3D, Gaming, Graphics, Hardware, Software Programs

Nvidia’s 3D glasses are surprisingly expensive

Last week in Munich, Nvidia held Graphics Plus event, where the company demonstrated its new marketing strategy, but also announced products that will heat up the hearts of press and minds of potential buyers. After driving through the highest snow that fell in Kärnten region of Austria in 80 years, time was up for listening what Nvidia has to offer in 2009.

There were talks about PhysX games, upcoming GeForce cards, the re-birth of old-new SLI mode… general applications such as CyberLink Power Director and Adobe CS4… and of course, 3D Vision. Back at Nvision 08 in August, Jen-Hsun demonstrated 3D Vision during his keynote speech. While the whole audience enjoyed in demonstration of 3D technology, nobody knew how the technology works. 

Nvidia wanted to push the product in time for Christmas, but 3D Vision relies on availability of 120 Hz refresh rate. This means your decade old CRT will do in recreating a 3D world, but you can’t expect that shiny new 30″ Dell or HP will work. Samsung and Viewsonic are going to bring 120Hz LCD displays to market, but not in 2008. Thus, you can expect demos of this technology on CES 2009 in early January, and real world-wide rollout by CeBIT 2009 in March. It all depends how much time Viewsonic, Samsung and others need (to deliver 120Hz LCD monitors).

First of all, the product is divided into two major parts: glasses and IR emitter. 3D Goggles are wireless, with USB port being added for charging purposes. There is no set limit on the number of goggles that can connect onto a single IR emitting cube, but we don’t know will the company make a kit featuring more than one glasses.

IR Emitter can connect to LCD TV, LCD display, and projector or just about anything able to pull out refresh rate of 120 Hz. The technology works that every eye gets 60 Hz refresh and glasses blank the lens for 60 times in a second, so that 120 Hz display yields smooth 3D gameplay in 60 fps or so… I have tried the technology several times, and I have to say, it is really enjoyable. During the past couple of events, Nvidia demonstrated the technology using Call of Duty 5, Far Cry 2, Crysis Warhead, and Race Driver GRID and so on. Enjoyable part is that 3D Vision tech works on almost every game, and this immediately brings up the replay value of games that you already purchased.

Playing WoW, Warhammer Online or GRID is one thing, but you can take old Age of Empires or Anno 1503 and dive in the 3D world of these titles… in case of Age of Empires III, I want to play the game again, as soon as I am able to lay my hands on these glasses. 

The downfall of this standard is the price, and yet unknown way of distribution. Nvidia is advertising 3D Vision as their own product, just like Tesla, with no room for AIBs. We have asked key partners do they plan on to carry this product under their own brand and the answer is still up in the air. It is widely expected that Nvidia will treat this product in the same way as Quadro cards, selecting partners for regions. We’ll see…

But the major show-stopper is the price. I asked about the price, and heard $199 from more than one source (including people from Nvidia). Now, this is where I have to raise the red flag. 3D technology looks awesome, and glasses work like a charm, but $199?

For $199, you can get Oakley Thump 2 sunglasses, with integrated MP3 player. The quality of Nvidia’s goggles is higher than your regular 3D glasses and yes, higher quality than Dolby 3D goggles. But, Nvidia’s 3D Vision goggles cannot hold a candle to the build quality of Oakley shades. For $199, top quality is expected, not shiny plastic. This may sound harsh, but this is a product that should last for next couple of years, and this is where Dolby Laboratories made a better design move… I am just not sure that the glasses are sturdy enough to survive long-hour gaming sessions, LAN parties and so on. Who knows, nV might bring a nice surprise, but I’ll remain cautious for now.

The technology is great, but the price has to come down to $99 range to have a shot at becoming a mainstream standard.