After the relentless hype about 3D TVs earlier this year, the actual products are now available in retail stores. They don’t come cheap – though, and with the limited 3D content available now, it’s difficult to justify the price premium. But who says that 3D has to be costly? With the latest graphics cards and drivers from AMD and NVIDIA, you can now enjoy 3D Blu-ray, 3D gaming and 3D photos on your PC. Here’s our guide to getting the right hardware and software for some home 3D action.

NVIDIA’s 3D Vision

NVIDIA sells a 3D Vision kit which is a quick way of getting started. Consisting of a pair of active shutter glasses and an infrared transmitter, this kit will still require the user to have an NVIDIA 3D-capable graphics card and display.

There’s a complete listing of all the supported hardware at NVIDIA’s website, but generally, for LCD displays, you’ll need one with a minimum refresh rate of 120Hz. Brand likes ASUS, LG and Samsung offer such models. For projectors, there are a number of brands including Acer and ViewSonic to choose from while Mitsubishi’s range of DLP Home Theater TVs are also 3D Vision capable.

Any NVIDIA graphics card belonging to the GeForce GT 200, 300 and 400 series should be capable of the full spectrum of 3D content. Older graphics cards like the GeForce 9 series may not be able to support 3D Blu-ray playback, but will have no issues with 3D gaming.

There are also a few notebooks that have the requisite hardware for 3D content ASUS’ G53Jw has a full HD 120Hz display and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460M graphics core. Look out for NVIDIA’s 3D Vision logo when you’re shopping.

3D Blu-ray playback will also require additional software like CyberLink PowerDVD 10 and ArcSoft’s Total Media Theater 5.

AMD’s HD3D Technology

AMD has been slower to get into the retail 3D scene compared to NVIDIA, but along with its Catalyst 10.10 driver, a new HD3D technology branding has been unveiled. An umbrella term for all its 3D applications support, HD3D technology is found on the AMD Radeon HD 5000 and 6000 series graphics cards. However, note that while the Radeon HD 5000 series is capable of 3D gaming and photos, 3D Blu-ray playback support is on yon the Radeon HD 6000 series.

Besides the requirement of having Catalyst 10.10, AMD has chosen to leave the 3D implementation to third-party vendors instead of doing it themselves like NVIDIA with 3D Vision.

For instance, HD3D works with offerings from TriDef and iZ3D, two developers of stereoscopic 3D software that enables the 3D functionality in games, pictures and movies. You’ll have to purchase the software and the necessary hardware like the active shutter 3D glasses from these vendors.

Connecting to the Big Screen

NVIDIA also offers its 3DTV Play software, which enables the user to connect the 3D Vision capable system to a supported 3D HDTV and have it work with the TV’s own 3D glasses and receivers, though the 3D Vision kit’s emitter is still required. This potentially means that you can play your 3D games and 3D Blu-ray movies on the big screen. The requirement here is that the 3D TVs must support HDMI 1.4 while your 3D vision system must be on Windows 7/Vista.

AMD does not offer a similar bundle, but you can connect your supported Radeon HD graphics card to an approved 3D HDTV. However, there’s currently no way to use the 3D glasses from the TV manufacturer, so you’ll have to rely on third-party offerings.