3D TV on our test PC monitor. The quality surprised us.
Why spend thousands on a 3D TV set? For a lot less, you can add AVerMedia's 3D TV card to your PC and watch local 3D broadcasts. The strange thing is, they DO look better on a PC.
If you want to take TV on your PC to the next level, there's only one way to go - add the world's first 3D TV tuner card. Together with some other necessary accessories (a 3D-capable monitor, 3D graphics card and 3D glasses kit), AVerMedia's AVer3D CaptureHD will let you watch 3D TV broadcasts on your PC that are as good as anything you'll see on a proper 3D TV.
While 3D broadcasts are still relatively rare - launched in Australia in 2010 when Channel Nine screened the NSW vs Queensland State of Orgin rugby league series - many more are planned by the TV networks in 2011. The conventional way to see one is to buy one of the 3D TVs now on the market, from vendors like Samsung, Sony or Panasonic. These TVs won't leave you with much change from $4,000.
Or you can spend around $1,000 to get 3D television on your PC. The AVer3D CaptureHD card itself retails for $199. Distributed in Australia by Altech, the PCI-e card lets you tune into 3D broadcasts and also record and manage them with its 3D Media Center software. In all other respects it's a standard HDTV tuner card, able to display and record full 1080p HDTV. AVerMedia says a USB dongle version will be announced soon.
The full 3D kit that you'll need
The AVer3D Capture HD card by iself is not enough to turn your PC into a 3DTV. You need the following other pieces:
- A 3D-capable 120Hz LCD monitor. Ones available in Australia include the Samsung 2233RZ or ASUS VG236H. You get one on the street for between $500 and $700.
- 3D-capable card. AVerMedia recommends the GeForce GT 240 as a minimum (you can pick one up for around $100), but all NVIDIA 200 and 400 series cards, as well as most from the 8 and 9 series, will do the job.
- 3D glasses kit. The AVer3D is optimised for NVIDIA's 3D Vision kit, which has 3D stereoscopic glasses that synchronise your eyes with the refresh rate on the monitor (via a little IR emitter). The glasses present the left and right eye images on
alternating frames, but because the 3D monitor is capable of 120Hz, each
eye still sees a full 60Hz signal that's the same as the standard refresh rate
on LCD monitors.. You can pick up an NVIDIA 3D Vision kit for around $220.
So, all up, for around AUD$1,000, you can have a 3D TV on your PC. That's a lot less cost than a full 3D TV.
So does it work?
When I first heard about the 3D card, I was intially sceptical. I've watched enough 3D TVs over the past year to conclude that the technology will be ready for prime time only when it stops exploding your eyeballs after five or so minutes of trying to watch it. Testing the AVer3D Capture HD would not be about benchmarks - but about my eyes being able to stand its 3D images for any length of time, as well as determining how much of the on-screen image was clear and how much was fuzzy.
I organised to see a working 3D TV PC in the labs of the card's distributor, Altech. Research and development engineer Ivan Trendafilovski was working on the latest NRG PC, so he agreed to convert it into a 3D machine.
He unpacked the AVer3D Capture HD card (below).The packagingFull contents of the boxThe card itself
He then installed it into his NRG PC below.
The card fits neatly into a PCI-e slot.
He plugged the aerial into the card's antenna port.
And connected the NVIDIA 3D Vision kit. The little triangular IR emitter
wirelessly links the 3D glasses to the PC, and connects via a USB port.
Ivan then fired up the AVerMedia software, which did a channel scan. The monitor is the Samsung 2233RZ 120Hz display.
Since there were no 3D broadcasts happening at the time, he called up previously recorded 3D videos, of the rugby league State of Origin and of the AFL Grand Final.The 3D glasses from the NVIDIA 3D Vision kit.Ivan wearing the 3D glasses
He put on the NVIDIA glasses, and began enjoying his 3D football. And I had a really good look at the 3D images, from both the league and AFL games.The State of Origin rugby leage was the first 3D telecast in Australia. Obviously we can't show you the 3D effect!
The results? Surprisingly good, with some idiosyncracies. When I've watched 3D on big screens, I've found it difficult to look at it for longer than a few minutes because of the eye strain it induces. That's because only a small part of the image on the big TV screens tends to be absolutely crisp and effortless to watch - shift your eyes off the zone in focus, or off the perpendicular, and suddenly everything aquires an annoying fuzzyness which your eyes start working overtime to try and resolve.
This was not the case with the 3D video being generated by our 3D card on the Samsung 2233RZ monitor. The action happening directly in front of me, on the field - and both left and right ends of the ground, was in focus and extremely clear. It really did feel as if I was there at the ground. I found myself "oooohing and aaaahing," embarrassingly, as I watched Collingwood and St Kilda go at it right in front of me.The AFL grand final broadcast. Initially the spectators looked like wallpaper.
One quirk was that the 3D effect seemed to extend only to the other side of the field, covering just the playing field and players, not the spectators in the stands. The stands seemed like flat 2D wallpaper, strung up around the ground. This turned out to be the default depth of field setting for the card - but some tweaking (below) did allow me to add a bit more perspective to the stands, making for a more realistic background to go with the spectacularly crisp foreground.You can tweak the 3D setting to achieve a realism that suits.
In all, the AVer3D Capture HD card is a pretty spectacular TV tuner, letting you experience the very latest in TV broadcasting on your PC as well as giving you all the standard TV tuner functions. Naturally it doesn't do the 3D all by itself, needing the rest of the package discussed above around it. But even if it all adds up to around AUD$1,000, it's a damn sight cheaper that buying a full 3D TV set. And you also get a monitor, graphics card and 3D glasses kit that can play the latest 3D PC games.