Performance Summary: Going into this article, we wanted to find out how well NVIDIA Surround would perform in comparison to Eyefinity from ATI. In addition to the GTX 480s and HD 5870s, we had a a pair of GTX 295s on hand that we started testing, but there were several performance issues with the beta driver that did not allow us to benchmark the cards reliably. NVIDIA has notified us that they are aware of these problems and will support GTX 295 SLI for Surround gaming in the future driver release.
At any rate, our gaming results show that on average, NVIDIA Surround in 2D mode is 18% faster than Eyefinity when comparing stock GTX 480s to overclocked HD 5870s. That's a notable mark for the first release of the NVIDIA Surround driver. Keep in mind, this number would be even greater if we had used reference model HD 5870 videocards. The GTX 480s in SLI notched substantial leads in most games we tested, with the exception of Dirt 2 where it trailed the HD 5870s by 6% and HAWX where the two setups showed similar performance.
Also note that there are a myriad of factors that will determine the ultimate performance of a game running in 3D Surround mode, including the speed of the graphics cards, refresh rates, the CPU, image quality settings, etc. However, a good rule of thumb is that a game that runs with acceptable framerates, should play well in 3D stereo mode. If a game chugs along on your PC in standard multi-monitor mode, it's only going to get worse in 3D stereo mode.
We mentioned earlier that 3D Vision Surround is an expensive upgrade. Throughout the article, we noted certain price points of products to give you an idea of how much it would be to implement this technology. But now, we'd like to bring it altogether. Let's assume for the sake of discussion that you have an up-to-date system sitting on your desk, sporting Windows 7, an SLI capable motherboard, one GTX 480 graphics card, and a 24" LCD monitor. In order to upgrade to a Surround gaming system, you must purchase another GTX 480 at $500, along with two more 24" displays that will cost about $250 each, depending on the model. That's about $1000 in upgrades on top of an already powerful system, in order to play games using Surround in 2D.
If we were to juice up the same base system mentioned in the previous example to a 3D Vision Surround configuration, we would still require another GTX 480. This time, a trio of 3D capable monitors are needed and they cost approximately $350 a pop. Toss in the NVIDIA 3D Kit for $180, and we're looking at spending over $1700 to achieve 3D Vision Surround. Even for cutting edge enthusiasts with a powerful system already in use, the road to true 3D gaming is an exorbitant one. Of course, if you're starting from scratch and want to put together a brand new system, the cost will be considerable.
In the final analysis, our experience during this short week of testing has been rewarding. Its great to see a formidable option to AMD's Eyefinity and we look forward to driver revisions that will improve performance and address some of the bugs we ran into. If you enjoy 3D and want the best possible gaming experience, it's worth looking into 3D Vision Surround technology from NVIDIA.