Can My Laptop, Monitor, Or TV Do 3D? [Frequently Asked Questions]

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can my tv do 3dThis gets asked about once a week on our questions and answers section, so I’m writing this in the hopes that maybe it’ll clear things up for some readers. The short answers is: no, there’s a 99% chance you can’t watch 3D movies or play games in 3D on your computer. No piece of software is going to change that, and here’s why. If you have a 3DTV though, read on to find out what else you need to get it all working.

Please note: I’m not going to address Red/Blue pseudo-3D in this article. Any computer can display something in red/blue as this article from 2009 showed you. It’s an old technology, the quality is terrible, and this is not what is referred to as 3D in the year 2011. You can also view 3D on any monitor by just going cross-eyed if you really want.

It’s not about your graphics card

Any modern video card is capable of outputting a signal that can used to drive a 3D display. It’s often said that you need NVidia, but that’s only because they’ve partnered with numerous manufacturers to produce NVidia branded 3dVision products which are relatively easy to setup (or require no set up at all in the case of certain laptops)

can my tv do 3d

AMD/ATi cards can also output 3D, but there are no ATi branded 3D monitor/glasses packages you can buy, and the drivers provided by ATI do not support 3D natively. Ignoring the monitor side of things for a moment, if you have an ATi card then you’ll also need some third party drivers that convert the signal from your ATi into whatever format is needed by your display, and those drivers have an additional cost.

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The most recent iteration of ATi Radeon drivers have introduced some sort of native 3D output. You still need the additional drivers, but they have partnered with ATi to offer a special free licence for ATi owners.

Display Device

This is the most important part of your setup, and this is the reason you can’t get 3D on any old LCD monitor. Normal LCD screens simply don’t have the capability to display 3D images using either of the more popular techniques outlined below. (Images from Panasonic)

Active 3D displays – the kind that have glasses which need a battery – require a monitor with a very high refresh rate to send twice as many image frames as usual. Your typical LCD display is simply too slow to display images at the speed required.

can my monitor do 3d

Passive 3D displays – with their lightweight glasses – require a special filter inside the monitor which polarize the light.

can my monitor do 3d

Lenticular 3D displays – such as the Nintendo 3DS, which don’t require glasses at all – have a special filter inside which angles the different images directly into your eyes. There are no consumer level lenticular displays currently available.

That’s why your average monitor cannot do 3D. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

The Drivers

Okay, we’ve established that your video card is technically capable of 3D, but chances are your monitor isn’t. Assuming you do actually own either a 3DTV, or purchased a specific monitor and glasses package deal – now what?

Nvidia card + 3D Ready monitor package: If you ‘re willing to purchase a new monitor, this is the easiest route to go. You can either buy a packaged deal with glasses + monitor, or you can buy a compatible 3D Vision Ready monitor and get the glasses separately. Either way is likely to set you back about $500, not including the graphics card itself.

Compatible 3DTV + Recent NVidia Card: You need to purchase a special driver called 3DTV Play from NVidia for $40. This will only work with more recent Nvidia cards (Certain members of the GT series), and only if your 3DTV is compatible with HDMI 1.4a (check the compatibility list here).

3DTV + Older Nvidia Card: You need to purchase third party drivers for about $50.

3DTV + ATi Card: You will need to download additional third party drivers, but you may or may not need to purchase a licence for them.

In all these cases, third party drivers refers to either TriDef, or iZ3D.

You will also need to investigate exactly which 3D output format your 3DTV (or projector) requires. There’s quite a variety of formats out there, so you’ll need to look this up specifically for your TV and set the drivers correctly. If you don’t understand the manual, please post your model number in the comments and I’d be happy to look this up for you.

The Software

You don’t need any additional software to play games in 3D. Just the launch the game in full-screen, and the drivers should automatically kick in.

What about movies though?

Firstly, there are ways to magically turn a regular non-3D into a 3D movie but the result is terrible and I’m not going to talk about it here. I’m going to assume you have either specifically downloaded 3D videos, or have a 3D BluRay disc.

3D BluRay: All you need is a Bluray player capable of outputting the 3D. Cyberlink PowerDVD is the only player I know of that can do this currently, and it should have come with your computer or BluRay drive. Obviously you can’t play BluRay disks on your computer if you don’t actually have a BluRay drive.

can my monitor do 3d

3D-AVIs: These are a specific 3D file format and require a special player. NVidia bundles an appropriate 3D player, but for non-NVidia users you’ll need to purchase Stereoscopic Player from here.

can any monitor do 3d

Side-By-Side AVIs: These are kind you might download from a torrent site if you were so inclined, usually in the form of “3d blu-ray rips”. They come in a regular AVI format, and you can identify them easily because when you open them, they’ll be two of the same movie playing side by side. These can be played full-screen directly in VLC if you’re connecting to a 3DTV that understand side-by-side format; but to play them on a 3DVision or other 3D monitor, or a 3DTV that doesn’t understand side-by-side format, you’ll need the NVidia 3D player or Stereoscopic player that let’s you set the output format.

can my tv do 3d

I really hope this has cleared it up for some of you. The truth is that there are so many different formats out there for both displaying and storing 3D, and even for a geek like me getting them talking to each other is no easy task; so it’s understandable to be a little confused. If you’d like any more details or clarification on the points mentioned here, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments.

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54 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

thecolor

So, what about newer TVs that are fast enough to display Active or Passive images (through speed)/refresh rate?

I purchased a Samsung recently and the only difference (per specs) was “3D ready… vs not.

Every other spec was the same, refresh rate, etc.

This would lead me to believe that the TV is capable of speeds to produce those types of images (multiple or not), simply meaning you’d need glasses capable of accepting the active or passive images being output.

Can you elaborate on that, please?  :)

Thanks

muotechguy

Good question. I had the same thought myself when I first looking into this a few years ago, but had to cut that paragraph from the final draft. 

Firstly, refresh rates are only pertinent when you talk about ACTIVE displays. Passive 3d needs a whole new component in the TV, a layer of filter. In theory, a fast enough display should be able to display active 3d content if it had a suitable sync mechanism. 

However, in reality the “high refresh rates” of non-3d TVs are somewhat of a lie. Even though they claim 240hz, that’s actually an *interpolated* signal. That means that although 48 frames of video per second are being displayed, for example, only 24 of them are actually real frames from the video stream. The rest (50% or sometimes even more) are midway guesses that a video chip in the TV creates for you. While this does result in smoother video for high speed sports sequences etc, it means that a high-refresh *signal* cannot be used, which is neccessary for the active 3d. 

An additional problem is that a syncing method is needed. On “3d ready” tvs (active ones, anyway), the glasses need a infra-red emitter in the tv that pulses to say “turn off one eyepiece now”, in perfect timing with the frames being displayed. Regular tvs dont have that. In theory at least, assuming the refresh actually WAS high enough, you could use a matched pair of glasses/signal emitters such as NVidia 3DVision, but in reality the drivers dont support this and there may be other delays in the system that prevent the sync from occurring, so even by hacking the drivers it wouldnt work 90% of the time, if at all. 

An interesting point to note is that some of the larger old, bulky CRT displays from days gone by, ARE compatible with NVidia 3DVision and actually had good refresh rates from 100-120hz. It was only when everyone moved to LCD displays that the refresh rates dropped significantly to 60-80hz, and could no longer do 3D. If you can rescue a huge old CRT from somewhere, (19 inches +, usually), it’s very likely you can do 3d on it! 

thecolor

excellent explanation, thanks. On the plus side I chose not to get the 3D version ’cause I felt the experience was bad, needing a movie size screen to really feel the depth and any outside light (less a pitch dark movie theatre) messed with my peripheral vision making watching it poor and nauseating. :(

I’ll just stick to the theatre if it looks like it “could” be a good rendition with loads of depth!

Reply

Cashmere

In view of recent Gaming laptops appearing lately minus those huge and bulky coolers and graphic cards, will you please also write about if it is possible to DIYers like me to build gaming nettops mimicking this gaming laptops.

muotechguy

I’m afraid gaming laptops aren’t really an area I have much expert knowledge in, perhaps another staff writer would be interested in this. Could you post a new question to http://www.makeuseof.com/answers ,please ?

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M.S. Smith

Thanks for taking this on, James, there have indeed been a ton a questions about 3D lately. 

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G.Muralidharan

Please advise if LG D2342p 3D Monitor can play #d side by side format and also its advantages and disadvantages

muotechguy

That particular model is a passive display, and the input format is strictly INTERLACED (ie, one line after the after is mixed together), so unfortunately no, it will not take side by side format. Other than being very cheap, there are no advantages to that particular monitor – from reports I’ve read the 3d quality is terrible, with lots of ghosting and overall lack of depth as is often the case with passive 3d monitors. 

Generally, its only TVs that will take side-by-side format – and while computers are capable of diplsaying 3d content to TVs, it’s unusual to find 3d monitors able to show standard 3d output from say a playstation or blueray player. My advice would be to stay away from monitor based solutions, and save up to upgrade your TV. 

Reply

Aibek

Thank you for the excellent post. I saw a number of questions around this topic on Answers.

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G.Muralidharan

Very Very Thanks for Your Advice .I will go for a 3D TV itself.

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JR

Sorry to bother you again with one of those “Haz my Screen 3D” Question, but I own a 42″ Hitachi Plasma which displays at 85Hz…Is there some kind of a minimum deadline in refresh rate? 
My naive thought was like “hey its only 15Hz difference, maybe I…” because the Nvidias 3D Vision discover set that came with my gtx295 really made my hungry for a proper alternative; like you, I really don’t admire this horrible red/blue shit and would like to go for Nvidias wireless glasses.
Thanks in advance and sorry for my english
JR

James Bruce

Nope, sorry, that’s not gonna work. In the past, it was possible to force low-refresh CRT screens to do 3D, but thats not the case with slow LCDs. It simply wouldn’t be able to sync. I believe you also need to connect over HDMI1.4a, which the TV won’t have. It’s a shame, but you may need to wait until you’re ready to buy a new TV again in a few years I guess. 

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summit86

Hi, thanks for a very informative article, but i still got a bit confused.
I have a HDMI 1.4a 3DTV (Samsung LED D6000SR), Laptop with ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650 GPU & Intel Core i5 460M processor.
Now what all do i have to ‘buy’/get assuming i’ll be using all possible 3D sources? Is buying Tridef or iZ3D mandatory given my ATI graphics?
Also I dont have BD ROM drive on laptop or a Blue Ray player either, is it possible to use virtual mount software’s to emulate a blue ray disc player and mount ISO image on it and then use PowerDVD? (sorry if i’m being silly over here)
Thanks in advance :)

James Bruce

Hi Summit. A few questions I’ll answer individually. 

1. Yes, you’ll need a DVI->HDMI adpater if you laptoip doesnt have HDMI output though. I would also suggest switching it to display ONLY external, instead f trying to run cloned monitor setup. So make it that the TV is the primary display with inbuilt laptop display deactivated. iz3d or tridef will then let you play 3d GAMES on your TV. 

2. I’m afraid details on the free license for ATi owners are rather sparse. There is a 30 day trial though, so best thing is to download and try. In the licence section, you may find “free,paid,Ati owners”. 

3. Mounting bluray isos and playing via powerdvd is possible, but it’s far easy to just download the SBS rip rather than the whole iso, then just play in regular old VLC. You’ll see two images on your tv, at which point just switch the TV to 3d SBS mode. 

So that gives you movies via vlc , and games via iz3d/tridef. Anything else?

summit86

Thanks a lot James, one last q though :) , i think my laptop has HDMI 1.3 and i also have a 1.3 cable, will it be a spoiler?

James Bruce

I dont think so Summit – I use DVI cable just fine and have never stopped to consider the version of HDMI. I think it just means your TV wont automatically know it’s in 3D mode, but that’s just another button you have to press on the remote. I could be wrong though, so do post back after you try and let us know.  

summit86

Thanks, will surely let you know the outcome!

summit86

Thanks James, it all worked pretty fine!! 3D looks simply stunning, have installed iZ3D not yet tried Tridef. Worth the money IMHO :)

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Alex

hi,i’m from Malalsia.. I want to know how to change my laptop Asus N55SF screen 3D vision? have anyone can help me soft it..??

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Alex

hi,i’m Alex..
want know my laptop is Asus N55SF & garfic card is Nvidia geforce GT 555 M so that screen is it can support 3d movie?

James Bruce

Sorry Alex, the laptop screen does not support 3D of any kind. The graphics card does though, so all you need is a suitable 3d display – either a special external monitor, or 3dTV. 

Reply

basketball

So it doesnt matter if your laptops not 3d? you can still download a 3d movie and plug your laptop to your 3d tv and still watch 3d? so you just have to download NVidia 3d player to your computer?   Thank you!

James Bruce

Yes. In fact, you don’t even need nvidia player if you download Side-by-Side (SBS) formatted 3d movies, which make up about 95% of what is out there. Just play them full screen in VLC, and switch the 3d mode on from the TV. 

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James Bruce

It’s an interesting concept, but sadly that was 3 years ago now and nothing ever came of it. It’s also not really practical, since it relies on you moving your head in order to give the *illusion* of 3d, rather than actually delivering a 3d image to your eyes. It’s certainly impressive though.

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guest

Thank you for this very well written, enlightening article. After desperately googling and posting on relevant forums about how to play 3d sbs mkvs from my laptop to watch them on my 3d projector, I finally found the answer here.

James Bruce

Glad to help!

Reply

yiitingsun

hello, 
I have a 51″ plasma samsung 3Dtv, what should I do in order to play 3D movies from mac laptop?
thank you ~~

James Bruce

Hi there. Depending on how old your macbook is, you’ll need either a DVI-I -> HDMI or Mini DisplayPort-> HDMI adapter, as well as an HDMI cable. This will let you send video to the TV from the macbook. You’ll be able to play Side-By-Side formatted movies just fine using regular VLC media player – once its playing, switch to 3d mode on the Samsung remote, and be sure to choose the side by side option as it can also do horizontal split signal. You won’t be able to play actual blu-rays of course, as there is no bluray drive for your laptop, nor any software that will play them on OSX – but downloaded movies in SBS format should be fine. 

Sound is a problem though – I have a 50″ samsung myself, and  the display output from your mac wont be able to send sound also; nor is there an input for sound on the samsung side when using HDMI (as it’s assumed the HDMI signal will also contain sound) – therefore, you’ll need a separate amplifier set up. Just connect the line out/headphone socket of your mac to your amp’s auxillary input. If you don’t have external amp and speakers, then I’m afraid you’re limited to the speakers on your macbook, which will be quite bad. 

(edit: if you have a recent macbook, this adapter is able to send audio also: http://store.apple.com/us/product/H1824ZM/A/Moshi_Mini_DisplayPort_to_HDMI_Adapter – *Audio support is only available for MacBook Pro 13/15/17-in. mid-2010 release; iMac 21.5/27-in. early-2010 release, but I can’t recommend it personally) 

Hope that wasn’t too technical. 

Reply

silver surfer uk

I’ve some old videos but no video player. Is there a way that I setup my laptop so that I can view them please.  If there is a way please could you tell me in ‘idiot style’ without the technical jargon – I’m a silver-surfer!  Many thanks.

James Bruce

Hi there. I’m a little confused- are you referring to old 3d videos? If not, it’s probabaly better asking a question on the tech help part of the site at http://www.makeuseof.com/answers , as I’m not really an expert on old videos.

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sw123

i have a sony bravia 3d tv and a sony vaio laptop. i wanted to play games in 3d on my tv, my laptop has an ati mobility radeon hd 4650 and a hdmi port. I want to know if i have to purchase a software to play games in 3d since i cant find the links to download iz3d or tridef 3d that are free for ati customers.

muotechguy

Apolgoies, the ATI free option for iz3d is only for use with 3d DLP TVs, such as from Mitsubishi and Samsung. For your tv, you will need a paid licence. However, your gfx is not really good enough, you will likley get framerates of about 20fps.

I would suggest getting the trial version of TRIDEF (http://www.tridef.com/download/TriDef-3D-latest.html) and testing with the new Power3D mode enabled, as it gives massive performance to about what you’d expect running in 2d.

sw123

Ok thanks

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sw123

In order to use tridef i need to upgrade my drivers to the latest version but the driver form the ati website does not work on sony laptops. I read on this forum that if i uninstall my current driver and delete all associated files using driver sweeper and then install the current catalyst control center it would start working. Would it work?

muotechguy

Sorry, way to specific. I would try the tridef forums for that kind of information, bound to be a few people in the same situation as you.

Reply

Valentin

I have sony bravia 3d tv(1920 1080) (40nx720) with hdmi 1.4 and laptop with ATI redeon hd 3400 and both hdmi and dvi (not sure if the hdmi is 1.3 or 1.4). So the question is can i play bluray 3d movies on the laptop and watch them on the tv using HDMI? As i have noticed when i connect the laptop to the tv in the right corner there is “720p” i suppose it is because of my laptops video card i mean it can only support HD not Full HD. Does that mean that if i have a blu ray movie and a HD movie the quality is going to be the same

James Bruce

Firstly, do you have a bluray drive on your laptop? If you do, you’ll need a 3d bluray player like http://www.cyberlink.com/products/powerdvd/features_en_GB.html to play those. However, PowerDVD needs HDMI 1.4 to play 3d bluray discs in a directly compatible 3d format, which I dont think your card can do. So 3d blurays are out of the question.

For download 3d movies that play as side by side, you shouldnt need any special software, assuming your TV is able to understand side by side format (to check, try enabling 3d – or check the manual – if there is a setting on screen that lets you choose between side by side, horizontal, checkerboard or interlaced). However, I think Sony’s don’t do SBS, but I can’t confirm this anywhere.

TL/dR:
– you need HDMI 1.4
– if you have that, powerdvd may let you view 3d blurays, and you could play 3d games with third party drivers. Just need to figure out the exact format your tv needs.

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suraj

I have laptop with blu ray drive. I also have LG 3D LED TV (passive 3D). Can I connect my laptop to TV to play 3D blu-ray and experience 3D on my TV? If so, how do I do it?

Thanks in advance

muotechguy

You can indeed, but you’ll need HDMI1.4 output, and a suitable cable. You’ll need Cyberlink PowerDVD to play the 3D bluray: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/blu-ray-3d-3d-vision-3d-home-theater,2636-6.html

If you want to play games, TriDef drivers linked in the article will work.

You’ll need to read the manual for your model of tv to find out which settings to apply for 3d – side by side, interlaced etc.

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Wills isingoma

Hi,
I am trying to buy EUG 3D projector, TriDef 3D software and Red-blue 3D glasses.
Are these three compatible to watch 3D movies on a silver screen or i still need more to make this work?

Also, what model of a Laptop/ PC do i need to play these 3D movies?

James Bruce

Hi Willis. You got a real mix of technologies you’re asking about there.

Unfortunately, I cant find any information on the 3D output of an EUG projector, but generally a “3d projector” would be using either active or passive glasses, not red/blue. Cheaper projectors use passive glasses, which are just plastic filters, so my guess is that it’s that kind – but i suspect the project comes with suitable glasses, so dont buy any extra yet.

Silver screen is unsuitable; just a while wall is fine.

TriDef is only needed to play 3d games, not movies. The TriDef software takes the directx video output, and splits it into 2 screens. 3d movies are already split up, usually in SBS format – so your project will need to accept SBS format as a type of 3d. Again, without knowing more about the projector, I can’t tell you if this going to work. However, any type of PC capable of playing HD movies will work fine for 3d, as theres no additional processing (the picture is already split in half in the source file).

In summary:
– See if you can research more on the projector, or if you’re willing to take the risk just get it anyway. Don’t buy glasses yet, and you dont need a silver screen.
– You dont need Tridef for movies.
– You do need SBS formatted movies though – downloaded illegally, or played through a compatible bluray player.

Reply

Wills Isingoma

Thanks for the insight James.
I am glad I haven’t purchased any of these things. But quick one, any 3D projector with at least 4500 lumen or more would you recommend to use here in Africa and since it’s for a selected audience, it’s sometimes going to be an outdoor watch. What kind of 3d glasses would you recommend to make this whole thing compatible?

What is SBS Format?
Again, since I stay far… I would love to do a onetime purchase of all these things esp glasses. What and who do u recommend for wholesale?

Again, thank you so much for the great advice, appreciate.

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Wills isingoma

Hi James,
I really appreciate all the help here.

Quick one, Can i project 3D movies on any plain matt surface or i have to buy a specific 3D projector screen material? I stay in Uganda in Africa and I am trying to avoid unnecessary expenses if i can get any recommended material locally.

James Bruce

Normally I just project onto a matt white wall, but you may get better brightness from a screen as they’re specially designed to reflect back more light – so only get a screen if it seems too dark.

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wills Isingoma

Hi James,
I bought a 3D projector ” HD LED Projector” Model: LED-86. They sent it with a couple of glasses but I tried testing with a blue ray 3D movie and I was still seeing the screen split into. Where could the problem be?

James Bruce

Hi Wills – this device? http://www.amazon.com/DBPOWER-Theater-Projector-Support-Teaching/dp/B00ED9W06Q

There’s nothing there to indicate it does any kind of 3D. What kind of glasses were they? If they dont need a battery, it’s possible it does passive 3D, but it won’t switch modes automatically – you’ll need to enable this through the menu on the projector. Have a poke around, there should be something in there to enable it.

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wills Isingoma

Screen split into two…

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wills Isingoma

Hi James,
This is what I ordered for;
 Online Shop Newest Brirghtest 5000lumens Android 4.2 Native Full HD Led Digital Smart 3D Home Theater Projector Free Gift 100” Screen|Aliexpress Mobile -http://m.aliexpress.com/item/940964616.html.
And they sent it with three pairs of red/green glasses. They don’t use batteries and I don’t seem to find the 3D option. Where do u advise I look?

James Bruce

Yeah – that doesn’t do 3D. Red/green glasses are more of a silly gift than for any practical use (see the note at the start of the article about red/blue – same thing). The 5000 lumens is also a lie, so generally that’s just bad marketing.

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wills Isingoma

Hi James, they are saying the projector plays 3D and it’s the right one except I have to download a software, which they dint say. Any software you know of that could be helpful to make this thing operate 3D?

Sometime back you were testing a projector bulb from the same manufacturers (http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/BRILENS-LS1280-3800lumens-Laser-Projector-World-1st-Portable-Smart-Wifi-Proyector-Native-720P-HD-Passive-3D/1403392_32221483400.html)

How did it go? What’s yo experience with aliexpress?

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Arun K Babu

Hi James,
I still have a doubt.
Is a normal 120Hz LCD or LED Monitor enough to display a Stereoscopic 3D content on my PC in Stereoscopic 3D if I have an Nvidia Graphics Card which supports 3D Vision Technology & an Nvidia Active Shutter 3D glass & Nvidia 3D vision toolkit (includes 3D Shutter glasses with infrared & an infrared emitter). I also heard that Nvidia have a special software which is able to Sync. 3D by giving signals through infrared emitter( included in the Nvidia 3D vision toolkit) to the Shutter 3D Glasses. The 3D sync. software is included with Nvidia GTX edition Graphics Cards.

[Sorry If my English is bad!]

James Bruce

No; at least, I’ve never come across an LCD/LED monitor that will do that. Even if it says 120hz, it’s usually a lie (interpolated or something, not a “true” 120hz). It must specifically be compatible.

But yes, the 3Dvision kit has a IR sync emitter; this is critical to any shuttered 3d system, but it still doesn’t mean you can use any monitor.

Reply

Arun K Babu

Thanks James.
Thanks for your valuable reply.
That cleared my doubt.

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