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ATI Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition Gaming
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Date: Mar 31, 2010
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

Back in September of last year, just prior to the official arrival of the Radeon HD 5800 series, we first wrote about AMD's ATI Eyefinity technology and hinted at the fact that cards with six display outputs were coming. Since then, we had seen AMD's 6-output Radeon in action at a number of events, but hadn't been given the opportunity to evaluate one in the lab on our own test hardware, nor had we been informed of an official planned release date.

It turns out, Microsoft had implement an artificial limit of four monitors in Windows 7 with the final release of the OS, and AMD had to find a way to workaround that limit with their drivers. Although, we sure the supply issues AMD had to contend with played some sort of role in the delay as well.

Regardless, the ATI Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition is here now, and we've got one in house for testing. We paired the card up with six, 22" Dell LCD Panels in a 3x2 configuration, with a max resolution of 5760x2160 and ran a number of popular games. Performance data and our experience with the Eyefinity 6 Edition is available on the pages ahead. For now, check out the specs and hardware and then move on to bask in the insanity...


Sapphire's 2GB Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition

Note:  If you're the type that likes to cut to the chase, check out our demo videos starting here.  Otherwise here's a quick fix for you before our deep-dive look at a number of titles, in the page ahead...


More in-game action on the pages ahead...

ATI Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition
Specifications and Features


Click For Larger View

The Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition sports a GPU clock of 850MHz with a memory clock speed of 1.2 GHz (4.8Gbps effective)--that equates to roughly 153.6GB/sec of peak memory bandwidth. According to AMD, maximum board power is 228 Watts, up slightly from the original Radeon HD 5870 due to the additional RAM and outputs on the card, but idle power is only 34 Watts.

In terms of its speeds and feeds, the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition is essentially idential to the original Radeon HD 5870. Where the two cards differ is with regard to their frame buffers and output configuration. The Eyefinity 6 Edition card is outfitted with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, up from 1GB on the original. The additional memory helps performance at the ultra-high resolutions supported by Eyefinity. The Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition also features a different output configuration, obviously. The Eyefinity 6 edition has--you guessed it--six mini-DisplayPort outputs.


    

   
Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition

AMD's board partners are at the ready with Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition cards. Sapphire's Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition card, seen here, adheres to AMD's reference design, save for some decals on the front. And like the original Radeon HD 5870, the Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition card is 10.5" long and features a black fan shroud with red accents, that encases the entire PCB. The card's cooler has a barrel-type fan that draws air into the shroud, where it is forced through the heatsink and partially exhausted from the system through vents in the card's mounting plate. Two more small vents at the back of the card also direct some air to be vented within the system. At the top corner of the card, PCI Express 6 and 8-pin supplemental power connectors are present.

As we've mentioned, outputs on the card consist of six mini-DisplayPort outputs, all arranged in single row. Opposite the video outputs is a large vent in the case bracket, where air is exhausted from the system.

Included with the Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition are the obligatory user's manual and driver CD, along with a case badge, a CrossFire bridge connector, and a couple of PCI Express power adapters. In additional to the aforementioned items, however, Sapphire also includes 5 various video adapters, two mini-DisplayPort to full-sized DisplayPort adapters, two mini-DisplayPort to DVI adapters, and a single mini-DisplayPort to HDMI output.
 

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What Is Eyefinity

ATI Eyefinity technology, in essence, allows for multiple monitors to be used as a single large display. As it stands today, for the most part, when multiple monitors are connected to a single PC, those monitors are recognized as independent displays and can be configured for desktop spanning or mirroring modes, etc. With ATI Eyefinity, however, the displays can be arranged in a single group (or in multiple groups) and they are treated as a single display by the OS. The technology was made possible in part by DisplayPort which does not require individual clock signals for each connected display and by a new Output Crossbar implemented within the GPU that allows for data to be sent from the display pipeline out to the necessary display, regardless of where it is connected on the card.

   
AMD Eyefinity Multi-Display Technology In Action

Eyefinity is enabled through a combination of hardware and software that was developed by AMD. On the hardware front, AMD's Radeon HD 5000 series cards sport between 3 and 6 display outputs of various types, DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI, etc. And those outputs can be managed by software currently dubbed SLS, or Single Large Surface. Using the SLS tool built into AMD's Catalyst drives, users are able to configure a group of monitors to work with Eyefinity and essentially act as a single, large display.

 


11,520 x 4,800 - 55.3 megapixels, From Four Cards

The technology allows for some exciting possibilities. For example, six, 30" Dell 3008WFP panels can be grouped as a single display, in a 3 x 2 arrangement, with a resolution of 7680 x 3200--that's about 24.6 megapixels if you do the math.  And a single Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition card is all that is necessary to power the displays. In such a configuration, the Windows desktop can function as one monolithic surface, with all of that expansive resolution available to the user.


Upcoming Samsung Thin-Bezel Displays

To help increase adoption of Eyefinity, AMD is working closely with some display makers, like Samsung for example, to introduce new displays with ultra-thin bezels, designed with Eyefinity in mind. Samsung's thin-bezel displays are pictured above.

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L4D2 and H.A.W.X Eyefinity 6

The Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition is a unique product, which is to say there is no competition currently on the market that can handle the same display configuration. As such, we don't have any direct comparisons between it and a competitor at the resolutions the card is capable of. Instead, we've tested a number of popular games on a 6-screen, 3x2 Eyefinity configuration, at a resolution of 5760x2160, not only to assess performance, but to experience the actual game-play and any "gotchas" that may have come up along the way. First up, my favorite--Left 4 Dead 2.


Left 4 Dead 2

Playing Left 4 Dead 2 on the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition is absolutely awesome. Setting up the game (and just about any other current Source Engine-based game) is no different than a single monitor configuration. Once your Eyefinity display group is configured, the max resolution will be available in-game. Simply choose the Eyefinity resolution and you're done.

The field of view is huge and really changes the feel of the game. When you catch a Zombie running at you in your peripheral vision and can react accordingly, playing the game is all that much more, dare we say, realistic. Because L4D2 isn't terribly taxing on today's high-end graphics cards, performance is very good too. At 5760x2160 with anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled, and all in-game graphical options set to their maximum values, the game ran at 33.45FPS. Lower the quality settings slightly, and performance will obviously go up.

It's not all good news, however. With a shooter like L4D, running a 3x2 monitor configuration places the crosshair dead-center, in the middle of the screen bezels. It's easy to get used to the funky crosshair, but it's not ideal.


Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Next up, we played a bit of Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. on the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition. Once again, like L4D2, setup and configuration of this game on the Eyefinity 6 Edition was quick and painless. Simply select the proper resolution and you're done.

Playing H.A.W.X. on the Eyefinity 6 Edition is really something that has to be experienced to be appreciated. The video above gives a glimpse at the level of immersion possible, but it's nothing like being positioned in the center of the screens and controlling the fighter yourself. Flight-Sim fans would most definitely be pleased by a setup like the one we're showing you here. At 5760x2160 with 2X anti-aliasing enabled, H.A.W.X. ran at 27 FPS--smooth enough to be perfectly playable, as the video shows.

Note, however, that again there are issues with the screen bezels. In H.A.W.X., some HUD information can sometimes span across bezels, making the information more difficult to read. During the heat of battle, it's not a deal breaker, but we point it out as another one of the issues AMD (and gamers) has to contend with regard to Eyefinity and game developers.
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Battlefield Bad Company 2 and AvP

The next game we spent some time playing on the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition was Battlefield Bad Company 2...


Battlefield Bad Company 2

EA and DICE took Eyefinity Technology into consideration during the development of Battlefield Bad Company 2. As such, all of the in-game action, cut sequences and menus are easy to navigate and look correct, even when playing on a 6-screen, 3x2 Eyefinity configuration. The only graphical anomaly to content with is the centered crosshair, which again is split across the center screen bezels.

Running this game at 5760x2160 with all in-game graphical options set to medium resulted in a framerate of about 30 FPS according to Fraps. Increasing the image quality and using high in-game settings resulted in a framerate of about 20 FPS.

We did run into a configuration issue with the version of Battlefield Bad Company 2 available via Steam, however. The game installed fine, and launched properly, but it initially opened in a window. Clicking in the window to bring it into focus and maximize it full screen, resulted in 6 blank screens that went into power save mode. Alt-tabbing out of the game brought up the Windows desktop without a problem, though. To remedy the situation, we had to disable our Eyefinity monitor group. Then we had to launch the game on a single screen and set the resolution to 1920x1080 (the native resolution of our screen), exit out of the game, and then re-configure our Eyefinity group. Once that was done, the game launched properly and we were able to game on all of the screens, after selecting the proper resolution from the in-game menu.
 


Alien versus Predator

Alien vs. Predator is another game in which Eyefinity was considered during its development. Despite being a relatively new, cutting edge DX11 title, AvP ran perfectly on a 3x2 Eyefinity configuration right out of the gate. We simply launched the game, set the resolution and we were ready to rock.

Playing AvP on an expansive 3x2 Eyefinity configuration is excellent. Like L4D2, spotting enemies in your periphery and reacting adds a new dynamic to the game that makes it a somewhat more visceral and immersive. Running this game at 5760x2160 at very high settings with max anisotropic filtering resulted in a framerate of about 21-25 FPS, according to Fraps. The game was completely playable at these settings, as the video shows, but lowering the quality a bit will obviously increase performance.

The only issues with Alien versus Predator and a 6-screen Eyefinity configuration are an obscured crosshair, and HUD information that may span across bezels; both of which are minor annoyances that are easy to get used to after gaming on the setup for a while.

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Dirt 2 and Crysis Eyefinity 6

Next up, some Dirt 2 running on the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition and something many of you may not have thought possible--playing Crysis at 5760x2160...


Dirt 2

Dirt 2 was one of the titles AMD chose to show off Eyefinity at the Radeon HD 5800 series launch event, so we weren't expecting any major surprises. The game launched properly and ran on a 6-screen Eyefinity configuration from the get go. Although we didn't experience any technical hiccups, wow, what a total steaming pile of crap interface this game has. Navigating through Dirt 2's menus is torture.

Playing the game, however, is a total blast. Dirt 2 is the type of game that really exploits the benefits of having immense screen real estate. With such great graphics and a huge field of view, racing in Dirt 2 on a 3x2 Eyefinity configuration is a totally different experience than playing on a single, smaller screen.

Dirt 2 also happens to perform really well on the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition. With the resolution cranked up to 5760x2160 with 4x anti-aliasing enabled and all in-game options set to their maximum values in DX11 mode, the game ran at about 25 FPS. Reducing the level of anti-aliasing on in-game graphical options would only increase performance. Yeah, I'm an excellent driver.
 


Crysis

Crysis is known to run so poorly, even on modern graphics cards, that the "Can it play Crysis?" meme has spread wildly across the internet. We hate to add fuel to the fire, but in the case of the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition, it sure can.

With the game's options set to medium and the resolution set to 5760x2160, Crysis hums along at about 26 frames per second. Increasing the image quality options to the high present drags the framerate down to about 17 FPS.

Other than the same obscured crosshair issue we've mentioned with all of the other shooters, the only issue we experienced with Crysis was related to its menu system. Many of the menu options spanned across screen bezels, making it somewhat harder to navigate.

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2GB vs. 1GB and Conclusion

Other than their video output configurations, the only major difference between the original Radeon HD 5870 and the new Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition is the size of their respective frame buffers. The original Radeon HD 5870 is outfitted with 1GB of GDDR5 memory, the Eyefinity 6 Edition has 2GB.

We know many of you will be wondering how that additional frame buffer memory may affect performance, so we ran some quick comparisons with a handful of games and benchmarks. The results are below.

Please note, all of the games were run at a resolution of 2560x1600 with 4X anti-aliasing, with the exception of Crysis where no anti-aliasing was used. 3DMark Vantage and the Unigine Heaven benchmark were run at 1920x1200, using their Extreme options.

As you can see, the additional 1GB of frame buffer memory had a minimal impact on performance, at least at these resolutions. The Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition put up slightly higher scores in every test but Unigine Heaven, but the deltas were relatively small. At higher resolutions, however, like those possible when using Eyefinity, the additional frame buffer memory will most likely help performance. If you're thinking of getting this card to use with one monitor, because it has more memory than the standard Radeon HD 5870, save your money.

Our experience with the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition was very good, to say the least. There are still some kinks to work out in the Eyefinity drivers and software, and not every game is going to work right out of the box, but in general we can't help by be impressed by the technology. Its impact in most games really alters the experience for the better, and makes for more immersive gaming.

 

The Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition has an MSRP of $479 and should be available immediately at e-tail (the Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition, has an MSRP of $499). For an additional $80-$100 over the standard Radeon HD 5870, the Eyefinity 6 Edition offers double the frame buffer memory and a number of adapters to accommodate various monitor configurations. 500 bucks (give or take) is a lot of money to spend on a graphics card, but considering the capabilities of this card, the adapters board partners will be including, and the additional frame buffer memory, the price premium over the standard 5870 can easily be justified.

The market for ultra high-end graphics cards is relatively small. And for specialized cards like the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition the market is even smaller. If, however, the idea of multi-monitor gaming is appealing to you and you've got the means to score one of these cards and the requisite monitors, you won't be disappointed.

  • 6 Screens, 1 Graphics Card
  • 2GB Frame Buffer
  • Strong Performer
  • DX11 Support

 

  • Expensive Proposition
  • Marginally Higher Power Consumption

 



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