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AMD's Eyefinity Technology Explained

Entertainment And Beyond

The home theater PC (HTPC) market is still a fledgling field, but you don’t need a Ph.D. to recognize the growing threat that Hulu, Netflix, and others represent to the established cable and satellite markets. Why pay $150 per month for what can be subscribed to online for a fraction of the cost? All that’s needed is a way to push that online content off the desktop and through the home theater.

Eyefinity can help. Until now, we’ve usually thought about HTPCs as a single display affair—one compact PC outputting to the TV. Higher-end configs might build a tiny, secondary LCD into the system chassis. But what if you weren’t limited to one big display? What if you didn’t have to constantly switch channels or streams, or you could be free of annoying picture-in-picture limitations? If you had an HTPC that could support three dual-tuner cards, why not run five sports games on five screens and then have running on a sixth screen—all from one graphics card? Hitherto, this would have required multiple HTPCs, but now a “man cave” can run from a single microATX form factor machine.

Admittedly, you’re sucking down a lot of power for all of those displays, but at least you can drop your system count and save several hundred watts in the process. Actually, the power story is even better because of power savings in the new 5000-series GPUs. For example, idle power consumption on the Radeon HD 4890 was 90W. With the Radeon HD 5870, idle power plummets to only 27W.

Today, many tuner applications don’t support multiple output instances, but perhaps that’s because there hasn’t been a mainstream platform capable of providing an affordable many-stream solution. Eyefinity opens up a lot of future possibilities. Modern Radeon GPUs can support multiple H.264 decode streams at once. If you don’t care so much about having a TV tuner blitzkrieg but want more content off the Web, Blu-ray drives, and/or your hard drive, you can now go multi-stream output without sacrificing resolution because everything has to display on a single screen.

Is Eyefinity a game-changer in the display space? At the high-end, probably so. The technology’s potential in gaming and multimedia have probably only just started to be imagined. And even in mainstream settings, particularly in businesses, what employer wouldn’t see the wisdom of even a 15% productivity increase in workers who go to triple-head display? The cost of such an upgrade used to be prohibitive, but if one controller can power 3D apps across every display at full speed for under $100, and if three 19" or even 22" LCDs can be had for less than the price of one 30" screen, the return on investment seems obvious.

In our Eyefinity follow-up, coming shortly, we’ll take a look at the developer efforts surrounding AMD’s new display platform and some of the finer details you’ll need to know when you’re ready to take the Eyefinity plunge.

  • Sykar
    The problem I see with Eyefinity are the black borders between displays...
  • dertechie
    Second page mentions a Radeon 5890, I presume you mean either the 5870 or 5970.
  • mooch37
    @sykar My thoughts exactly. It has to be an odd number of monitors, otherwise you'll get the crosshair right in the middle. That would bug the crap out of me.
  • xaira
    there was talk of a few companies making bezel less monitors
  • drowned
    "In assessing single- versus dual-monitor (18" LCDs) usage in everyday work environment applications"

    The key word in your statement is DUAL monitors. I recall another study that tested how much people prefer 3 or 4 monitors over 2, and it was a very small percent (~10%). For a lot of tasks outside of gaming, you don't want your entire vision filled with pixels. You don't want to get dizzy constantly from moving your head back and forth. Of course eyefinity is great if you want to blow a ton of money for a wall of monitors and your career is a stock trader, CERN mission controller, etc, but I'd rather stick with 3 physical and use virtual desktops for 3+.
  • Trueno07
    It all made sense to me, until I saw the picture of the kid playing a Racing game on that 6 monitor set up. It looked ridiculous. Why not just play on a big TV that has no lines and only requires 1 output?
  • Chris_TC
    Trueno07It all made sense to me, until I saw the picture of the kid playing a Racing game on that 6 monitor set up. It looked ridiculous. Why not just play on a big TV that has no lines and only requires 1 output?Absolutely, this one is quite ridiculous. Multiple displays only make sense for games if you sit closely and angle them. But the borders would still annoy the hell out of me.

    This may be a nice gimmick for some, but ultimately we'll be moving to curved screens.
  • hackmule
    I used to use two monitors but since I went to three CRT monitors 5+ yrs ago I can't go back to two. This bezel in the middle is aggravating. I use three monitors for work - presentations/writing/graphics and the extra real estate is very valuable there. For play, I have been waiting for the hardware to improve to the point where 3 monitor frame rates are good enough and this eyefinity article has got me thinking that the new ATI cards might be worth a try. I think the next generation will be the game changer when three monitor play frame rates are over 50 for the games we like to play. I would be surprised if there are many who once they get used to three monitors would willingly go back to two.
  • falchard
    Big TV lacks the same resolution. Bezeless is hard to manufacture. I don't see the point in using Eye-finity in the method specified with multiple monitors in the front. I would rather setup like the Cave and Stereoscopic display. Borders wouldn't be much of an issue then. 4 x 55" display, 1 front, 1 on each side, and 1 above.
  • SmarterChoice
    Eyefinity is amazing with three screens, you don't notice the bezels at all in most games.