3D Monitors: Here is What You Need to Know

The reign of 3D TVs has been a very successful one. After seeing the success of 3D-capable TV sets, monitor manufacturers wanted to get a piece of the action by giving customers the ability to implement 3D viewing capabilities on their computer systems. For some it was easy, since they already produced 3D TVs and only had to rig the technology to work on monitors. This is what led to the overall proliferation of computer-based 3D displays.

If you're thinking about purchasing a 3D monitor, this article will answer many of the more popular questions about them.

What are the types of 3D monitors and which one should I get?

There are three types of 3D displays: active, passive, and glasses-free. The latter is more rare and expensive, to the point it's not even worth mentioning. It's not worth paying a 300% markup (as of this writing) on a monitor that has only a couple of good viewing angles. We will just focus on active and passive. In a later article, we'll discuss all three in depth.


With passive technology, you use the same glasses (pictured above) that you get in movie theaters. In fact, in many cases, you can keep your cinema glasses and just use them on your monitor! The only drawback is the eyesore you get when you view it at an angle above or below the recommended range. This means you can't lay down to watch 3D content and have to be sitting upright. Many cheap monitors don't allow you to adjust the angle very much, limiting you to a measly 15-20 degrees of adjustable viewing angle. Other than that, these displays are good and also cheap.


Active monitors are a bit on the high end of the price spectrum, use special glasses with batteries (pictured above), and have a very obtuse viewing angle. However, I don't recommend watching more than 4 hours of 3D content in one day with these. The way the glasses work might give you headaches after quite a while. If you start to feel a little disoriented, put the glasses down and drink some water. You need to call it a day (or night).

If you have a small budget, you'll have to go with passive, but get active if you have the money to spend. You won't regret being able to view your content from a wider angle.

What Graphics Card Do I Need?

If you're thinking about watching some 3D movies, you can use practically any on-board chip or graphics card available today. A film is no biggie.

If you're looking to play 3D games, you're going to run into some problems. Graphics cards each have their own conventions for 3D games, and AMD and nVidia can't agree on which method to use for rendering the games. nVidia has 3D Vision, and AMD has HD3D. Games are split between the two, most of them being compatible with only one type of technology.

Fortunately, you can get the TriDef 3D driver and get rid of this issue entirely. It's compatible with most games on the market. 3D Vision is supported by more games, but in order to use 3D Vision, you're going to need to buy a lot of hardware, including a "3D Vision-ready" monitor, which has a higher markup on its price tag. The same goes for AMD's HD3D. It's best not to purchase a card from nVidia just because more games support 3D Vision. You will get a better deal paying the 50 bucks on the TriDef driver (after you buy a card compatible with 3D games, of course).

It's a lot of money to spend, right? A card will set you back $200-500, and then you have to pay $50 for the driver. On top of that, you need a monitor compatible with this technology, which burns another $300-1400. No one said it would be easy, but I'm saying it's worth it. Cinema's over-rated anyway, and this way you get away from the annoying audience that sits around you.

Do I Need Drivers?

One question that is asked often is whether you need special drivers (like TriDef 3D) to view 3D movies. My short answer is "no." Most monitors come with a switch that alternates between different 3D modes. My set, for example, has a button that renders a side-by-side 3D movie into one polarized image. There was no need for drivers.

On the other hand, if you're playing 3D video games, you will need a driver. The easiest way to get everything done is to get a 3D vision-ready monitor, glasses package and a graphics card with nVidia 3D vision technology. The chief incentive for this is complete compatibility and easy setup. You won't bang your head against your desk as much, although you'll end up paying more.

What Video Players Support 3D?

Bino (free) and Stereoscopic Player (min. 39 EUR) are two very popular options. Since most movies output side-by-side (SBS) 3D, you must select the appropriate input from the video player. Once you select an SBS input, you can select the output you want for the video. For passive monitors, I'd recommend interleave. For active monitors, I recommend an alternating mode.

Can't I Just Use A Normal Monitor For 3D?

No! When this question is asked, some even ssuggest it's a market conspiracy. It's just that your normal monitor isn't able to polarize light in the same way that 3D monitors do. Don't listen to people who talk about special software that converts normal monitors.


However, there's one way in which you can view 3D through a normal monitor: Anaglyph cyan-red 3D. This requires a pair of anaglyph glasses (pictured above), which are generally very cheap to buy. You'll lose a lot of color depth, but you'll see things in 3D. All you need to do is get the glasses, download Bino, and set the output on the movie to the appropriate anaglyph setting. This is very easy and self-explanatory. Just match the anaglyph setting to the color of your glasses and you're all set.

To see 3D in its full splendor, though, you'll need a real 3D monitor. Once you add a pair of active glasses, you'll quickly become addicted to the vibrant colors!

Any More Questions?

Is there anything you're wondering about 3D monitors? If so, leave a comment blow and we'll get to it as soon as possible.

Image credit: LG

Miguel Leiva-Gomez
Miguel Leiva-Gomez - Staff Writer

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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