Summary: 6 display gaming is here with today's arrival of the Radeon 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition. Packing 2GB of memory and 6 mini-DP outputs, ATI says the card is capable of pushing more than 1 billion pixels/sec. But how does it fare in games? Read on for our first impressions!
Eyefinity, as you no doubt know by now, is ATIís multi-display technology. With it, Radeon 5000 series graphics cards like the 5870 and 5770 can support up to three displays simultaneously. While the GPU itself could technically drive more than three displays, ATI hasnít released a card capable of doing this Ė until now that is. Today ATI is pulling the wraps off the Radeon 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition.
Previously codenamed ďTrillianĒ, the Radeon 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition card doubles the number of supported displays from three to six.
At first glance, the boardís most distinguishing feature when compared against the regular Radeon 5870 is its back plate. Instead of shipping with dual DVIs plus DisplayPort and HDMI outputs like the standard Radeon 5870, the backplate of the Radeon 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition board is equipped with six mini DisplayPort outputs. Here you can also see that ATI has integrated a full-size exhaust vent on the 5870 Eyefinity Edition instead of the half-length vent used on the standard Radeon 5870.
The other major addition to the Radeon 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition is 2GB of memory. With the card capable of pushing more than 1 billion pixels/second (max resolution support is 6x 2560x1600), a 1GB frame buffer just isnít large enough to keep the GPU fed with data at the resolutions this card is capable of rendering, so ATI doubles the graphics memory to 2GB.
With the added memory comes higher power draw, with the Eyefinity 6 boardís max TDP increasing to 228W, thatís 40W more than the original Radeon 5870 1GB (idle board power is up 7 watts, to 34W). Due to the increased power consumption, an 8-pin PCIe power connector is needed in addition to a 6-pin PCIe connector Ė the standard Radeon 5870 gets by with two 6-pin PCIe power connectors.
Other than these changes, there are no differences between the Radeon 5870 and the 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition. Both cards are clocked at 850MHz core/1200MHz memory, and both share the same length (just shy of 11Ē) with dual-slot cooling.
Of course, with 2GB of memory onboard, the Radeon 5870 Eyefinity 6 instantly becomes ATIís second fastest card behind the Radeon 5970. In high-res (2560x1600) situations with AA and all the graphics settings cranked up, the 5870 1GB can begin to chug in some newer titles like Metro 2033, leading to lower minimum frame rates. The Eyefinity board wonít have that problem.
ATI says that the Radeon 5870 Eyefinity 6 will carry an MSRP of $479.
Connecting displays to the 5870 Eyefinity 6
Even amongst early adopters, mini-DP isnít a common display type, and ATI realizes this. As a result, all Radeon 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition cards ship with five adapters inside the box: 2 mini-DisplayPort-to-DisplayPort adapters, 2 passive mini DisplayPort-to-DVI (single-link) dongles, and a passive mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI dongle.
Unfortunately, thereís no way around the display requirements. Once you do get your hands on six DP monitors, or a mixture of DP and DVI/HDMI/VGA displays, setting everything up can be a real pain too. To get our Eyefinity 6 Edition displays up and running AMD sent over PR spokesman Peter Amos. Armed with the monitors, sticky tape, and stands needed to arrange a 3x2 (two rows of three monitors) Eyefinity configuration, Peter proceeded to set everything up. After a little over two hours Peter had meticulously connected six Dell P2210H 22Ē 1920x1080 Displays and two stands giving us the final result:
Once youíve got all the hardware setup, the software side is fairly easy. ATI has setup a fairly nifty wizard in the desktops and displays section for setting up a wide range of Eyefinity monitor configurations. The card automatically detects all the displays connected to it, and provides a range of monitor groups (3x2, 3x1 etc) based on your current configuration.
You wonít need to physically move monitors or reach around the back of your case to swap mini-DP ports from one output to another, everything you need can be adjusted via ATIís Catalyst Control Center software. For instance, when configuring a 3x1 group, CCC will black out all but one monitor, which will be left with an all blue screen. Simply highlight which monitor is active, and voila youíre done. With the latest Catalyst drivers, thereís even built-in support for bezel correction:
While the Eyefinity 6 Edition board can technically drive six 2560x1600 displays, ATI officially recommends using six 1920x1200 displays for the 5870 Eyefinity 6. Running six displays at higher resolutions like 2560x1600 would obviously be a challenge for one Radeon 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition card, although CrossFire is of course an option if you have the funds to afford two boards. With two Eyefinity cards running in CrossFire you could conceivably run up to eight displays with the two added monitors would run in extended mode.
After youíve got your monitor groups setup, your desktop resolution is automatically adjusted to your bezel-corrected resolution (if you choose to enable bezel correction that is) and from there itís available as a selectable video resolution from within games.
Gaming with Eyefinity 6
Unfortunately, itís here where things begin to go downhill, at least if youíre a fan of shooters.
As a result, aiming becomes a difficult affair, as youíre literally guesstimating about where the crosshair should be.
This is a problem in all of the first-person shooters we tested: Bad Company 2, Modern Warfare 2, and Aliens vs Predator, all of which are Eyefinity certified games. Another issue with MW2 is that it lacks support for aspect ratios beyond 16:9, so everything appears as if itís stretched. Itís not as big of a deal as the crosshair, but it is annoying nonetheless.
Until LCDs with thin bezels are introduced, fortunately you can set up two 3x1 groups: one for FPS gaming, and the second for running Windows apps:
With its third-person perspective, running six displays with Batman: Arkham Asylum was a ton of fun. The bezels were certainly still a distraction, but it wasnít a frustrating distraction like the lack of a true crosshair in FPS games.
Ditto for HAWX and DiRT 2.
We have more video footage of the games in-action that weíre hoping to get uploaded later today, but we did record the following frame rates with the Eyefinity 6 board on a Core i7-920 rig:
As you can see, enabling Eyefinity comes with a substantial performance hit. However, the 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition board is still capable of delivering playable frame rates in Batman (without AA), HAWX and DiRT 2 (with DX11).
Weíve got a lot more testing yet to do with the Eyefinity 6 board. We still need to boot up Supreme Commander 2 and see how it runs, and we may dabble a bit with Relicís Dawn of War 2 as well.
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