Blu-ray 3D On The PC: The Tom's Hardware Review

Subjective Tests: Does Blu-ray 3D Live Up To The Hype?

Unfortunately, we can't effectively take a screenshot and allow you to experience what it's like to watch a Blu-ray 3D movie on a 120 Hz alternate-frame-sequential monitor. What we can do is share the opinions and experiences of a number of test subjects. We recruited a group of volunteers to try it out by watching the entire full-length feature film, Monsters vs Aliens 3D. Reporting their comments might be the best way to impart a sense of what Blu-ray 3D is like on the PC. As the author, I'm going to begin by describing my experience.

Don Woligroski
Age: 36
Occupation: Hardware Editor

I'm not a typical test subject because 3D technology isn't new to me. I've been paying attention to and sometimes reviewing the available options for years.

Up until this point, the best 3D experience I've had was either in the theater or when playing games on a passively polarized projector system. I think that movies like UP and Avatar show well in a 3D theater and the brightness is phenomenal. Unfortunately, the crosstalk and ghosting artifacts are sometimes distracting, but I've never found them to be show-stoppers.

The worst 3D experiences I've had were years ago with the eDimensional 3D glasses at 60 Hz refresh rates and half resolution. The strobing effect was obvious and disorienting, and could certainly cause headaches. It worked a little better when paired with the first-generation Nvidia stereoscopic 3D drivers to work at higher refresh rates and full resolution; 85 Hz provided an acceptable solution for the day, but the result was far from ideal. Because of this experience, I've remained leery of alternate-frame sequencing and LCD shutter glasses.

To my surprise, I found that Nvidia's execution of 3D Vision, using the 120 Hz LCD alternate-frame sequencing method, provided a very smooth playback experience. I will even go as far as to say that it's the clearest, cleanest 3D movie experience I have had thus far. The 3D effect did seem superior to the experience that movie theaters offer. On top of this, I found that Nvidia's 3D Vision glasses were comfortable, even when worn on top of my prescription glasses.

However, 3D Vision is not perfect. The biggest drawback is that a lot of light is lost through the LCD shutter glasses. There were a few times during Monsters vs Aliens 3D when the screen was so dark that it was distracting. That is not to say that the brightness issue negates the usability of a 120 Hz alternate-frame sequential display, but it is by far the most obvious weakness of this format.

A secondary issue that surprised me when watching the film was that crosstalk and ghosting made occasional appearances. The problem was minimal (far less than polarized setups), but the artifacts did pop up here and there, specifically on very bright objects.

In addition, the viewer's experience is affected by their position. If I sat more than 45 degrees off-center, there was a noticeable drop in brightness and overall quality. Admittedly, the testing was done on a 24” monitor, and a larger 3D-ready HDTV would likely have allowed a bit more leeway for the seating orientation.

Overall, these critical points are relatively minor in the context that there is no other full-resolution option for Blu-ray 3D playback on the PC even announced at this time. The movie was watchable, enjoyable, and extremely clear and crisp with impeccable 3D depth. As long as the buyer is aware of the pluses and minuses, I have no reservations about bestowing a hearty recommendation for Blu-ray 3D in general, and Nvidia's 3D Vision solution in particular, when it comes to viewing 3D on the PC.

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18 comments
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  • how do shuttered glasses cope with input lag? if you were running through a TV, how would it cope with all the back end processing lag?
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  • How soon before DVB-T3D? We're just seeing the first signs of the need to replace Freeview with Freeview HD, and I bet that once that's been done they'll say "now you need Freeview 3D".
    Good to see that media PCs with a modest CPU/GPU combo are up to the job.
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  • Oh yes! 50% UK coverage of DVB-T2 for the world cup! boxes and cards are imminent!
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  • @ mi1ez

    When you say the cards are imminent can you tell me where i can get one?
    This would be a really cool additive to my already disgusting pc. Also, I am assuming you guys are from England who do think the best online etailer is?, I think the cheapest is pricelover then ebuyer then tekheads in that order. Come on England our best chance for a long time, easy group stage players can chillax and then we will be fresh for the later stages and all of this is wonderous 1080p. All my friends are slow to adopt the sky hd package as it is around £70 a month for decent channels not including setup fees but when I saw my brother in laws setup on his samsung 8 series it was absolutely astonishing especially the nature documentary we happenend to be watching wether i could justify spending £820+ £60 setup fee a year is a different matter and these cards would be the ideal trade off as you can always sell it after the world cup, mind you the olympics is around the corner but they will have laser 3d out by then, which is the technology to watch.
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  • I'm sorry but £D is years off of market penetration. How long was it before HD took off? it hasnt yet, I know no one with a stand alone blu-ray player and i know no one that wants to buy one or cough up more for blu-ray DVDs. So what if its only a meagre upgrade for PC enthusiasts to watch 3D? until it starts becoming main stream it really isn't going to catch on. Shutter glasses also are not the way forward, families will have to fight over the sweet spot of the TV to watch a 3D film

    All i hear about Nvidias 3D vision is that the glasses weight a ton and they make you want to puke. You'll forgive me if i dont spend a penny on 3D until it atleast progresses to the point that its viable
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  • irish_adamAll i hear about Nvidias 3D vision is that the glasses weight a ton and they make you want to puke. You'll forgive me if i dont spend a penny on 3D until it atleast progresses to the point that its viable


    As far as forgiveness, sure, I forgive you.

    But weighing a ton and making you want to puke? Read the review. Six people watched a 2-hour movie, and nobody reported a headache or a desire to throw up. The only comments were that the glasses were lighter than they looked, that it appeared crystal clear, and that the 3D effect was well done.

    These aren't the 3D glasses of 4 years ago. But I'm probably wasting my breath with information, It sounds like you've already decided what the things are like before trying them out. :)
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  • I sorry bring this up People like me who have sigth problems these silly glasses won't mean thing. I already wear glasses 3D looks great but if tech can't make possble for 30% of people thats hug mistake. I can't wear contact lens or sun glasses.

    Lets hope ati/amd can fix this since green crew screw up.
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  • Alatheia00 said:
    @ mi1ez When you say the cards are imminent can you tell me where i can get one? This would be a really cool additive to my already disgusting pc. Also, I am assuming you guys are from England who do think the best online etailer is?, I think the cheapest is pricelover then ebuyer then tekheads in that order. Come on England our best chance for a long time, easy group stage players can chillax and then we will be fresh for the later stages and all of this is wonderous 1080p. All my friends are slow to adopt the sky hd package as it is around £70 a month for decent channels not including setup fees but when I saw my brother in laws setup on his samsung 8 series it was absolutely astonishing especially the nature documentary we happenend to be watching wether i could justify spending £820+ £60 setup fee a year is a different matter and these cards would be the ideal trade off as you can always sell it after the world cup, mind you the olympics is around the corner but they will have laser 3d out by then, which is the technology to watch.

    Well, freeview HD is already being broadcast, although I have yet to see any actual hardware. Apparently there's only 1 supplier of the decoder silicon at the moment so they could be quite expensive. The plan is to have STBs available in time for the world cup. How long after PC hardware will be I don't know.
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  • I have 3d vision but no br drive... hope there are downloads... I'm sure there will be soon.
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  • so a i5 750 with 9800 gx2 should be ok?
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  • CleeveAs far as forgiveness, sure, I forgive you.But weighing a ton and making you want to puke? Read the review. Six people watched a 2-hour movie, and nobody reported a headache or a desire to throw up. The only comments were that the glasses were lighter than they looked, that it appeared crystal clear, and that the 3D effect was well done.These aren't the 3D glasses of 4 years ago. But I'm probably wasting my breath with information, It sounds like you've already decided what the things are like before trying them out.


    I tried Nvidias shutter glasses a couple of years ago at a demo in a store, most people there reported headaches but that was playing games not with movies so maybe that is what made the difference. My main concern is how restricted you are with shutter glasses and how people are unwilling to invest in the technology. it will probably be 5 to 10 years before 3D kicks off so i'll just adapt the wait and see because who knows what will happen in that time and even if shutter glasses survive
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  • When do ATI bring out their own version of 3D for HD cards? I want 3D from my 5850!
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  • I really don't see the point of this article....

    It starts of with the costs of $800+ for supplying your family and a couple of friends with the glasses to watch a film.....

    ....sat around a 23" acer monitor....

    yay, sounds like a great night in.

    As far as I can tell, the more advanced home cinema becomes, the less relevant it is to the computer market. There is absolutely no point in making all of that investment for a 'cinema' experience on a pc monitor.

    Home cinema needs to be done in a lounge, with a big screen with distance between you and it - one of the joys of cinema is the scale because of the basic physics of being able to focus on something a reasonable distance away and the bio-feedback from you eye muscles, doing it on a small screen at close distance will never emulate that.

    I'm holding off on my home cinema until I can do it properly - in a big room, with controlled lighting and callibrated picture settings, and a properly callibrated audio setup.
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  • irish_adamI tried Nvidias shutter glasses a couple of years ago at a demo in a store, most people there reported headaches but that was playing games not with movies so maybe that is what made the difference.


    The difference was probably that it wasn't 120 Hz, as the 120 Hz solution hasn't been available for a couple years. 3D Vision has only been here4 since 2009, what you've likely experienced is a 60 Hz solution, and they really suck in comparison.

    irish_adamMy main concern is how restricted you are with shutter glasses and how people are unwilling to invest in the technology. it will probably be 5 to 10 years before 3D kicks off so i'll just adapt the wait and see because who knows what will happen in that time and even if shutter glasses survive


    I didn't find the glasses restrictive at all. Having said that I've never said everybody should run out and buy this stuff as soon as it's released, it's wayy to expensive for multiple glasses.

    However, early adopters who are willing to pay the premium will enjoy the tech I think, and the prices will inevitably drop like a rock over the next couple years. Remember how much the first blu-ray players were on release? It wasn't that long ago.

    I'm saying, in 2 or 3 years this stuff will be quite viable from a consumer standpoint. But I'm not suggesting everyone goes out and pays $750 for glasses for a family of 5 right now.
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  • will_chellamI really don't see the point of this article....It starts of with the costs of $800+ for supplying your family and a couple of friends with the glasses to watch a film.........sat around a 23" acer monitor


    You're right, you don't see the point of this article.

    This article isn't about convincing you, or anyone else, to go out and buy Blu-ray 3D for the PC as fast as you can. This article isn't about watching a 24" screen with your family. If that's what you got out of it, you're missing the point entirely.

    The point is that the Blu-ray 3D tech looks good and it is viable, it's not the headache-dizzying experience of old. It has a lot of potential.

    Early adopters are always going to pay whatever it takes, but what you should be getting out of this if you're not an early adopter is that in a couple of years when the price goes down this is something that can potentially bring the 3D theatre experience to your home if you're interested in that. You should also understand that it's an option for HTPC owners, not just folks with commercial Blu-ray 3D set-top players.
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  • mi1ezOh yes! 50% UK coverage of DVB-T2 for the world cup! boxes and cards are imminent!

    Don't know about sky, but all freesat boxes can do both 3D and HD - it was designed into the specification. You don't need a new sat box, although obviously you will need a new tv.
    I would have thought the same will be true of any freeview HD box you buy.
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  • reported
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  • sbuckler said:
    Don't know about sky, but all freesat boxes can do both 3D and HD - it was designed into the specification. You don't need a new sat box, although obviously you will need a new tv. I would have thought the same will be true of any freeview HD box you buy.

    Sadly it needs different hardware. bare in mind freeview's been around about 12 years now (inc ITVdigital and ONdigital)!
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