AMD Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition: One Card, Six Screens

Navigating The Obstacle Course

There are two types of challenges facing anyone wishing to take a plunge into the world of what I’ll call the enthusiast multi-monitor desktop. One type relates to the polish missing from certain aspects of the configuration process and the odd software eccentricity. The other type is tied to a hardware ecosystem that hasn’t yet caught up to AMD’s Eyefinity ambitions. The latter is perhaps most problematic, since it's out of AMD's hands.

Before last year, I would have considered anyone with more than two monitors in front of them a unique sort of power user. If they were rocking three or four displays and needed 3D in some capacity, they were probably using two graphics cards. The business-types with up to quad-display requirements were likely looking to a 2D-only card like Nvidia’s Quadro NVS 450.

But the Radeon HD 5870 changed all of that with a trio of easily-accessible outputs. And by the way, three 20” or 22” monitors usually aren’t that difficult to cram onto an average-sized desk (sure beats the price of a 30” or a couple of 24” displays, too).

Addressing Cost

Six monitors present a logistical challenge, though. Hard to imagine in a 6x1 setup, you’re most likely looking at a 3x2 arrangement, which means popping the LCDs off of their bundled stands and onto something sturdier. AMD brought one Atdec VFS-DV (dual) and one Atdec VFS-Q (quad) stand for our hexa-display setup—together, these add almost $450 to the bottom line of our parts list.

The monitors themselves comprise the bulk of the cost. At $229 each, you’re looking at $1,374. Granted, that’s actually less expensive than a single 30” 3007WFP (and and cumulative 5760x2160 output resolution smokes the 30" LCD's native 2560x1600), with significantly more flexibility to be moved around. But they have to go on the tab, nevertheless.

Then there are the cards themselves. AMD is shooting for roughly $480 per Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition. That’s about $60 more than a 1GB Radeon HD 5870 and just $20 less than a GeForce GTX 480. If you’re serious about playing across six displays at 5760x2160, you’ll probably want to at least consider a pair of these in CrossFire.

We’re up to about $2,700 in gear between the stands, monitors, and cards. If you already have a handful of similar displays and would rather shave off the cost of LCDs, it is possible to convert the Mini DisplayPort connectors using adapters. AMD is including two Mini DisplayPort-to-DisplayPort dongles, two passive, single-link Mini DisplayPort-to-DVI dongles, and a passive Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI dongle with the Eyefinity 6 Edition card. But that’ll leave you short no matter what. If you go with six DisplayPort monitors like the ones we’re using, you’ll need four more Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapters or cables at around $20 bucks a pop, given a best-case scenario. Worst-case would be connecting to six dual link DVI-only 30” displays, requiring active Mini DisplayPort-to-DVI adapters at roughly $100 each.

If you need to attach a 30 inch display limited to dual-link DVI, you'll need an active DisplayPort adapter.If you need to attach a 30 inch display limited to dual-link DVI, you'll need an active DisplayPort adapter.

No matter how you roll, six displays are going to be expensive.

Working Efficiently

Don’t think that if upgrading from one to two displays helped you work twice as quickly that going from three to six will have the same effect. There are diminishing returns at work here, and until you sit in front of the sheer wall of desktop real estate that is 5760x2160, it’s hard to imagine taking in that much data at once. Even gaming, I found myself wanting to be about five feet back from the array of displays to avoid looking right and left.

Then again, that didn’t seem to bother Hugh Jackman, so perhaps I’m just getting too damn old.

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    Top Comments
  • phantomtrooper
    I would hate playing with that much black area between screens. I will stick with my 1080p monitor thank you.
    27
  • mtyermom
    This begs the question: how long until we have zero-bezel displays?
    26
  • magicbullet
    wow......i feel so poor.
    20
  • Other Comments
  • phantomtrooper
    I would hate playing with that much black area between screens. I will stick with my 1080p monitor thank you.
    27
  • megamanx00
    :O They got two of those cards!! Lucky punks.
    11
  • megamanx00
    Glad they compared the 1GB and 2GB cards in a 3x1 setup. Glad I got my 5870 instead of waiting for a 2GB card :D. Even so, I want some thin bezel monitors before I hook up three of them. The bezel on my HP LCD is just to think so I'm not keen on buying another two.
    2
  • magicbullet
    wow......i feel so poor.
    20
  • Anonymous
    Should have just made the 5970 the eyefinity edition
    3
  • ltcommander_data
    So I guess Apple's miniDP connector is quite useful after-all and is now seeing adoption outside of Macs.

    It's too bad you didn't test GTA IV like you used to do. I believe GTA IV at max settings exceeds 1GB of VRAM usage so perhaps 2GB graphics cards may be of some use assuming the game isn't still CPU limited despite 12 threads with the Core i7 980X. At the very least, I'm guessing Liberty City at 6048x2276 would be amazing.
    0
  • mtyermom
    This begs the question: how long until we have zero-bezel displays?
    26
  • oldscotch
    Obviously, the best solution is a 3x3 grid of displays to make sure your centre focus is not interfered with.

    Lesse, that'd be 5760 x 3240.
    No sweat ;)
    8
  • Anonymous
    So, I guess if you already have a 1GB 5870 and 3x1 Eyefinity setup, the only advantage of the 2GB version is being able to pile on the AA/AF effects and still have a playable frame rate.
    5
  • N.Broekhuijsen
    you made my FullHD 22inch screen look like nothing.... I did not know such a thing was possible.... :(
    -4
  • SpadeM
    On a personal note, i'd buy Alienware's curved lcd .. maybe 2 of them .. i mean it's not the same resolution output but still, less bezel problems and it looks, in my opinion, way cooler.
    -3
  • husker
    Does the card require the configuration of 6 displays in landscape? I'm thinking maybe 5 displays side-by-side rotated in portrait would make a better option to avoid the center bezel. This would give a resolution of something like 5864 x 1920 (allowing for bezel correction). The ratio of width to height would then be about 3 to 1, which would be close to ideal, imo. Then use the other single monitor for live chats, twitter, etc.

    This would also avoid the requirement for the specialized hardware to hold the monitors, assuming they have the capability of being rotated 90 degrees on their standard base.

    Great article, thanks.
    4
  • welshmousepk
    6x 1080p projectors would be nice.

    now i just need to win the lottery.
    8
  • lutel
    now it is time for bezelless LCDs
    5
  • cangelini
    huskerDoes the card require the configuration of 6 displays in landscape? I'm thinking maybe 5 displays side-by-side rotated in a portrait would make a better option to avoid the center bezel. Then use the other single monitor for live chats, twitter, etc.This would also avoid the requirement for the specialized hardware to hold the monitors.Great article, thanks.


    Nope, you can move them around, if you have the physical mounting hardware to support your desired config. The actual display groups do need to be in arrays of some sort, though.
    2
  • anamaniac
    Excellent article Chris.
    What sexy cards. I think the GTX 480/470 look ugly, and believe that reference ATi cards always win for looks. =D

    huskerDoes the card require the configuration of 6 displays in landscape? I'm thinking maybe 5 displays side-by-side rotated in a portrait would make a better option to avoid the center bezel. Then use the other single monitor for live chats, twitter, etc.This would also avoid the requirement for the specialized hardware to hold the monitors.Great article, thanks.

    I run a 3x1 setup with all monitors in portrait mode. I couldn't stand in the insane stretching at the edge of every monitor due to the insane aspect ratio.
    welshmousepk6x 1080p projectors would be nice. now i just need to win the lottery.

    I considered a 5x1 projector setup, but I eventually gave up on the thought realizing at some point I need to buy a car...

    I honestly believe a 5x1 all portrait oriented setup would be superior. This also gives you a reasonable aspect ratio (as games don't do well with insane aspect ratios).
    The only problem with running monitors in portait mode is the viewing angle. If you're like me and use cheappy TN panels, it can be horrible if you move your head even just a few inches.

    The active DP to DVI adaptors cost $150 in Canada. =(
    I tried using a passive (which still cost $50), and it worked (2048x1152), for 15 minutes. After that, it decided to no longer work, and so I dropped way too much money for the active (which had its own issues).
    Why not miniDVI or miniHDMI instead? (other than the ridiculous HDMI licensing fees, but really, we're paying $200+ for these cards, deal with it).

    At 3456x2048 a 5770 1GB is more than enough for most games still, and I can add a little AA to a few.
    Now only if all games natively supported any resolution and were hort+. I can only use my triple display configuration on about half of my library. I shouldn't have to be doing .ini, registry and hex hacks.
    ATi should give us some software equivalent to one Matrox gave it's TH2G/DH2G users (instantly modified game .ini's etc.). Or at least include the address http://widescreengamingforum.com/ with the card...

    What about a triple slot card? There was a 2GB 4870x2 (Gainward Rampage700 2048MB) triple slot card, and it was a beast, while offering a extra display output. I would be comfortable with a triple slot 5970 or 5990 (5890x2 or whatever they want to call it, IF they ever make it).
    How about some 3GB (6GB for x2) cards?
    A 5970 8GB (with a 384bit bus) triple slot with six miniDP (with 6 RAMDACS and includes 6 miniDP to DVI and HDMI adaptors) with a massive air cooled copper block and both GPU's are handpicked is something easily worth well over $1000. Run three 4K projectors on that (in all portrait, running at 6480x3840 @ 24.9MP) watch as people go change their pants. =D
    Anyone remember the Asus Mars GTX 285x2 4GB that almost soldout on preorders alone? There is a market for it.
    1
  • anamaniac
    cangeliniNope, you can move them around, if you have the physical mounting hardware to support your desired config. The actual display groups do need to be in arrays of some sort, though.

    I used a hardware store for my needs. I bought a hammer, a bag of nails, and five feet of wood. No way in hell was I going to spend hundreds on proper mounts, when $25 would achieve the same result, albeit ugly as hell.
    1
  • gti88
    I don't think I could enjoy a game with these black bezels.
    17
  • yyk71200
    Me want to play Crysis at 7680x3200 max quality, AA, and AF.
    -3