Part 2: AMD's Eyefinity Technology Explained

It Starts With the Card

In our prior Eyefinity article , we took you inside of AMD’s new multi-screen technology, implemented throughout the ATI Radeon HD 5000-series GPU line. We examined the output pipelines within Eyefinity-enabled cards, touched on the use of passive and active dongles, introduced DisplayPort connectivity, and saw the many ways in which Eyefinity display groups can be configured with AMD’s Catalyst driver software.

That’s all a necessary first step, but Eyefinity technology doesn’t work in a vacuum. We cringe at using the marketing buzzword “ecosystem,” but that’s really what something like Eyefinity requires—an ecosystem of hardware manufacturers and software developers taking the Eyefinity idea and fleshing it out with things you can actually use and interact with. Of course, that begins with the graphics card, including everyone from Asus to XFX. AMD has gone out of its way to promote triple- and six-display Eyefinity configurations, but there’s more to consider than monitor counts.

At the top-end (as of this writing), there’s AMD’s own ATI Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 card, featuring six Mini DisplayPort connectors sitting pretty in a row down the length of the two-slot card’s edge. At the mainstream, you’ll find cards like Asus’s EAH5750, another two-slotter, but this time with only one full-size DisplayPort connector sandwiched between an HDMI port and two DVI ports. The trick is to watch the specs, because cards like these will only output to three ports despite having four physical connectors.

In fact, buying a mid-range card doesn’t guarantee Eyefinity support. Recall that Eyefinity requires the use of at least one DisplayPort connection. It makes sense that cards in the 5400-series might omit DisplayPort, both for price point and target demographic reasons (low-end card buyers typically aren’t setting up three or more screens). The same also seems to be true in the 5500-series. Most cards here still don’t support Eyefinity—yet—despite the presence of other performance features, including premium cooling.

Nevertheless, there are now dozens of Eyefinity-enabled cards on the market. For the rich and infamous, there are the dual-GPU HD 5970 juggernauts, such as the $749 HD597F2GDGC from HIS. At the opposite extreme, a few, like PowerColor’s AX5450, slide in under $50. We’d never recommend this card for gaming, but if your needs are focused on using Eyefinity for productivity, it doesn’t take much to get up and going.

That begs the obvious next question: Once you decide on a card, what exactly does it take to get up and going with an Eyefinity rig? That’s what we’re going to explore in the following pages.

  • akula2
    I use 3 LCDs with 5770 as well as 5850 cards to run many applications simultaneously. Eyefinity feature offers so much and one could easily avoid buying additional PCs by tapping the features from the processor and the graphics card.
  • akula2
    Could someone tell me what happened to the "Print" feature on Tom?
  • ckim2116
    It'd be nice if AMD had their own list of Eyefinity supported games. Some of the games on WGF don't work; in fact, the only games that have worked out perfectly for me have been TF2, Batman Arkham Asylum, Torchlight, and L4D2 (all you have to do is select your resolution in the options, in my case 5760x1080). In other games the menu screen just keeps blinking, and attempting to change the resolution just freezes the game.

    Can't wait until all the kinks are worked out!
  • cangelini
    akula2Could someone tell me what happened to the "Print" feature on Tom?
    It's right above the comments section, to the right of "Share," amongst a ton of tiny little icons :)
  • jsowoc
    I don't see DisplayPort costing that much more. If I look at 22-24" LCDs, the cheapest they come is around $200 for a TN panel or $300 for a PVA monitor, and about $450-500 for an IPS monitor. It's personal preference whether the quality difference is worth the cost.

    If you compare a $200 TN w/out DisplayPort to a $500 IPS w/ DisplayPort, you are comparing apples to oranges. The Amazon price of $220 for a TN w/ DisplayPort is more representative of pricing.
  • xrodney
    I am using 30" dell but only way i can use its native resolution is over DVI, on either HDMI or Displayport maximum of 1920x1200 is possible.
    I am not sure if this is limit on DELL only, but as far as I read neither ati 4xxx or 5xxx grapahic card and neither any widely available LCD supports more then that which is quite pitty.
    Even more disapointing is that DHCP working only over single DVI link (1920x1200 max) on DELLs and probably others as well.
  • 1898
    Very interesting read, thanks.

    From the article:
  • RazberyBandit
    Hmm. Landscape-landscape-landscape seems like it would just be sick for gaming. ASUS monitor bezels are actually angled at the top and bottom. When stacked tightly in such an arrangement, they actually wrap around the viewer nicely. Three 24" 16:9 ratio (1920x1080) monitors stacked sideways yields a HUGE 3:2 ratio (3240x1920 resolution) display. Three 16:10 (1920x1200) monitors end up at 3600x1920. I like this idea better than the far more panoramic view of 5760x1080 or 5760x1200 for most games.

    Alas, I'll be waiting on the next-gen cards and monitors in hopes that prices drop and availability increases. I'd also like to see the proposed standards mentioned within this article actually go into effect, as well as see adoption of display port grow and the technology itself mature.

    Lastly I hope stands adopt a standard that supports landscape-landscape-landscape, portrait-portrait-portrait, and any combination in-between. Having to go out and buy 3 cheap VESA mounts, some metal tubing and round-bar, then get to cutting, bending, and welding my own stand together sounds like a fun project, but I'd rather just buy a mass-produced one.

    Edit: I meant portrait-portrait-portrait...
  • gaborbarla
    Bought a 5870 HD the other day.
    Two questions remain for me that I couldnt filter out from these articles by skimming through them:

    1. Why do we need a display port again? I thought the whole point of HDMI was to introduce a digital standard that works with everything TVs Digital signal processors, PCs. Now that most monitors, graphics cards and even some motherboards are starting to support HDMI they come out with a new format... (dot dot dot)

    2. Why does the 5800 series need a display port? why couldn't it have 3 DVI-Ds? So far I haven't even seen a single monitor that has displayport.

  • ArgleBargle
    $749 for a dual 5970? I thought a single 5970 cost that much!