Did somebody mention 3D gaming monitor?
From time to time, a product is brought onto the market to rock the boat on conventional approaches. In this case it is the second generation iZ3D gaming monitor in 22" glory. Thanks to iZ3D for leaving their monitor in my care for this review, let's see how it performs.
I have to admit, the thoughts of receiving a 3D gaming monitor to test was pretty exciting. There was no shortage of volunteers from those in the know to help me give the iZ3D a proper test (thanks JD for being the very able tester there). The unboxing was unceremonious as I was keen to get to the unit.
The iZ3D monitor is heavier and thicker than a standard LCD screen of the same size. This is due to the dual screens within the chassis to project the offset image. In terms of thickness, it is not quite double the thickness of a second screen. It certainly is not in the same league as a standard CRT monitor so there's no fretting over precious desk space.
The plastic case of the iZ3D has a matte black finish with a silver band on the side panels to break the monotony. The stand is sturdy and allows for tilting the screen only. There is no provision for rotation or height adjustment. The bottom of the monitor curves outward slightly, allowing a more natural action when pressing the buttons presented.
How Does the iZ3D Work?
The iZ3D website has a fairly good, if brief explanation of the how their technology works. In a nutshell, the monitor uses two LCD matrices of the same size (22" in this case) and resolution (1,680 x 1,050) with the rear matrix handling intensity control and the front matrix handling polarisation control.
Fundamentally the operation of this 3D monitor is no different from a standard LCD, both utilises the ability of liquid crystals nestled in between two polarisers and the turning angle of the crystals determine the overall percentage of light that can pass through those polarisers. In the case of the iZ3D, the supplied eye glasses have polarisers (lenses) set at 90 degree angles to each other. This assists the human eye to perceive different images projected by the monitor dependent on both the brightness from the rear matrix and the polarisation angle of light from the front matrix.
The monitor comes with an A3 pictorial and text step by step instructions to getting the iZ3D ready for action. The 5 steps are simple enough to follow provided the minimum hardware requirements are met. Critically this means in a single monitor rig, you will require a video card with two DVI outlets. In most modern and top end graphics cards this is generally not an issue. However if you have a dual monitor rig, a second video card is a must to support the second monitor.
The connectors on the monitor end are clearly labelled with either front or back LCD. The front is a DVI connector which is the matrix handling polarisation, whilst the back connector can be DVI or analog D-Sub producing the image and responsible for intensity. The connectors are tucked away behind the stand support, requiring the monitor to be laid on its side before you can access them.
With my test rig of Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8 GHz, 4 Gb RAM and NVidia GeForce 9500GT, iZ3D monitor hooked up I was almost ready to rock and roll. It is important to download the latest drivers from the iZ3D website (currently v1.09), it saves time and effort as the shipped drivers will give the option of upgrading, and it requires an automated uninstall of current drivers.
After a quick reboot it was on with the supplied eye glasses. The drivers offer 3D adjustments to ensure the images are crisp and clear. As each person's eyes are slightly different, this step is essential to ensure that the image is tuned for your eyes. With that completed it was time to fire up Call of Duty 4! Ahh, I love the smell of napalms in the morning.
You know how when you drive your car into a car park with low clearance, you involuntarily duck your head as though it will help ease the roof of your vehicle past the exposed pipes or the concrete beam? This is the same playing CoD4 with the iZ3D. You know you don't have to bob around, or move your body to dodge debris or hand grenades, but your body involuntarily does it away. Logically you know there is no depth to the flat screen monitor, but somehow the images are coming right in your face.
It is certainly a way to immerse yourself in the thick of action, more so if you have hooked up a surround sound system. The iZ3D monitor has a list of support games, which is generally most DirectX 8 and 9 games. It is rumoured that DirectX 10 is in the pipelines.
In addition to 3D gaming, iZ3D offers a special player for viewing 3D movies and picture. Such content however must be originally recorded as 3D content as the monitor cannot add depth perception to flat images.
* 22" widescreen LCD display
* 1,680 x 1,050 resolution
* Viewing angle of 120/90
* 5ms response time
* 250 nit brightness level
* 600:1 contrast ratio
* Interface: 1 x DVI, 1 x DVI/VGA
* Review kit included 4 eyeglasses and 1 clip on
* 2 x DVI cables
* 1 x analogue D-Sub cable
* 1 x power lead (US head)
Despite the wow factor of playing games in 3D and being generally quite good at it, there are some definite downsides to this monitor.
In 2D mode the setup is average with particularly dull colours in comparison to a standard half decent LCD monitor. Depending on your normal needs, it would not be recommended to be used for graphics editing work.
Secondly the images projected is not fully separated which results in noticeable artefacts during game play, leading to eye-strain after a period of usage. I suspect a bit of fine tuning on the eye glasses would help reduce this issue.
There will be a need to continuously upgrade the iZ3D driver as more titles are supported and technology improves.
Lastly, not so much a gripe but reality, is that there is no "one setting fits all" if you have multiple people watching the proceedings with the eye glasses. Again as mentioned previously, everyone's eyes are slightly different and this is perfectly understandable.
There is a definite wow factor when you first play a game with a 3D monitor. Kudos to iZ3D as their monitor largely has delivered a 3D gaming experience with some caveats. The experience is a quantum technological leap from the bulky goggles that attaches to your video card in the late 90's and early 00's.
If you live for gaming, and with eyesight a bit healthier than mine, then this is a fantastic opportunity to seriously immerse yourself into the gameplay. (The reviewer does not endorse continuous gameplay where it may lead to an unhealthy lifestyle.) If you are an occasional gamer such as myself, with the lesser quality image in 2D mode, one would pause to debate if it is worth the price to pay. That said and done, I can see a market for people who works with stereoscopic images or GIS (Geographical Information Systems) where a 3D image would be of great value to their work.
The iZ3D is available
for USD$399. There are also localised distributors around the world. For the hardcore gamers, there is a selected number of custom paint jobs available for a cool USD$549.99.