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.

Applications of GF100’s Compute Hardware Final Words
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  • FlyTexas - Monday, January 18, 2010 - link

    I have a feeling that nVidia is taking the long road here...

    The past 6 months have been painful for nVidia, however I think they are looking way ahead. At its core, the 5000 series from AMD is really just a supersized 4000 series. Not a bad thing, but nothing new either (DX11 is nice, but that'll be awhile, and multiple monitors are still rare).

    Games have all looked the same for years now. CPU and GPU power have gone WAY up in the past 5 years, but too much is still developed for DX9 (X360/PS3 partly to blame, as is Vista's poor adoption), and I suspect that even the 5000 series is really still designed around DX9 and games meant for it with a few "enhancements".

    This new chip seems designed for DX11 and much higher detailed graphics. Polygon counts can go up with this, the number of new details can really shine, but only once games are designed from scratch for it. From that point, the 6 month wait isn't a big deal, it'll be another few years before games are really designed from scratch for DX11 ONLY. Otherwise you have DX9 games with a few "enhancements" that don't add to gameplay.

    It seems like we are really skipping DX10 here, partly due to Vista's poor adoption, partly due to XP not being able to use DX10. With Windows 7 being a success and DX11 backported to Vista, I think in the next 2-3 years you'll finally see most games come out that really require Vista/7 because they will require DX10/11.

    Of course, my 260GTX still runs everything I throw at it, so until games get more complex or something else changes, I see no reason to upgrade. I thought about a 5870 as an upgrade, but why? Everything already runs fast enough, what does it get me other than some headroom? If I was still on a 8800GT, it would make sense, but I'd rather wait for nVidia to launch so the prices come down.
    Reply
  • PorscheRacer - Tuesday, January 19, 2010 - link

    Well then there's the fact ATI designed their 2000 series (and 3000 and 4000 series) to comply with the full DirectX 10 specification. NVIDIA didn't have the chips required for this spec, and talked Microsoft into castrating DX10 by only adding in a few things. Tessellation was notably left out. ATI wsa hung out to dry on performanec and features wasted on die. They finalyl got DX10.1 later on but the damage was done.

    Sure people complained about Vista, mostly gamers as games ran slower, but I wonder how those games would have been if DX10 was run at the full spec (which was marginally lower the DX11 today)?
    Reply
  • Scali - Wednesday, January 27, 2010 - link

    I think you need to read this, and reconsider your statement:
    http://scalibq.spaces.live.com/blog/cns">http://scalibq.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!663AD9A4F9CB0661!194.entry
    Reply
  • jimhsu - Monday, January 18, 2010 - link

    I made this post in another forum, but I think it's relevant here:

    ---

    Yes, I'm beginning to see this [games becoming less GPU limited and more CPU limited] with more mainstream games (to repeat, Crysis is NOT a mainstream game). FLOP wise, a high end video card (i.e. 5970 at 5 TFLOP) is something like 100 TIMES the performance of a high end CPU (i7 at 50 GFLOPS).

    In comparison, during the 2004 days, we had GPUs like the 6800 Ultra (54 GFLOP) and P4's (6 GFLOP) (historical data here: http://forum.beyond3d.com/showthread.php?t=51677)">http://forum.beyond3d.com/showthread.php?t=51677). That's 9X the performance. We've gone from 9X to 100X the performance in a matter of 5 years. No wonder few modern games are actually pushing modern GPUs (requiring people who want to "get the most" out of their high powered GPUs to go for multiple screens, insane AA/AF, insane detail settings, complex shaders, etc)

    I know this is a horrible comparison, but still - it gives you an idea of the imbalance in performance. This kind of reminds me of the whole hard drive capacity vs. transfer rate argument. Today's 2 TB monsters are actually not much faster than the few GB drives at the turn of the millennium (and even less so latency wise).

    Personally, I think the days of GPU bound (for mainstream discrete GPU computing) closed when Nvidia's 8 series launched (the 8800GTX is perhaps the longest-lived video card ever made). And in general, when the industry adopted programmable compute units (aka DirectX 10).
    Reply
  • AznBoi36 - Tuesday, January 19, 2010 - link

    Actually the Radeon 9700/9800 Pro had a pretty long life too. The 9700 Pro I bought in 2002/2003 had lasted me all the way to early 2007, which was when I then bought a 8800GTS 640mb. 4 years is pretty good. It could have lasted longer, but then I was itching for a new platform and needed to get a PCI-Express card (the Radeon was AGP). Reply
  • RJohnson - Monday, January 18, 2010 - link

    Sorry you lost all credibility when you tried to spin this bullsh*#t "Today's 2 TB monsters are actually not much faster than the few GB drives at the turn of the millennium"
    Go try and run your new rig off one of those old drives, come back and post your results in 2 hours when your system finally boots.
    Reply
  • jimhsu - Monday, January 18, 2010 - link

    A fun chart. Note the performance disparity.

    http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h204/killer-ra/V...">http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h204/...Game%20S...

    Reply
  • jimhsu - Monday, January 18, 2010 - link

    Disclosure: I'm still on a 8800 GTS 512, and I am in no pressure to upgrade right now. While a 58xx would be nice to have, on a single monitor I really have no need to upgrade. I may look into going i7 though. Reply
  • dentatus - Monday, January 18, 2010 - link

    If something works well for you then there is no real reason (or need) to upgrade.

    I still run an 8800 ultra, it still runs many games well on a 22 inch monitor. The GT200 was really only a 50% boost over the 8 series on average. For comparison, I bought a second hand ultra for $60, transplanted both of them into an i7 based system and this really produced a significant boost over a GTX285 in the games I liked; about 25% more performance- roughly equivalent to HD5850, albeit not always as smooth.

    It would be good to upgrade to a single GPU that is more than double the performance of this kind of setup. But a HD5800 series card is not in that league, and it remains to be seen if the GF100 is.
    Reply
  • dentatus - Monday, January 18, 2010 - link

    I agree this chip does seem designed around new or upcoming features. Many architectural shortcomings from the GT200 chip seem to be addressed and worked around getting usable performance (like tesselation) for new API features.

    Anyway to be pragmatic about things, nvidias history leaves much to be desired; performance promised and performance delivered is very variable. HardOCP mentioned the 5800 Ultra launch as a con, there is also th G80 launch on the flip side.

    A GPU's theoretical performance and the expectations hanging around it are nothing to make choices by, wait for the real proof. Anyone recall the launch of the 'monstrous' 2900XT? A toothless beast that one.
    Reply

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