After 3-D movies and 3-D TVs, it’s time for computers to go into the third dimension.
Companies such as MSI and Asus will be showing 3-D PCs at Computex, a huge trade show for manufacturers of PCs and PC components held every year in Taipei, Taiwan.
MSI plans to introduce a 24-inch 3-D net-top: a desktop computer with its internals built into the display case, similar to an iMac.
“We can run 3-D movies, games, photos and TV,” says Clifford Chun, product manager for all-in-ones and desktops at MSI, “and by just pressing a button you can switch between 2-D and 3-D modes.”
MSI’s rival Asus will debut a 3-D laptop with a 15.6-inch display and desktop similar in screen size to that from MSI. The 3-D PCs are expected to be available in the third quarter of the year.
“People may choose a 3-D PC because it is a less expensive way to get 3-D content,” says Rob Csongor, vice president of marketing for Nvidia, which makes graphics cards that power the 3-D PCs. “Companies are coming out with some beautiful devices that are going to be a higher-end product initially but they will be very attractive to consumers.”
With Hollywood’s success in films such as Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, the 3-D format has made a big comeback. And it’s not confined to just the big screen. The 3-D TV was one of the biggest stars of the Consumer Electronics Show this year. Almost every major TV maker, including Sony, LG, Panasonic and Mitsubishi, plans to offer big-screen 3-D TVs, while broadcasters such as ESPN and Discovery have promised 3-D channels by the end of the year or early next year.
Meanwhile, amateur 3-D content is taking off as consumers use 3-D cameras or homemade 3-D rigs to shoot photos. In a sign that homemade 3-D videos could soon be ready to hit mainstream, YouTube has started offering a 3-D display option.
Makers of 3-D PCs hope to step into this world. “3-D PCs are for consumers who see the 3-D stuff everywhere and wonder, ‘How can I get this home?’” says Csongor.
Close to a million 3-D PCs will ship in 2010, predicts Jon Peddie Research, and annual sales could reach 75 million by 2014 as 3-D PCs become ubiquitous.
With a powerful graphics card, most PCs are 3-D capable — in principle. But critical to the 3-D experience is a 120-Hz monitor and special glasses. PCs with 3-D have stereoscopic displays, which means their screens can present a rapidly alternating set of images for the right and the left eye so the brain can fuse them together into a single image that includes depth.
MSI’s 3-D desktop, called ‘Ripple,’ has an Intel Core i7 860 processor, an ATI Radeon HD 5730 graphics chip, 4 GB of memory, a 1-terabyte disk drive, a Blu-ray player, 1.3-megapixel webcam, and Wi-Fi capability. The 24-inch multitouch display has a refresh rate of 120 Hz and will come with its own pair of active-shutter glasses.
“With active-shutter glasses you don’t lose transparency or contrast as you do with the polarized versions,” says Chun. “We think its the best way to experience the 3-D feeling.”
If you are wondering what you will use your 3-D PC for, there’s plenty of 3-D content already out there, assures Nvidia’s Csongor. Nvidia’s graphics chips, which are embedded in Asus machines, can support any of 400 3-D-enabled video games already on the market. Of course, they can also show 3-D photos, streaming video from sports such as golf tournaments, and Blu-ray 3-D movies.
And if you get tired of all that 3-D, just switch the display back to the old-fashioned PC mode, suggest MSI’s Chun.
“Since we can move between 2-D and 3-D, you can see clear images even if you don’t wear the glasses,” says Chun. “No blurring or fuzzy images in 2-D.”
The 24-inch MSI desktop will cost $2,200 — not exactly cheap, but just a little more than what most users would pay for a high-end multimedia machine. For many, it will also be easier to buy a 3-D PC rather than a 3-D TV.
“Not everyone wants a 3-D TV when they are ready to buy their next TV,” says Csongor. “But a 3-D PC for their next laptop or desktop is something that may be willing to go for.”