Has 3D technology advanced to the point where we should all be sitting in front of our computer monitors wearing futuristic glasses? NVIDIA is banking on it with the GeForce 3D Vision Glasses kit.
NVIDIA's 3D Vision Glasses use today's advanced technology to deliver two different images to your two different eyes, creating the illusion of depth. How this works is rather simple. The monitor runs at 120 Hz, delivering two sets of images at 60 Hz each. The glasses contain an extremely precise shutter that alternates the images your eyes see. It's like old red and blue 3D, which uses color filters to achieve the same effect, only much more technical and much more expensive to pull off. Using this stereoscopic method, the glasses deliver a 3D effect to a large selection of PC, without the games needing to be designed with 3D in mind.
The 3D Vision Glasses kit comes with a pair of glasses which can be charged via USB to provide up to 40 hours of playtime, and an infrared receiver that communicates between your PC and your eyewear, telling the shutters in each lens when to open and close.
Hardcore PC gamers enjoy being on the cutting edge of technology, but with some rather steep hardware requirements, are the 3D Vision Glasses cutting too deep?
Almost Like Being There: The differences between running your average game normally and with the 3D Vision glasses on is night and day. Describing it to someone who hasn't seen it before is difficult. A certain sense of depth is added to the monitor, creating the illusion that you could look behind objects in the game simply by turning your head. Rather than being pasted over your game, HUD objects seem as if they are floating in front of your face as part of an actual heads-up display. In a game like World of Warcraft, ground cover looks like it is really jutting out of the ground.
I could go on for paragraphs giving examples that won't mean anything to someone who hasn't experienced the technology. Perhaps the best reference I can give is a Viewmaster. You know how the Viewmaster toy made flat animation cells look as if they were layered? That's exactly what NVIDIA's 3D Vision does to your computer screen.
The effect takes a certain amount of getting used to, and you'll find yourself adjusting the depth slider on the base frequently as your eyes adjust to seeing in stereoscopic 3D, but once you find your sweet spot it can greatly enhance your gameplay experience.
A Good Fit: My first thought when I found out I would be reviewing a pair of 3D glasses was, "What about my own glasses?" I'm blind without my specs, so I was afraid that the 3D Vision glasses would be next to useless on my giant, bespectacled head. In my instance at least, this wasn't the case. The glasses fit somewhat comfortably over my glasses, and NVIDIA provided extra rubber bridges to accommodate all sizes of noses. Sure, I look completely ridiculous, but that's why I game inside with the curtains drawn.
Strong Support: NVIDIA's official compatibility list contains more than 300 games tested and approved for use with the 3D Vision technology, and I sampled about a half-dozen or so from the various categories of support - excellent, good, and fair. Left 4 Dead, Call of Duty: World at War, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Resident Evil 5 all performed without a hitch, and the experience was relatively smooth with each game I played. I even played a few that weren't on the list with varying degrees of success. Aion, for instance, looked amazing, but had a tendency to crash when running in 3D. Still, you always have the option to turn 3D off, and NVIDIA is constantly updating the drivers.
The Price: Viewing your games in stereoscopic 3D isn't cheap. The base NVIDIA Geforce 3D Vision kit, which comes with the glasses themselves, the IR receiver, and cords needed to connect it to your PC or HDTV, runs $199. Not much considering how much a hardcore PC gamer can spend on their rig, but then you have to take into account your video card, which has to be a higher-end NVIDIA card, adding at least another $100 to the mix. Then you're going to need a monitor or HDTV capable of running at 120 Hz, and that can get pretty expensive. NVIDIA sells a bundle that comes with a 22 inch Samsung monitor for $598. Whether or not seeing games in 3D is worth that much is completely up to you.
Headaches: After about an hour of using the 3D Vision glasses my head starts to throb, and after two hours it starts to pound. This could just be how my eyes react to seeing this way - I do have a rather severe astigmatism in one eye - but it is enough of a problem that NVIDIA addresses it in the FAQ for the product. Adjusting the depth as suggested on NVIDIA's site helped somewhat, but I'm still wary of using the glasses for extended play.
While the NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision Glasses will certainly have a profound effect on how you view your PC games, they won't really affect how you play your games. Seeing other players popping off the screen in Call of Duty didn't stop them from killing me where I stood again and again. They simply looked better doing it. With benefits that are strictly aesthetic and a rather exorbitant price when you take hardware requirements into consideration, the 3D Vision glasses are purely luxury objects.
With that in mind, are they luxury objects we'd recommend? If you've got the spare money floating around and are looking for a PC gaming experience like no other then by all means, pick up a pair, but I'd suggest giving the 3D Vision glasses a lengthy test run before you invest, lest you wind up with some very expensive headaches.
The NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision Glasses were developed and released by NVIDIA. Basic Kit retails for $199.99. A kit with Samsung monitor was supplied by the manufacturer for reviewing purposes. Used glasses while playing Call of Duty: World at War, Left 4 Dead, World of Warcraft, Aion, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Resident Evil 5, and various other supported PC games for varying periods of time.
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