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The Nvidia 3D Vision Kit brings a unique 3D video game experience to your computer and is available from Nvidia for $199. The visual effect it produces in games is a fun gimmick; however, in some cases the 3D effect is more distracting than entertaining. We wouldn't recommend the kit to hard-core gamers who value playability over anything else. However, casual gamers may want to try it, provided they can swallow the relatively high price. When it works, the kit's 3D effect is very convincing. For us though, it just didn't work consistently enough to justify its price or warrant a stronger recommendation.
Design, setup, and features
The Nvidia 3D Vision Kit comes with Nvidia's Stereoscopic 3D glasses, a pyramid-shaped IR emitter, two USB cables, a DVI-to-HDMI cable, a quick start guide, a VESA three-pin stereo cable, two extra nose pieces, storage pouch, cleaning cloth, software and drivers, and a demo disc.
The glasses look like normal sunglasses you'd find on someone who doesn't pay much attention to the latest fashion trends. They have a sort of '90s fashion look to them. The frame of the glasses is a glossy black that, like its lenses, retain fingerprints very easily. The glasses fit comfortably on an average-size head. With prescription glasses on, the 3D Vision glasses are slightly less comfortable as they put downward pressure on the nose. Nvidia includes three sizes of rubber nosepieces. Switching to a different nosepiece may alleviate some of the pressure.
On the right arm of the glasses, about midway between the lens and the tip, is a USB port used to charge them. On the top side of the left arm is a light-emitting diode and a power button. The LED indicates how much power is left in the glasses, it glows green when there's enough juice to function, red when the battery is running low, and clear with a dead battery. At full charge, the glasses should work for several hours of constant use and can be recharged by connecting them to a computer using the included USB cable.
The IR Emitter measures about 2 inches by 2 inches and is meant to be placed on or near your computer monitor. On the front of the emitter is the power button, illuminated by a backlit green LED. On the back is a USB port for connecting it to a computer and a VESA stereo input for connecting to DLP HDTVs.
The kit requires Windows Vista and either an Nvidia GeForce 8800, 9600, or later card, or a GeForce GTX 200 series card. Check out the full requirements here. You can also check here to determine if your setup is 3D ready. Right now, there are only two LCD computer monitors available that are compatible with the kit: the ViewSonic FuHzion VX2265wm and the Samsung SyncMaster 2233RZ.
The software setup wizard performs a few eye tests to determine if your hardware setup is compatible and that you have the correct drivers installed. After about 5 minutes--if you pass--you're good to go.
When playing a 3D Vision-compatible game with the glasses on, 2D screens take on a subtle perceived depth. For example, when playing Unreal Tournament 3, your map and menu items look as though they are stickers, stuck to the screen, and the rest of the graphics--characters, vehicles--look much farther away.
If you hold an object in the real world close enough to your eyes so that you get a double vision of the object, you can start to understand how this technology works. Increasing the depth via the slider on the back of the IR emitter simulates that same effect you get when holding that object close to your eyes. The glasses then simulate what happens when you alternate closing each eye while still looking at the close object. Basically, with one eye closed you no longer see double, but each eye gives you a different perspective on the object. Now, imagine alternating the closing and opening of each eye, very quickly. This is what the glasses do, they rapidly darkening each lens, alternating back and forth, to give your eyes the impression of one amalgamated perspective, producing the stereoscopic 3D effect, in theory.
We tested the Nvidia 3D Vision Kit on a PC with an Asus ENGeForce 9600GT and an EVGA GeForce GTX280 with following three games: Unreal Tournament 3, World of Warcraft, and Bioshock. Nvidia gauged how well each of these works with the 3D Vision kit as follows:
When running a game in 3D Vision mode, you'll see a diagnostic of that particular game's compatibility with 3D Vision and short tips on how to improve it in the lower right-hand corner. For example, for UT3 it says "Rating: Excellent, Incorrect 3D object placement, World Detail needs to be set to 3 or lower." This information can be toggled off with a Ctrl-Alt-insert key combination.
When playing UT3, we noticed that if far away identical objects are symmetrically aligned horizontally multiple times (like with the top of a long fence), ghosting of that object (where we see a less detailed "reflection" of the object) was apparent. Turning the depth to its highest, UT3 was still playable and the 3D was applied with great effect to the text on the screen, our current weapon, and our heads-up display. At times, when it came time to kill far away enemies, we found it was more difficult to focus on them with the 3D effect on. As we placed our crosshairs over the target, the character's name would appear over them and our eyes would have to refocus, throwing off our aim. Decreasing the depth improved matters, but even when turned as low as it could go, it was not as natural as turning it off completely and we never got accustomed to it.
In WoW, we gradually needed to increase the depth while focusing on one area of the screen. If we did this too fast, our eyes could not adjust properly. Once took the slider to its max, the screen looked fine. That is until we moved our character or lost focus, which resulted in ghosting all over the screen.
When we adjusted the slider to its lowest, the game was playable and had a subtle 3D effect. If we increased the depth to anything greater than three ticks (the lowest setting), we couldn't determine if any of our character cooldowns (timers for certain abilities) were available. This proved frustrating and would be an unacceptable trade-off for serious WoWers. Also, WoW's 2D loading screens are not compatible with the glasses and proved to be very jarring transitions when they popped up.
Bioshock is rated as "good" by Nvidia, but it turned out to be the most playable of the three games we tested. We noticed some ghosting on close-range objects, but our eyes didn't constantly have to refocus as they had to in other games. Still, anything above one-third of max depth and our eyes would feel heavier strain, and fast movements were hard for our eyes to track.
We didn't notice a difference in the quality of the 3D effect with the Samsung SyncMaster 2233RZ and the ViewSonic Fuhzion 2265wm. The picture quality of the Samsung is more impressive though, so it gets our recommendation as the monitor of choice if you're planning to buy the Kit.
During three days of periodic testing, the battery of the glasses never died. Even when we left it idle and uncharged over the weekend, it was able to sleep and was ready for more testing Monday morning. Overall, our experience depended heavily on the amount of depth we chose with the IR emitter's slider. Adjusting the slider produced a dial on the bottom of the screen that allowed us to easily gauge our depth. Whenever we changed the depth on the emitter, it took our eyes a few seconds to adjust to the new setting. With the depth turned high, our eyes needed to adjust constantly. It helped if we focused our eyes on one object, but with a fast-moving action game, this is nearly impossible. Through all the games over three days of play, we could not get over the "pull" our eyes felt from playing with the glasses on. The constant focusing and refocusing required was just too much strain to be worth playing this way all the time. While the 3D effect is well done and in certain cases, really enhancing our immersion into a scene, it's just too much for our eyes to bear over a long period and in some cases, compromised the playability of the game.
Service and support
Nvidia backs the 3D Vision Kit with a one-year parts and technical failures warranty. For registered users, the company offers toll-free phone support Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. PT. It offers a 24-7 knowledgebase on its Web site and support through e-mail. Drivers for the Kit are easily found on Nvidia's Web site.