3D Vision is one ace up Nvidia’s GPU sleeve that AMD doesn’t have an answer for. And if you enjoy 3D Vision on the small screen, you’ll really dig it writ large with Acer’s H5360 DLP video projector—provided you can accept the shortcomings inherent to the projector, Nvidia’s GPUs, and 3D Vision in general.
When it comes to putting an Nvidia GPU in your home-theater PC, the biggest drawback is that none of the green team’s cards provide the protected audio path needed to route encrypted HD audio to the card’s HDMI output. So if you want to hear the Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks on Blu-ray movies—and you do—you’ll need to invest in a specialized soundcard, such as Asus’s Xonar HDAV or Auzentech’s X-Fi Home Theater HD.
To take full advantage of Acer’s H5360 120Hz DLP projector, you’ll also need an Nvidia-powered videocard ($200 plus), Nvidia’s 3D Vision kit ($200), additional pairs of glasses ($150 each), a projection screen ($100 plus), and an HDMI soundcard ($150 plus).
The projector itself has two weaknesses: Most significantly, its native resolution is 1280x720, versus 1920x1080. That matters most when you’re watching Blu-ray movies, because they look so much better splashed across a wall-size screen at 1080p. On the other hand, the limited resolution becomes something of a perverse benefit when it comes to gaming, for reasons we’ll explain in a moment.
The projector’s second deficiency has to do with the fact that it’s a single-chip DLP model: We’d heard about the DLP rainbow effect, but this is the first time we’ve actually experienced it. DLP projectors produce color by spinning a wheel with red, green, and blue segments in front of the light source (this one spins at 9,000rpm). The projector displays each alternating color of the frame at the same location for the entire length of the frame. If your eyes move quickly across the entire screen—as happens frequently during gameplay—the three colors might appear to separate into a rainbow. This doesn’t happen to everyone, and it didn’t happen to us while we were watching movies; your mileage may vary.
Now let’s get back to the resolution issue: When the GPU is rendering a game in 3D Vision, it produces two versions of each frame—one intended for the right eye and one intended for the left—so your net frame rate for a given game will generally be half what it would be while running in 2D mode. For the sake of convenience, we connected the projector to an AVADirect X1800 desktop-replacement notebook PC, which is outfitted with two GeForce GTX 285M GPUs in SLI. With 3D Vision enabled, that rig was able to produce Batman: Arkham Asylum at a respectable 45 frames per second. Had the projector enabled us to run the game at 1920x1080, we likely wouldn’t have been satisfied with the results.
Nvidia is doing a good job of evangelizing 3D Vision to game developers, and game developers are doing an increasingly strong job of incorporating the technology into their code. What’s more, the effects are much more powerful on the big screen than they are on a small monitor. Be that as it may, the images that drew the most oohs and aahs from the crowd that assembled for show time in the Lab were static scenes from Nvidia’s demo slide show. Early-adopter gamers won’t be disappointed with this projector, but we’ll hold onto our wallets until Hollywood releases some Blu-ray 3D movies.
Acer H5360 3D Video Projector
Bright; compact and portable; minimal price premium over conventional projectors.
Limited to 720p; uses DLP technology; needs a fast Nvidia GPU for gaming.