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Navigating The Obstacle Course (Continued)

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

Earlier I mentioned that there’s still a bit of polish missing from the whole setup process. I was referring to the ecosystem-based components that make hooking six monitors up to your PC. AMD tries to address some of the challenge by bundling a handful of adapter dongles, but you’ll still be buying the rest on your own. 

A corrupted cursor persists until reboot.A corrupted cursor persists until reboot.

Also, back when the company first showed off Radeon HD 5870 in the hangar deck of the USS Hornet, it was joined by representatives from Samsung, who arrived with prototypes of slim-bezel 22” MD230 LCDs mounted on a single stand. They made six-screen Eyefinity look like a must-have technology. It was all so (and I abhor this word, but it applies) seamless. We were told the setup would surface in time for the holiday buying season in 2009. Of course, it didn’t.

The difference between what Samsung was showing off and the Dell displays in our lab is significant. Going from 1.5” of bezel between screens and .75” make a huge difference. And while we were able to get our six monitors on two stands lined up fairly well in a straight line, they’d be much easier to keep an eye on if the left and right pairs bent inward.

Losing intro text in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 due to the bezel (and not just because of my bad low-light photography).Losing intro text in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 due to the bezel (and not just because of my bad low-light photography).

I realize I’m getting a little picky at this point, but having seen Samsung’s implementation and adding up the cost of today’s alternative, I believe it’s absolutely worth waiting for the more purpose-built solution. The only bad news is Samsung’s announcement during CES that its six-screen wonder will retail for $3,099 on its own.

Ghost In The Machine

Having worked my way around cost and configuration concerns, there’s only one niggle left to address: software support. AMD’s first demonstrations of Eyefinity 6 were, believe it or not, Linux-based. By the time we got the technology in our own labs, it was clear to me that much work remained on the driver side in Windows. From DisplayPort link errors to intermittent lock-ups, AMD knew it had its work cut out.

To AMD’s credit nearly every single one of the bugs we identified has been addressed in its latest Catalyst 10.3a driver package. We did run up against a bit of a show-stopper that kept us from running the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition through our full battery of comparison benchmarks, though.  With a single 24” Dell U2410 connected via DisplayPort (for testing 1920x1200 and 1680x1050), the card’s display output would intermittently fail when switching into a 3D application or booting into Windows. This happened at a rate greater than 50% of the time, making multi-iteration tests nearly impossible to complete. We made it through S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and the DiRT 2 demo before throwing in the towel.

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