Meeting the folks who read Tom's Hardware and Tom's Guide is always a real treat, whether we're at a convention, a LAN party, or even on the street. It's even better when they're able to swing by the office, especially when it's our shiny new office in downtown Culver City, California.
Last weekend, five readers, who were chosen at random, had such an opportunity. They stopped by our facility to give us some feedback on AMD's Eyefinity technology, which is part of all ATI Radeon HD 5000-series cards launch thus far. No reader was harmed in the making of this photo album or video, we promise.
If you'd like to read a little more about our initial impressions of Eyefinity, check out this page from Chris Angelini's Radeon HD 5870 launch coverage.
THG Readers Unite!
Meet the readers who were kind enough to stop by, from left to right: Eddie, Chris, Kyle, Lucas, and Anthony.
The Eyefinity Setup
The day was focused on an AMD Eyefinity gaming setup, which consisted of a powerful desktop PC and three widescreen monitors. Running at a total resolution of 5760x1080, Eyefinity (as you know) allows you to to use three monitors through a single Radeon 5000-series graphics card. Every card in the family can utilize the technology, even if it takes some ingenuity. Our Eyefinity rig employs three Dell ST2310 monitors, and each 23-inch LCD is running at 1920x1080 on its own.
The "Standard" Setup
For the sake of comparison, we also had a gaming rig with one 22-inch monitor set up. Not to give a single-display gaming setup a negative connotation, but you'll agree that it isn't as impressive as the Eyefinity rig. The monitor here is a 22-inch 1920x1080 LCD from HP.
What's Inside The Box?
While the monitor configuration is certainly different, the insides of each computer are more or less the same, with a few subtle exceptions. Each system is using an ATI Radeon HD 5870, a Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition @ 3.2 GHz, an MSI 785GM-E65 Socket AM3 motherboard, 4GB of Corsair DDR3 memory, and one 150GB VelociRaptor from Western Digital. All of that hardware is enclosed in a sleek Lian-Li case.
The differences: the Eyefinity-based config utilizes an 800W Thermaltake power supply, while the other box uses a Corsair TX 750. Also, the Eyefinity rig has a BD-ROM drive, but this wasn't used at all during the day's festivities. Again, these systems are as similar as you can get.
Mingling In The Office
Here the readers are staring in disbelief at what my desk looks like. The Dell laptop, the LowePro camera bag...I know, it's awe-inspiring!
Dragon Age On One Monitor
The Tom's readers start by playing a little Dragon Age: Origins on the single-monitor setup. The Radeon HD 5870 serves up enough performance to make this a smooth experience, whether you're playing at 1920x1080 or 5760x1080 on one or three monitors. We didn't take many videos of the game being played on the Eyefinity setup, but check out the video on page one for more extensive coverage of that setup.
Gaming On Eyefinity
While Dragon Age: Origins was the game everyone wanted to see and play (since it is specifically optimized for three displays), we did have plenty of other games to try out. Reader Anthony is playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. A bit squished-looking at some points, but a lot of fun nonetheless.
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. is a prime example of a game capable of making you lust after three displays. Flight simulators and combat titles can take serious advantage of the extra space, giving reader Lucas a fantastic extra-wide view of the battlefield. Because the game isn't twitchy (your combat flights are smooth, for the most part), it's possible to take in much more of the environment shown on three monitors.
The Supreme Commander series includes some of the best-looking games available. And they're resource hogs, too. It takes a lot of muscle to make this title look this good on three monitors, but the Radeon HD 5870 and Phenom II X4 955 handled it without breaking a sweat. We weren't as concerned with running benchmark numbers here as we were with making sure each of these titles we tried (many for the first time) actually looked good and were playable.
Supreme Commander, Close-Up
A better view of the action...