround rely very much on multi card setups. The reasoning behind this is quite simple: if you have the money for multiple displays, you will likely want the most powerful system possible to drive them. Unfortunately, this does cut NVIDIA out of the budget 2D surround experience but for those who want to use certain professional apps, the Quadro NVS series of cards is there to provide an efficient and quiet multi monitor setup. Compatibility is also possible with the more budget-friendly GTX 465 and one would assume some upcoming lower-end cards as well. One of the largest benefits of Surround on the other hand is its backwards compatibility with certain GTX 200 series cards as well.

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