3D Vision Blog

A normal user's look into the world of 3D Stereo Technologies

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How to Choose a Laptop That Will Have Stereoscopic 3D Support

August 19th, 2012 · 9 Comments · Other S3D Tech

The laptops with built-in 3D-capable displays on the market are still not that many, and most of the systems that do have 3D displays are high-end and targeted at gamers and that actually makes sense considering the extra price you have to pay for the 3D display. Active 3D technology seems to be the most popular among these solutions, though there are a few solutions offering autostereoscopic 3D displays and in the lower end price segment there are multiple options with passive 3D displays. And while it definitely sounds nice to have a laptop with a 3D-capable display, most people actually get a normal laptop with a 2D screen and at some point of time decide that they want to connect it to a 3D monitor, 3D projector or a 3D HDTV that they already own. And usually this is where the problems start along with the questions why it does not work. That is why I’ll give you some useful advice on what to look for in a laptop if you plan to using it in stereoscopic 3D mode with an external 3D display of some kind at some point in time and you want to make sure that you are going to be able to.

I’ll be starting with active 3D displays that are capable of supporting 1080p resolution at 120Hz or 60Hz 3D mode at Full HD resolution as these are the most demanding ones. Usually for such a monitor you will need a Dual-Link DVI port and these are rarely seen available on laptops nowadays, you may be lucky to find such on a bigger and more powerful multimedia or gaming laptops only or on an external docking station for mobile workstations or business class laptops. Alternative solution would be to look for a DisplayPort connector that also has enough bandwidth to output 3D at high resolution and refresh rate (if you have a 3D-capable monitor with DP support) or if you add in an active DP to Dual-Link DVI adapter.

If you are going to be connecting a passive 3D monitor or 3D HDTV to your laptop things are much easier as these solutions can accept the stereo 3D image in a single 1080p frame at 60Hz, so the bandwidth requirements are no different than a standard 2D image. The drawback of using this technology and the Row Interleaved method is that you essentially loose half of the vertical resolution of the image when in 3D mode. But the good thing is that you can at least use pretty much any interface that can output 1080p 60Hz for sending the 3D image to the 3D display and since HDMI is nowadays so common that pretty much any laptop has it you’ll be covered for that.

Next up are 3D HDTVs and some Full HD 3D projectors using HDMI 1.4 interface for stereoscopic 3D support. This is a standard interface and you may be able to use a lot of laptops that have HDMI output to connect to such 3D HDTVs and feed them with 3D content, you just need to make sure that the laptop has a GPU capable of supporting HDMI 1.4 frame packaging 3D output as not all do. Due to the currently more limited bandwidth capabilities of the HDMI chips used in 3D HDTVs you are essentially limited to using 1080p 24Hz 3D mode for movies and 720p 50/60Hz 3D mode for gaming, and there is no support for 120Hz in 2D mode. The good news is that people with passive 3D HDTVs can skip the HDMI 1.4 frame packaging 3D support and the limitation for the lower refresh rate at 1080p and instead go for Row Interleaved output for 1080p 60Hz 3D mode, but with half vertical resolution, so there is still some trade off, but this is an extra option that owners of active 3D HDTVs to not have.

Moving on to 3D DLP projectors, most of these use frame sequential input, so they still need high refresh rates, however due to the fact that there aren’t that many Full HD models (these tend to use HDMI 1.4) and most consumer models are up to 720p resolution, so you should be fine connecting these to a laptop. The 3D DLP projectors either have a VGA or an HDMI connector, the two most commonly available interfaces on laptops at the moment, and for both the 120Hz refresh rate is not a problem at the lower resolution that the devices use.

Ok, so far I’ve talked about the interfaces and the requirements and limitations about connecting different 3D-capable displays to a laptop, but this is just the start of things as the next step is much more important in order to be able to actually output stereo 3D content to the display and not just be able to connect it. It is not only important what video outputs you have available on your laptop, but also what graphics processor they are connected to, because you’ll have to find a software that needs to be able to work with them properly for the stereoscopic 3D output. And since we have three major makers of GPUs (AMD, Intel and Nvidia) things can get a bit complicated here, especially depending on what kind of stereoscopic 3D use you need with your laptop.

Switching graphics is your enemy number one for stereo 3D use on a laptop, no matter what kind of manual or automatic switching between an integrated Intel and discrete AMD or Nvidia graphics you have this thing may prevent you from properly using the right software for outputting stereoscopic 3D content from your laptop. For example the Nvidia Optimus technology is a nice and useful feature that can extend your battery life when you don’t need to use the more powerful discrete graphics chip, but it also prevents you from using 3D vision, “Optimized for GeForce” or the 3DTV Play software solutions for outputting 3D content to a compatible 3D display. So try to stay away from such technologies if stereoscopic 3D support from your laptop is important for you, though if it is only for playing 3D movies on your 3D HDTV for example you may still have an option available.

Even if you have a laptop with integrated Intel GPU and a discrete graphics chip that uses some sort of switching between the two graphics processors, and thus you are unable to use the discrete chip for stereo 3D, you might still be able to get the integrated one to work. And while Intel’s GPUs integrated in their processors are not powerful enough for stereoscopic 3D gaming, they do support HDMI 1.4 and have enough performance for stereoscopic 3D photos and 3D movie playback, including Blu-ray 3D. That is if you happen to have a compatible chipset and processor that can support HDMI 1.4 and stereoscopic 3D output. What you’d need to have is at least a second generation Intel Core processor (Sandy Bridge or the newer Ivy Bridge platform) in order to have support for Intel’s InTRU 3D technology, and this means Intel Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 CPU, Pentium processors won’t do as they don’t feature InTRU 3D support. All of the major software Blu-ray 3D players do have support for Intel’s stereo 3D implementation, so the software side is well covered.

Ok, so we now know which Intel integrated GPUs do support stereo 3D, but what about the supported AMD and Nvidia graphics processors used in mobile computers. Both companies have stereo 3D support for a wide range of their more recent graphics processors, though Nvidia’s support covers way more older generations than AMD’s. Looking at the official list of compatible mobile Nvidia GPUs you can see that everything from the GeForce 200M series up until now with the 600M series is compatible with the company’s stereo 3D technologies, however even the older GeForce 8000M and 9000M mobile series should also work. But you should be careful with for the presence of a GPU switching technology as even though a GPU might be compatible with stereo 3D, that technology may be preventing it from properly providing 3D support. Currently AMD only lists their latest Radeon 6000M series of GPUs as compatible, but their previous 5000M series also supports AMD’s HD3D technology and you might be able to even get some stereo 3D support on older GPU generations even though they do not provide support the AMD HD3D technology.

I hope that this short guide can help you when choosing a new laptop for stereo 3D use or you want to see if your old one might be able to work in stereo 3D mode together with an external stereoscopic 3D-capable display. Feel fee to ask any other questions that you may have in the comments below…

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New Nvidia GeForce 301.42 WHQL Drivers Are Now Available

May 23rd, 2012 · 16 Comments · General 3D News

Nvidia has made available for download the first WHQL-certified unified driver from the R300 family of drivers, namely the version 301.42. The new WHQL driver builds on top of the already introduced new features in the previous 301.24 Beta release, bringing fixed bugs, improved functionality, 4-way GTX 670 SLI support etc as well as new 3DTV Play display support.

New 3DTV Play support for the following displays:

– Mitsubishi HC7800D Projector
– Samsung UE40ES6530 3DTV
– Samsung UE40ES6710 3DTV
– Samsung UE46ES8000 3DTV
– Samsung UN40ES6500F 3DTV
– Sharp LC-70C7450U 3DTV

New and Updated 3D Vision Profiles:

– Adam’s Venture Episode 1 – Rated Poor
– All Zombies Must Die! – Rated Fair
– Blacklight: Retribution – Rated Poor
– Depth Hunter – Updated profile
– Dirt: Showdown – Rated Good
– Ghosts ‘n Goblins Online – Rated Good
– Krater – Rated Poor
– Oil Rush – Rated 3D Vision Ready
– Passion Leads Army Benchmark – Rated 3D Vision Ready
– Postal III – Rated Good
– Rayman Origins – Rated Good
– Resident Evil: Operating Raccoon City – Rated Fair
– rFactor 2 – Changed rating to 3D Vision Ready
– SevenCore – Rated Fair
– Stacking – Rated Good
– The Darkness II – Updated in-game recommended settings
– Trackmania 2: Canyon – Rated Fair
– Unigine 3.0 Heaven Benchmark – Updated profile
– Unigine Heaven Benchmark v3.0 – Rated 3D Vision Ready
– Wargame: European Escalation – Rated Good
– Warp – Rated Good
– Wings of Prey – Rated Fair
– World of Tanks – Changed rating to Excellent

Have in mind that some of these profiles have already been introduced in the previous beta version of the drivers. If you are an avid World of Tanks games now you might want to check out the game with 3D Vision as it should be quite good. The game rFactor 2 (still in development) should be 3D Vision ready when it is released.

More on what is new and improved in the Nvidia GeForce 301.42 WHQL Drivers…

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Nvidia has Announced New Series 600 Mobile Kepler and Fermi GPUs

March 22nd, 2012 · 6 Comments · General 3D News

After some the time waiting for the next generation of graphics chips Nvidia has finally announced their new Series 600 full range of mobile GPUs, but it appears not all of them will be based on the new Kepler architecture. Those new GPUs include Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M, GeForce GTX 670M, and GeForce GTX 660M in the enthusiast segment; GeForce GT 650M, GeForce GT 640M, GeForce GT 640M LE, GeForce GT 635M in the performance segment and GeForce GT 620M in the mainstream segment. And the 610M based on the older Fermi architecture has been available already for a while in notebooks, so it is nothing new actually. These new graphics processors should be starting to make their way in the latest offerings from different laptop makers, with Acer being the first on the market with their Acer Aspire M3-581TG Ultrabook that comes based on Intel’s Sandy Bridge platform and is equipped with GeForce GT 640M GPU. But there should soon be others coming with the next generation mobile platform from Intel expected to be released very soon…

But what is so interesting about this new Acer Aspire M3 Ultrabook? Well, the fact that this is actually the first Ultrabook to come on the market with a discrete GPU on-board and not only with integrated graphics in the CPU. And the GeForce GT 640M has 384 processor cores running at 625 MHz with 1GB memory making it pretty fast for a mobile graphics chip, so you can actually get the best of both worlds – mobility and performance. Te new GeForce GT 640M comes as a replacement for the previous generation 540M Fermi GPU, bringing significant performance increase and making you able to play most recent games in High detail levels. The laptop comes with support for Nvidia’s Optimus technology bringing extended battery life (up to 8 hours according to specs) when the extra graphics power is not required. And now the not so good news, while the GPU supports 3D Vision and 3DTV Play, the fact that the laptop uses Optimus is still kind of making the laptop unable to work with external HDMI 1.4 3D displays in stereo 3D mode. I was hoping that Nvidia was finally able to make the Optimus technology play nice with 3D Vision and 3DTV Play, but it seems we’ll have to wait some more for that to happen, hoping that it will actually happen. And while the 640M does support both 3DTV Play and 3D Vision, there are two GPUs from the mobile 600 Series that according to Nvidia will not support them, these are the mainstream models GeForce GT 620M and GeForce 610M. There is some light in the tunnel though, I’ve noticed “Optimus for 3D Vision” mentioned for an upcoming laptop from Toshiba that will be featuring GeForce GTX 670M GPU. And while that laptop will probably have a 3D-capable display it is interesting to see what Nvidia has done to make 3D Vision play nice with Optimus in the Toshiba Qosmio X870.

Now, moving on to a bit more details about what the new Series 600 mobile GPUs from Nvidia will be, the top two high-end models GeForce GTX 675M, GeForce GTX 670M all be based on a revised Fermi architecture, so no Kepler here unfortunately and the bit slower GeForce GTX 660M will be the highest-end mobile Kepler product for now. We’ll probably have to wait some more for a really high-end model, probably 680M to be released, hopefully based on the Kepler architecture as the difference in terms of performance between these three GPUs most likely isn’t that high, considering that their specifications are quite close to each other.

Moving on to GeForce GT 650M and GeForce GT 640M, GeForce GT 640M LE and GeForce GT 635M. The GT 650M and 640M are based on the 28nm Kepler architecture, while GT 640M LE will apparently have a Fermi and a Kepler version making it more confusing for the users while the GT 635M will be a Fermi-based chip. Looking at the specs of the GeForce GT 650M and GeForce GT 640M they seem to be not that much lower compared than the higher-end models above.

And moving to the lower-end products GeForce GT 630M and GeForce GT 620M we can see something else interesting – they are both based on Fermi architecture, but the GT 630M will have a 28 and 40 nm versions while the GT 620M will be only available in a 28 nm chip.

And from all the new announced so far laptops that will be featuring the new mobile GPUS from Nvidia the Toshiba Qosmio X870 seems to be the only interesting model for anyone interested in getting a mobile 3D-capable solution. If you remember, Toshiba was eager to announce the Qosmio X870 earlier this month, but without revealing much details about the GPU and CPU. And now we know it will feature the GeForce GT 670M, so definitely a higher-end 17.3-inch mobile solution meant for gamers and enthusiasts. Hopefully more laptop makers will have mobile 3D-capable solutions based on the new GPUs from Nvidia as even the GeForce GT 640M can handle quite well games in stereo 3D mode on a 1366×768 resolution display, much better than a 540M can. And hopefully with the new GPUs introduced we are also finally going to be seeing some interesting ultra-portable laptops with 3D display coming in up to 13-14-inch display size as well, but the last one is just wishful thinking.

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