After a bit of ballyhoo and a bit more of a delay, NVIDIA is finally ready to launch their competitor to AMD’s triple-monitor Eyefinity technology: 3D Vision Surround.

As a quick refresher, in September of 2009 AMD launched their multi-monitor Eyefinity technology alongside the Radeon HD 5000 series. With Eyefinity AMD could present a Single Large Surface to games and applications, allowing them to draw to 3 monitors as if they were a single monitor. It allowed for computing and gaming at a very wide field of view approaching the limits of human vision.

Not to be left out, NVIDIA decided to counter back with their own take on the technology: 3D Vision Surround. We first learned about 3D Vision Surround at CES 2010, where NVIDIA was officially announced the technology and was offering both public and private demonstrations of the technology. At the time they had it running on both GTX 200 series cards and what would become the GTX 400 series. 3D Vision Surround was to be NVIDIA’s competition to AMD’s Eyefinity technology and then-some: not only would NVIDIA match AMD’s Eyefinity triple-monitor capabilities in the 2D space, but they would extend the concept by merging it with their 3D Vision technology for 3D Vision Surround.

NVIDIA has previously told us that they’ve been sitting on the concept for some time with no apparent market for it, with the success of Eyefinity and Matrox’s TripleHead2Go finally motivating NVIDIA to move forward with the technology. The result of this delayed plan is an interesting technology that in many ways is NVIDIA’s version of Eyefinity, and in other ways is entirely different. In a nutshell: it’s not just 3D Eyefinity.

Today’s Launch

This morning NVIDIA is launching their 258.69 beta driver, the first public driver to offer 3D Vision Surround functionality. NVIDIA did not sample this driver to the general press ahead of this launch so we will not be providing a review for today’s launch. We will have our own review in the coming weeks, as we’re still working on acquiring a complete set of 120Hz LCD monitors to properly test both NVIDIA Surround (2D) and 3D Vision Surround (3D).

In lieu of that we have already been provided a technical briefing for the technology which for the time being enables us to answer some of the biggest questions we had about the technology prior to today’s launch.


3D Vision Feature Support
  2-Way SLI 3-Way SLI NVIDIA Surround 3D Vision Surround
GTX 400 Series Yes Yes Yes Yes
GTX 200 Series Yes No Yes Yes

First and foremost, as we’ve discussed in previous articles, NVIDIA is technically launching two different technologies today. The first is NVIDIA Surround, the name NVIDIA is giving to their Eyefinity-alike 2D multi-monitor technology. The second is 3D Vision Surround, which is the infusion of 3D Vision in to NVIDIA Surround. Admittedly the naming could use some work (“NVIDIA Surround” does not roll off the tongue quite like “Eyefinity”) but it’s fairly straightforward in conveying which one is for 3D. For the sake simplicity in this article, we’ll be referring to the overall technology as NVIDIA Single Large Surface (NVSLS) when discussing matters that apply to both NVIDIA Surround and 3D Vision Surround.

Although NVIDIA may have been sitting on NVSLS for quite some time, the fact of the matter is that by the time they decided to launch it, they were already too far along in the design process of GF100 to do anything about it on the hardware level. Whereas AMD could make hardware changes to facilitate Eyefinity – primarily by enabling more display outputs – NVIDIA could not. This has some drawbacks and some benefits.

GTX 480: Only 2 outputs can be used at once, requiring SLI for NVSLS

In terms of drawbacks, the lack of dedicated hardware means that virtually none of NVIDIA’s cards have enough display outputs for NVSLS. With the exception of a single model of the GeForce GTX 295 that has an HDMI output on the daughter card, 2+ cards operating in SLI are required to take advantage of NVSLS. This is due to the fact that the second card’s display outputs are needed to drive the 3rd monitor. This gives NVSLS a higher setup cost than Eyefinity, which can be done for up to 6 monitors on a single card. Along those lines is NVIDIA’s other current limitation: they can only do 3 monitors right now while AMD can do 6.

However there are also benefits of NVIDIA’s software implementation. While AMD relied on hardware and limited Eyefinity to the Radeon HD 5000 series as a result, a pure software solution allows for the technology to be backported to older cards. Along with the GTX 400 series, the last-generation GTX 200 series will also be gaining NVSLS capabilities today – this is for both NVIDIA Surround and 3D Vision Surround. There are a couple more limitations at the moment (3-way SLI is not supported on the GTX 200 series) but the fundamental technology is there. Furthermore in this brute-force manner NVIDIA also tidily bypasses any reliance on DisplayPort, so unlike Eyefinity NVSLS will work without an active DP-to-DVI adapter.

The biggest remaining question right now will be whether a pure-software approach differs from AMD’s hardware + software approach in terms of performance and game compatibility. NVIDIA’s own internal benchmarks have a SLI GTX 480 setup beating a CF 5870 2GB setup, but the GTX 480 is already faster than the Radeon HD 5870 so this wouldn’t be wholly surprising. As for compatibility we do know that NVIDIA is still fighting with the issue much like AMD has been, as NVIDIA is suggesting the use of the 3rd party Widescreen Fixer to fix the aspect ratio of several games.

The Next Step: 3D
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  • hackztor - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    Over the weekend I was at DesertBash lan in Arizona and they had a setup for 3d vision surround and it was pretty cool.
  • Sp12 - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    Honestly, I think requiring two cards is a significant increase in the cost of entry barrier, and frankly gives ATI a significant advantage.

    I am not an enthusiast buyer. I buy for value, yet I have an eyefinity setup, and my cost of entry was 350$.

    Granted, I already had two IPS monitors for photoshop and needed a new videocard anyway, but I was able to buy one ATI 5850 for 250$ and am able to drive demanding games at 5040*1050 with at least 2xAA and 60 frames.

    I think that's a pretty good value. If I had to upgrade to a dual GPU-setup to do so, I would've ended up buying a new PSU, mobo, and a second video card.
  • seonjie - Friday, October 1, 2010 - link

    demanding game in 5040x1080 with single 5850 is a big no no.with 5040x1080 u only can play old or low detail game.
  • rgladiator - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    >>In the meantime stay tuned for our full review of NVIDIA’s 3D Vision Surround later this month.

    So that's tomorrow then? :)
  • RaistlinZ - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    Why is it that we can develop 3D vision technology but still can't make a freakin' LCD with a thin bezel?
  • Ninjahedge - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    The problem may not be in the ability to do so, but in protection for the components.

    I wonder how they would be able to protect the edge of the screen from shipping damage (limit loss #s) with an ultra-thin edge....

    The only other thing I can think of as a problem would be getting the wiring around the corner to be on the same plane as the LCD screen... Maybe they need to focus more on thin edge than thin front-to-back?

    Would that be feasable?

    BTW, WT(H) is up with 3D everything? No doubt it is a neat novelty, but until you can actually reach out and TOUCH something in a game, it may be a wasted effort. Most games do not allow that kind of close contact,. and those that do can be hard to control. (Remember Die By The Sword?)..

    Oddly enough, racing games may be the best use for this (both 3D AND 3 Screens)......

    Ah, I remember the game I was having problems with... Heroes of Might and Magic....
  • dailo23 - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    instead of making ultra-thin edge, i think the solution to the bezel is to have removable bezel on lcd screen. so for normal usage, you still have the bezel for protection.. but if you want to add more monitor, just remove one of the side (or both), and maybe have some mechanism to lock up with another monitor
  • TGressus - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    Great idea!
  • james.jwb - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    I like :)
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    Yeah, how could they possibly manage to ship something as fragile as LCD monitors without edges.... Did you ever have something like glass shipped?

    And this solution still sucks, we need either:

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