Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: We set out to ascertain two things at the beginning of this project, to see how well a pair of Radeon HD 6870 cards scaled in CrossFire mode using recent drivers and to see how well the setup performed with a five-screen 5x1 Eyefinity configuration. Our tests showed excellent performance scaling (between 82% and 99%) in CrossFire mode with the applications we used and we achieved playable framerates at an effective resolution of 5400x1920 using Eyefinity 5x1, even in some very taxing games like Alien vs. Predator and Metro 2033, albeit with the quality settings dialed down a notch or two.
Throughout testing for this article, however, we also found out a few other things that need to be pointed out. While 5x1 Eyefinity is undoubtedly cool, AMD still has a lot of work to do in our opinion. Support for the mode was available in the Catalyst 11.4 preview drivers, but it was removed in the 11.5 drivers currently posted. We’re told 5x1 support will be back in a future driver, but aren’t sure if it’ll be in the 11.6 version, which should be posted soon, or a later revision.
We also had a heck of time finding games that would run properly. The four we showed here had no problem, and Dragon Age II worked as well, but we scrapped that title due to annoyances with EA’s download manager app (that’s another story altogether, though). Games like Left 4 Dead 2, Bad Company 2, H.A.W.X., or Dirt 2, which worked in our original Eyefinity 6 preview, wouldn’t run on all of the screens. Neither would some newer titles like Dirt 3, nor F1 2010, Just Cause 2, and the list goes on. In all fairness, most of those games worked in a 3x1 configuration, but the newer 5x1 mode just wasn't happening, for now.
Another niggle we had with 5x1 Eyefinity had to do with the monitors being used. This is no fault of AMD’s mind you, but with five screens spread out in portrait mode, users must be mindful of the viewing angles of the screens. Vertical viewing angles aren’t typically as good as horizontal viewing angles, so proper positioning of the screens is a must. Again, perhaps with different LCDs at play, your experience could be better or worse we suppose.
Cost with a setup like this is obviously another concern too, but truth be told, it’s not that outlandish in the grand scheme of things. A pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 cards and a single large monitor---which is a setup we know many enthusiasts might currently have—costs around $1300 to $1500 currently. The five 22” Dell screens we used and two PowerColor Radeon HD 6870 2GB Eyefinity 6 Edition cards would be about $1700, which isn’t all that far off. A setup like this isn’t for everyone, and we’d recommend using higher-end graphics cards like the Radeon HD 6970 to take performance up a few notches. That said, a display configuration like this is fun to see in action and there are obvious benefits for productivity as well with all that screen real estate. Then again, who’s going to get any work done with a wild setup like this?