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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  • nubie - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - link

    Huh, I bet I could make my own light engine and place panels on it.

    1. Find a 40" LCD TV with a cracked LCD, harvest backlight and frame.

    2. Mount 3 LCDs from computer monitors (with bad backlights or inverters) in front of single large backlight.

    3. ??

    4. Profit.

    Sounds great, especially if you can find the parts broken for little money.
  • miahallen - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    OK, you say that triple SLI doesn't work with GT200 series cards....but will the technology work with Quad-SLI (2x 295 GTX)?
  • TinksMeOff - Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - link

    I ordered two Galaxy GTX 465 as they blow hot air outside the PC Case and two (more) ASUS LCD 25.5" 2MS VW266H (1920X1200) which should arrive on July 1st. Not to sure what to do with my GTX 285. But right now I am psyched. This set me back $1,100 shopping at all the right places and I am broke but not broken. The two GTX465 were $500 shipped and will beat a single GTX480 in all benchmarks. Two of these cards will nearly have the same power requirements as one GTX480 and the heat from two Galaxy GTX465 is less than one GTX480. For those wanting less power, heat and a faster GPU setup, the GTX465 is sitting pretty if you want nVidia surround sound.

    I remember the Matrox G200 when working at CompUSA back in the day and we were all jazzed about the three monitor support. Neverwinter Nights and Diablo were beauts to behold for expanding your viewing scope. Those cards were $500 if I recall. Then the monitors cost of course. I never bought into it back then because Matrox was so far behind nVidia and ATI in terms of raw power and they didn't seem to want to compete in the raw power arena (and they didn't compete in the end). Now we have AMD and nVidia both offering powerful cards that can do three monitors. Just Lovely! This is the wave of the future. nVidia offering 3D Vision ups the ante.
  • Setsunayaki - Thursday, July 1, 2010 - link

    I remember when OCP did the review on 3x2 monitors on the ATI cards....and for shooters that did not work since the targetting reticle is always centered and the bezels get in the way. Nvidia of course has the same problem....

    I rather own one LARGE 40 - 50 inch LCD monitor under a 16 : 9 Aspect Ratio (so i can also watch DVDs and Blu-Ray disks at correct aspect Ratio) and even play games under the same Aspect Ratio, simply for synchronization purposes with most media out there...

    ...than have multiple monitors and video cards eating up kw of power just to find that I can't even maintain enough framerate to perfectly render this new technology at max settings due to the heavy graphical requirements for the next generation of games being released....

    Years and Years later....we still don't have one video card that can run Crysis on max settings and break 60 FPS...though we have the first video card combination SLI that can actually do it....which means next generation of games + this new Nvidia technology...Don't make me laugh when you have to wait YEARS to get a worthy 3D gaming experience due to the lack of Framerates, but if you are willing to go barebones in your graphics, im sure you can have some experience...but thats not what video cards are made go barebones :(
  • TinksMeOff - Thursday, July 1, 2010 - link

    Hardware Canucks put out some quick numbers for a GTX480 SLI. I am more interested in 2D Surround than I am 3D Surround. The numbers shown aren't depressing me one bit especially for beta drivers.
  • TinksMeOff - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    FYI Update, after upgrading my system last night with two Galaxy GTX465 Cards and two more ASUS LCD 25.5" 2MS VW266H (1920X1200), I got these benchmark in the built in Farcry2 Benchmark test. I particularly like the Min Benchmark findings

    Single Monitor SLI benchmarks
    Average - 107.21
    Max - 158.34
    Min - 82.44

    Three Monitor SLI - 2D Surround Benchmarks
    Average - 62.12
    Max - 81.12
    Min - 49.92

    System spec:

    CASE ANTEC 900 (ver 1)
    MB EVGA E760-A1 X58 Classified
    CPU INTEL|CORE I7 975 3.33G OC'd @ 30x133 4Ghz -
    TWO Galaxy GTX 465 SLI 1024MB
    Noctua NH-U12P SE1366 120mm
    2 WD Caviar HD WD6401AALS 640GB RAID 0
    1 WD Caviar HD WD6401AALS 640GB data drive
    SB XFi PCI
    THREE ASUS LCD 25.5" 2MS VW266H (1920X1200)
    Windows 7 64bit Premium
  • tnygwek - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    "But with 3D Vision, horizontal linear polarization comes in to play: because both the monitor and the glasses are polarized for glare reduction and image blocking respectively, they have to be properly aligned. Anyone who has tilted their head when viewing 3D through a linear system has seen what happens if the screen and glasses are not aligned: the polarization blocks the entire image. As a result 3D Vision Surround is not currently usable in portrait mode when used in conjunction with an LCD monitor – only projectors are supported."

    I though that Nvidia 3DVision only used shutter glass technique for image blocking and no polarization at all.
    Do they really have additional linear polarization for glare reduction? I can not see anything related to that in any document from Nvidia or article.
    I do not have any 3DVision kit so I can not do the tilt test.
  • hcforde50 - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    I have not read through all of the post but a major problem I see with 3D as it is is that if one monitor goes down you are in deep trouble. They seem to change monitor models every 6 months or so. If one went out after a year or so you may have to pay a lot to find an EXACT replacement of buy three new monitors.

    Nvidia is going to have to deal with this somehow or face some dissapointed customers when a monitor breaks down.
  • TinksMeOff - Friday, July 2, 2010 - link

    Good Point. They need to have similar specs, not the exact same brand. Even yet, a Manufacture Brand that supplies an FL Inverter Board (an inexpensive small part that gives powers to the screen) with an easy replacement slot on the backside panel may solve a lot of FUD over the issue.

    On the flip side, you should still have two monitors available until the new/replacement monitor arrives. You may also have one great excuse to the wifey (or yourself) that you need to upgrade all three, LOL.

    Length of warranties or extended warranties will play a good factor I would think.

  • Fermion Alpha - Sunday, July 11, 2010 - link

    I try using the forum to post a question but it won't let me so I figure I could use this threat since is 3d related. Basically I am very confused in how to get a 3d setup working. I Have a Radeon 5850 and I read somewhere that AMD is now offering third party 3D solutions. But I can't find a review anywhere and an list of company I could get glasses from. The other thing, Will AMD 3D "vision" work on my Samsung 120Hz 22in monitor ? or is this monitor only good for Nvidia's 3D ? Finally my last question, I keep hearing you need a 120Hz monitor to play 3D on my computer. does that mean my game has to play at 120fps ? For instance Battlefield Bad Company 2 plays at 80 FPS on my computer and sometimes deeps to 40 frames. does this mean the 3d is going to look screwed up on my computer? One more final question, How much extra graphics power does 3D take. I keep reading it takes 2 times the power since the card has to render 2 screens. Does that mean my Battlefield Bad Company 2 will play between 40 and 20 fps if I use 3D? I read your website everyday and this place is grate to finding answers to technology questions. Thank you for reading.

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