3D Vision Surround: NVIDIA’s Eyefinity
During our meeting with NVIDIA, they were also showing off 3D Vision Surround, which was announced at the start of CES at their press conference. 3D Vision Surround is not inherently a GF100 technology, but since it’s being timed for release along-side GF100 cards, we’re going to take a moment to discuss it.
If you’ve seen Matrox’s TripleHead2Go or AMD’s Eyefinity in action, then you know what 3D Vision Surround is. It’s NVIDIA’s implementation of the single large surface concept so that games (and anything else for that matter) can span multiple monitors. With it, gamers can get a more immersive view by being able to surround themselves with monitors so that the game world is projected from more than just a single point in front of them.
NVIDIA tells us that they’ve been sitting on this technology for quite some time but never saw a market for it. With the release of TripleHead2Go and Eyefinity it became apparent to them that this was no longer the case, and they unboxed the technology. Whether this is true or a sudden reaction to Eyefinity is immaterial at the moment, as it’s coming regardless.
This triple-display technology will have two names. When it’s used on its own, NVIDIA is calling it NVIDIA Surround. When it’s used in conjunction with 3D Vision, it’s called 3D Vision Surround. Obviously NVIDIA would like you to use it with 3D Vision to get the full effect (and to require a more powerful GPU) but 3D Vision is by no means required to use it. It is however the key differentiator from AMD, at least until AMD’s own 3D efforts get off the ground.
Regardless of to what degree this is a sudden reaction from NVIDIA over Eyefinity, ultimately this is something that was added late in to the design process. Unlike AMD who designed the Evergreen family around it from the start, NVIDA did not, and as a result they did not give a GF100 the ability to drive more than 2 displays at once. The shipping GF100 cards will have the traditional 2 monitor limit, meaning that gamers will need 2 GF100 cards in SLI to drive 3+ monitors, with the second card needed to provide the 3rd and 4th display outputs. We expect that the next NVIDIA design will include the ability to drive 3+ monitors from a single GPU, as for the moment this limitation precludes any ability to do Surround for cheap.
GTX 280 with 2 display outputs: GF100 won't be any different
As for some good news, as we stated earlier this is not a technology inherent to the GF100. NVIDIA can do it entirely in software and as a result will be backporting this technology to the GT200 (GTX 200 series). The drivers that get released for the GF100 will allow GTX 200 cards to do Surround in the same manner: with 2 cards, you can run a single large surface across 3+ displays. We’ve seen this in action and it works, as NVIDIA was demoing a pair of GTX 285s running in NVIDIA Surround mode in their CES booth.
The big question of course is going to be what this does for performance on both the GF100 and GT200, along with compatibility. That’s something that we’re going to have to wait on the actual hardware for.