Sunday, November 04, 2007

Edimensional 3D Glasses Review - ATI + LCD

Relevant Test Hardware:

ATI Radeon X1300

Gateway LCD 1400x900 monitor at 75hz

It seems every review I read for Edimensional’s glasses came in one of two flavors. People either loved them and thought every gamer should own a pair, or absolutely hated them and said they didn’t work.

My first few hours with them explained why this is:

I spent my first half hour with these glasses cursing them and thinking I’d have to send them back because they wouldn’t work. I spent the next half hour thinking they worked but the effect was no-where near the price…and 6 hours later when I had them finally figured out I was almost leaping out of my chair to avoid enemy rockets from hitting me in the face.

You see, while the hardware is purely plug and play (you just put a dongle between your graphics card and monitor, if you can put a square peg in a square hole you can install this product), setting them up for individual games takes a while until you get used to it.

This is mostly down to the terrible manual. With the ED drivers (Nvidia card owners can use Nvidia drivers which are much more intuitive), you have 2 controls that are labeled ‘More/Less 3D’ and ‘More/Less 3D close up’.

These controls are frankly mislabeled. The ‘More 3D’ control increases the distance between the two in game cameras that represent each eye. The ‘More 3D close up adjusts the distance from you at which these views ‘converge’ (The focal point, basically).

I think this ‘mislabeling’ was an attempt to not confuse the average user who has little or no idea of how stereoscopic 3D works. Unfortunately, this means your first instinct is to ramp both controls up as high as they will go. All this does is exaggerate the 3D on a very specific plane and result in crazy double images for everything not at that exact distance.

For example, I put on a flight simulator, paused the game and adjusted the settings until the plane in front of me just leapt out of the screen…but as soon as I unpaused and the game resumed, everything broke into ‘double vision’. At first I blamed the hardware, thinking the shutters were out of sync.

In reality I’d done the equivalent of setting my ‘eyes’ to a few feet apart, then crossed them to focus on that one object. (To understand this, put your finger a few inches from your nose and focus on it…now focus on an object in the other side of the room…see how your finger breaks into 2 images? That’s what’s happening in the game.)

Basically, once you understand the controls, setting up games becomes a snap.

There are a few downsides however.

The first is that the picture gets significantly darker when the glasses turn on. You’re basically playing a game with the brightness turned down through sunglasses. Having said that, the game was still playable in a brightly lit room, and if you’re playing in a darkened room, you quickly get used to it. In fact, after playing with the glasses for an hour, it felt like the picture was good with them on too bright when I turned them off.

Secondly, if you have an ATI card, the only 3D support you have is interlaced 3D. This results in an interlaced image, but I have to say it isn’t really intrusive.

My only other real negative is that this technology is limited in a few ways.

Remember what I told you about the double images? In real life your eyes will cross slightly to focus on the object you’re looking at. Because you have to set a fixed focal point for your games, objects that get extremely close to you can double-image no matter how you set up the game.

To be fair, once I worked out the controls, I only got a tiny amount of double imaging on objects, and the object had to be extremely close for you to see this (and how often do you stand on a combine cop’s toes in HL2?)

The only time this becomes a real issue is with the HUD objects in some games, such as cross hairs and health bars. Again, if you have an Nvidia card, you can set an ‘Nvidia crosshair’ that gets rid of this by rendering the crosshair in 2D.

I don’t really hold this as a black mark against these glasses, because the only real solution I can see for it is if the glasses had independent eye-tracking built in so they could tell what part of the screen you’re looking at. This is advanced and expensive technology, so you can’t really expect it in a pair of glasses that cost around 70 bucks.

Luckily you can adjust your 3D settings ‘on the fly’, and it’s just a matter of setting your focal point so it works for the majority of the distances you’re dealing with in the game. Like I said, I got to the point where I only experienced double images when an object was ridiculously close.

One thing that isn’t really a negative, but takes some getting used to when it crops up, is when you get ‘contradictory’ depths.

For example, in Star Wars : Battlefront 2, it looks like your gunsight is hovering a few feet in front of you. If an enemy or object gets closer to you than that, you get the strange phenomenon were your eyes are telling you that your gunsight is simultaneously further away than the object, but also in front of it.

The other thing I’m not holding against the glasses themselves is that there is a tiny amount a flicker when using them (and I mean tiny). The reason I’m not holding this against the glasses is because my monitor can only support the bare-minimum refresh rate of 75hz. If the flicker is so barely noticeable at 75hz, if you have a CRT capable of over 100hz, it won’t be a problem.

The only other real negative is that you do lose a bit of picture quality, and get a bit of a drop in frame rate when the glasses are turned on. Fortunately, at least for me, the drop in frame rate was barely noticeable. On the games I could actually check on, frame rate dropped by roughly 5 to 7%

Now onto the good parts:

Hardware-wise, the glasses are incredibly light and comfortable, and they also fit very easily and comfortably over prescription glasses. The lens size is also nice and large, I had no problems when looking at a 22 inch widescreen monitor at about 2 feet away…and that was with my prescription glasses on (holding the ED glasses further from my eyes than someone without prescription glasses would experience).

The other tip I’ll give you is that unless you’re planning on buying a second set so someone else can watch, go for the wired versions. I personally didn’t see the point in paying an extra 30 bucks for the privilege of losing one thin wire and having to buy batteries every 100 hours of use.

Once you have your glasses correctly set up and working, the effect is absolutely incredible. In all the shooters I tried it felt as though my weapon was really in my shoulder…and it was a genuine scary experience when a hellfire tank in Battlefront 2 released 15 rockets at me.

Believe it or not, it also makes a lot of games a little easier. I found in Combat Flight Simulator 3, I was getting a much higher hit ratio than I could without the ED glasses (25% hit rate versus my old 3%). This is because you can actually judge the distance to an enemy, and it makes ‘leading the target’ a hell of a lot easier. Landings and bombing also become easier because you can actually judge your distance from the ground.

It also leads to some amazing experiences you just can’t get without stereoscopic 3D.

I got behind an enemy plane, opened fire and with each hit debris would fly off the plane…and come right out of the screen at me. Then the pilot ejected and I got the amazing view of the pilot just missing me as his plane exploded. It’s the difference between looking at a picture of the action…and really feeling like you’re in a plane flying through a field of debris.

Also, remember that part of HL2 where you play catch with Dog? As the Soprano’s would say…fughedaboutit!

It’s really hard to explain the effect to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but if you’re playing a shooter, imagine taking the screen out of your monitor and setting up GI-Joes inside it. That’s what it looks like (albeit through sunglasses).

Another experience that sticks in my mind was I was playing Ultimate Spiderman and was jumping from rooftop to rooftop…suddenly I leapt out into space between two skyscrapers…and felt my stomach jump into my mouth. I got a real feeling of vertigo…and that’s realism you just can’t get anywhere else.

The other big positive I can mention is that even though the Edimensional driver for non-Nvidia cards is essentially a hack, it works beautifully with most games. I found the glasses worked with about 95% of my games.

Conclusion

If you have an ATI card and an LCD monitor capable of at least 75hz, I’d recommend these glasses. You won’t use them all the time, but they’re definitely worth owning.

Considering everything I’ve heard about how much better these glasses are with Nvidia cards and CRT monitors, I don’t see why anyone with that hardware wouldn’t own these glasses.

All I can say is don’t expect them to work perfectly out of the box. Expect to spend a couple hours playing with them and working out how to set them up before you become proficient with them. After that it’s butter.

One last point to mention is that if you own an LCD monitor, make sure you buy your glasses from the Edimensional website. I saw these for sale on Newegg.com for $50, but the $50 pair are the old ones that will only work with CRT monitors.

4 comments:

MC Etcher said...

Hee hee. You said "dongle".

Cool review! Too much adjustment is needed... I think I'll wait another 10 years.

Your crummy monitor is limiting your next-gen 3D glasses? You poor sod.

Paulius said...

Actually very little adjustment is needed.

To set up an average game simply pick and object fairly close to you and press F7 until it looks 3D. Then staying where you are, look at a distant object (which will be a double image) and press F6 until it converges into a single image.

Then you're done. The driver automatically saves the settings for each game, so you only need to calibrate once.

Basically, despite the fact I have the worst possible setup, If I'd tried these glasses and got the same effect as I can get with my hardware...and was told that's as good as it gets...I'd still call them a good buy.

Anonymous said...

Thank. This is just the review I was looking for. I actually just ordered the x-force 3d glasses and hope they work with the eDimensional ATI hacked drivers. If not I will order the eDimensional ones. Cant wait to play postal 2 with them. Thanks for the great review!

mahasiswa teladan said...

hi..Im student from Informatics engineering, this article is very informative, thanks for sharing :)