Zalman came in to PC Advisor Towers this morning to show off a piece of gadgetry liable to get the gamer in your household – if not the gamer in you – in all of a dither. It is set to launch 3D LCD monitors starting at just £349 inc VAT.

That means real 3D in your living room or bedroom at a price that doesn’t require remortgaging the house or pleading for an extension on your student loan.

The Korean company better known for helping your overclocked PC keep its cool and remain discreetly unrattled while you thrash the hell out of your online foes spotted a corner of the market it could exploit in tandem with graphics card partner nVidia. The result is the £349 Zalman Trimon ZM-M190 and the 22in widescreen Trimon ZM-220W, which will cost around £429 inc VAT.

PC Advisor was treated to a demonstration of the larger 22in widescreen model this morning. We each donned a pair of severe-looking black-rimmed polarising glasses. (These give a similar stereoscopic effect to the laminated posters you could get in the 1990s which often required you to ingest inauspicious substances before the 3D wonders they contained swam into 3D life before your very eyes.)

In a suitably dimmed room we sat just so – you need to sit at a particular height for the 3D effect to work properly. Across a vertical span – ie, with several gamers or 3D movie fans crowded round the screen at once – there’s less of a problem, but we experienced at first hand the issue of limited viewing angles when one of our number crouched behind us was unable to see what all the fuss was about.

However, with polarising 3D glasses adorned and a copy of World of Warcraft on our screen, we were able to experience the thrills and spills of blue horned beasties coming at us seemingly through the screen itself – an experience that in my case gave me the curious sensation of being gently prodded just above the earbrows. Odd.

Zalman also showed how the quality of the 3D coding within the game itself is critical to the in-game experience. A demonstration of Painkiller: Overdose showed that weaponry we held in our hand was not quite as firm or as sharp as in a true virtual reality environment. Nonetheless, we were impressed with the speed at which we were able to switch between standard 2D gameplay and 3D and with the accuracy of the visual overlay.

Similarly, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the technology Zalman has developed – essentially an overlay over a top-of-the-line ‘A’-grade LCD panel that adds the second embedded image to be enmeshed and that adds a little more gloss to the displpay than is desirable – doesn’t demand exorbitant PC specifications.

Zalman Trimon 3D LCD screen

Zalman Trimon 3D LCD screen

While Zalman says there’s a small drop-off in frame rates between 2D gameplay and 3D gameplay when using a run-of-the-mill graphics card and a less than stellar RAM and processor configuration, it doesn’t add a significant burden.

Distributor QuietPC.com’s Paul Lee (who has been demonstrating the Zalman ZM-220W to gamers at LAN parties and specialist trade fairs as well as retailers for the past few months), says that “if you can run a 2D game on your PC, the 3D version simply reduces the frame rate a little”.

The Trimon 3D screens can be used on PCs that use an nVidia GeForce graphics card of any type from the 5000 to 8000 series.

The demonstration we had today showed that it is possible to create a 3D simulation without the finished product having to cost several thousand pounds. Philips and others have already come up with 3D gaming screens, but these have hardly been priced at the sort of level for the average consumer.

Philips’ Inition 42in high-definition autostereoscopic screen costs around £6,000 and uses software interpolation to achieve the 3D effect. However, the nine lenticular viewing angles of the Philips screen offers a noticeably more effective and ‘rounded’ 3D effect that makes the entire image appear to pop out, rather than primarily the central object – usually the character you’re playing or the subject coming at you from centre screen.

Unlike those screens, which we have seen demonstrated at trade events such as CeBit, we didn’t find the 3D effect overwhelming. The Philips screen was a little too effective for our liking, producing a slight disorientation as the floor as well as objects viewing directly in front of us appeared to break the bounds of physics.

With the Zalman Trimon ZM-220W we were able to enjoy 3D games and video for 20 minutes without finding ourselves getting giddy and could easily see ourselves spending a lot longer in front of such a screen with no adverse effect.

Zalman’s take on 3D screens works by interleaving two separate but identical images and fooling the eyes into viewing each separately – the minute differences between the position of each image creates the illusion of distance and, thus, a third dimension.

Zalman will supply a single pair of polarasing glasses along with its Trimon screens. As well as being available from QuietPC.com on a 30-day trial or return basis, they will be sold through Maplins and some PC World retail stores.

The Zalman Trimon 2D/3D convertible monitors come as a 19in model costing £349 inc VAT with a standard 4:3 aspect ratio or as a £429 inc VAT widescreen 22in model. Both are set for UK launch around 14th December.

An nVidia 3D driver is supplied which customers will need to install.

At present, around 20 games have been released that offer immersive 3D environments, with many more set to follow next year. Several Hollywood movies, iuncluding Beowolf, also include 3D playback.

As well as gaming and DVD playback, Zalman and graphics engine partner nVidia anticipate the Trimon screens being used for 3D imaging and research.

The only problem is the very restrictive vertical viewing angle. You really do have to sit still and not slouch around on the sofa to get the 3D effect to work – something only the more disciplined of us will be able to train ourselves to do.

Even so, with a launch date a couple of weeks prior to Christmas and a far from extortionate price tag, we can see the Trimon 3D screens being given houseroom in many a gamers' room.

See www.quietpc.com for full details.

Specifications

  • 160-degree horizontal viewing angle
  • 0.294mm dot pitch
  • 300 candela brightness
  • 3D viewing angle 90 degrees horizontally
  • 3D viewing angle 10 to 12 degrees vertically
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • 5ms response rate
  • 16.7 million colour display
  • 1,680x1,050 native resolution (1,280x1,920 on 19in model)
  • 16:9. widescreen aspect ratio
  • 1,00:1 contrast ratio
  • 2W stereo speakers
  • 15-pin D-Sub connection or DVI-D connection
  • Requires nVidia 5000 to 8000 series GeForce graphics card