Earlier this year, NVIDIA quietly announced 3DTV Play, a driver add-on for 3D TV owners that would allow them to take full advantage of the HDMI 1.4a port on their 4xx GPUs / 3D Vision GPUs by enabling 3D over HDMI. Without 3DTV Play, the NVIDIA 3D PC experience had been restricted to NVIDIA 3D Vision capable monitors with specialized glasses, and for 3D TVs the experience was limited to just Blu-Ray 3D. Now after some months in limbo, 3DTV Play is finally being released and shifts this experience to the big screen.

Introduction

It is no secret that TV makers are heavily betting on 3D becoming popular to drive sales. However, the market reception has been lukewarm at best due to two reasons. First, 3D TVs are not the ideal home experience due to the necessity for glasses and the health warnings associated with 3D content viewing. Secondly, there is a lack of content from the perspective of both console games and Blu-Ray movies to shift consumers to 3D TVs. There are very few channels broadcast in 3D, and the cost associated with covering events and programs in 3D is much more than the standard 2D broadcast. Studios are unwilling to invest much further in this till the consumer demand for such channels increase. In this scenario, the PC platform emerges as the leading provider for 3D content. In addition to a large number of 3D game titles, we are also starting to get user generated 3D content such as those from the recently introduced Fujifilm 3D camera and Panasonic camcorders. With years of development for the 3D ecosystem behind them, NVIDIA has taken up the opportunity to bring it to the TV platform with 3DTV Play.

Technical Details

3D Vision has been around for quite some time, and it uses a dual link DVI connector to supply the 120Hz refresh rate necessary to sync with shutter glasses in order to provide a 3D effect. With the bandwidth available in dual link DVI connectors, it is possible to push across 120Hz signals at up to 1920x1200 for a smooth HD 3D experience. Unfortunately, 1080p60 (120Hz actual, 60Hz per eye)  is not part of the HDMI 1.4a standard. Present day 3D TVs support upto 720p30 and 1080p24 for 3D signals. These are the type of video signals which 3DTV Play enables over the HDMI port of the 4xx GPUs. With 3DTV Play, consumers can experience 3D games and photos on their big screen TV.


3D Gaming with 3DTV Play on a Panasonic Viera 3DTV

From a developer perspective, the handling of the display of 3D games on a 3D TV is transparent. The game developer needs to develop only for 3D Vision and 3DTV Play handles the rest. And of course playback of 3D movies over HDMI onto a 3D TV already works and doesn't require this add-on.

Business Partners

Dell launched their new lineup of XPS laptops today. Featuring GF108 GPUs from NVIDIA, all of them have HDMI 1.4a ports. 3DTV Play comes bundled with the laptops. In addition to Dell, systems from ASRock (the Vision 3D, which we already reviewed) and some upcoming systems from Zotac also have this add-on bundled. Frankly GF108 systems aren't going to be the best examples of 3DTV Play, given the heavy overhead of stereoscopic rendering in games. The best platform for 3D gaming would be using GF104 (and ideally a pair of them), which at the moment may be a bit hard to swallow in an HTPC.

For consumers already in the NVIDIA 3D ecosystem (i.e. own a 3D Vision kit), 3DTV Play will be a free upgrade. Consumers without a 3D Vision kit but interested in using 3DTV Play with their TV's existing hardware will need to purchase it from NVIDIA for $39.99.

Charging for what is essentially a driver update might be a little hard to digest. However, the fact remains that people wanting to purchase 3DTV Play standalone are those who have invested in a 3D TV before the technology goes mainstream. $40 for a value add-on is probably not much for such consumers.

As we said in the GT 430 review, lots of companies are betting on consumers getting enamored by 3D for the upcoming holiday season. ATI will also be getting into the action soon with their 6xxx series GPUs. How important is 3D technology to you? Feel free to echo your thoughts in the comments. Your opinion will be one of the important factors which influence our coverage in this area.

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  • HDBanger - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    No one is buying the 3d fad. Myself, I'll wait for the full holographic set. 1080p will do until then, no glasses please. Reply
  • anynigma - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    I guess my biggest concern over 3D, based on watching in theatres, is that brightness and clarity seems to suffer. I'd like to see 2D and 3D quality and contrast compared very carefully. Reply
  • therealnickdanger - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Every 3-D display I have demoed in person drives me nuts. It's not the flickering from the display, but rather the flickering of the world around the TV created by looking through the glasses. And yes, these were calibrated properly. Passive systems in theaters don't bother me nearly as much. I saw Avatar, Coraline, and Toy Story 3 with no ill effects... but the flicker ruins home viewing for me.

    Waiting for full HD, wide viewing angle autostereoscopic displays, plz. I don't care if it's 20 years away.
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    i had a similar experience in the local electronics stores.
    i can't say anything about "proper calibration," but i can tell you that it gave me a headache.
    the movies don't give me a headache, but i'm not really impressed either.
    all-in-all, i think i'd rather watch the movie without the glasses.

    as a side-note, i noticed that the 3D movies i have seen seemed dimmer to me, which was especially noticeable when i took off the glasses.
    has anyone else noticed that?
    Reply
  • blagishnessosity - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    I remember when HDTV's first came out, no one was buying them because they were so expensive. I still do not own an HDTV. When I moved into my apartment a few years ago, I got a 36" tube TV for cheap on craigslist. Now I am looking to buy a plasma TV sometime next year at around the $900 range, so 3D isn't even on my radar screen. I've seen the demo's at the TV stores. It was "neat" but honestly not all that impressive. I will say I do enjoy seeing 3D movies in IMAX (ie. Avatar), but that is a rare treat and can't really be reproduced in the home because of the screen size. It's much easier to maintain the illusion of 3D when the theater screen takes up most of your line of vision. Consumer TV's are nowhere near large enough to do this, resulting in the 3D experience looking like a "neat" trick, but ultimately gimmicky.

    On a side note, almost every comment I've ever seen on any thread regarding anything 3D is complaints about having to wear 3D glasses. Honestly, the glasses do not bother me much. Maybe I'm the only person in the world who thinks this.
    Reply
  • blagishnessosity - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    as a follow up to my previous comment, I think I would be more receptive to computer games in 3D because you sit so close to the computer monitor, it would probably be a better viewing experience. In addition, I think the "immersion" factor in games is more important because you are in direct control of everything that happens on screen. Lastly, computer monitors have always been a fraction of the price of flat panel televisions (and higher resolution to boot), so if there were a relatively cheap 3D computer monitor (<$300), I might be interested in that. Reply
  • anynigma - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    I think it is important to realize that sometimes you don't know what you're missing until its gone. When I watch SD TV, I am really disappointed by how poor the image is now. My HDTV is so much better than SD that I sometimes will pass on watching a movie if its not HD.

    That being said, the same concept applies to 3D. I don't own one, and neither do any of my friends. Someday, when I come upon one, with glasses that fit over my perscription glasses, I expect to be impressed at the gimmick. My major concerns voiced above, (quality and brightness), prevent me from buying my own until I have this experience.

    Your point about computer games is apt, and I would love to play ps3 in 3D, siting nice and close to a 58 inch screen.
    Reply
  • hackztor - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Samsung just started putting perscription into the 3d glasses. This is a good start.

    Google samsung 3d perscription.
    Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    These prescription glasses will cost even more than the usual glasses. As if anyone, including myself, is going to pay this much for a gimmick. It's beyond ridiculous. Even if they were given away for free, which would never happen, i'd still very much doubt visually impaired people (or anyone else) would still be that interested in 3D TV as you'd still have to wear glasses. And the image quality is still going to suffer. AND you still have flickering issues.

    HD was great, it was really needed, and i often dont watch a film if i cant view it in HD, as someone else already said aswell.
    But as for 3D, it's a joke.
    Reply
  • Exelius - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    3d is a fad. It hurts my eyes after 30 minutes and really doesn't add much to anything I've seen it used with. Until they can do it without glasses, it's going to remain a niche product. I have a 3d vision setup and I've used it maybe 3 times after the first week I owned it. Reply

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