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.

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).

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.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • phantomtrooper
    I would hate playing with that much black area between screens. I will stick with my 1080p monitor thank you.
  • megamanx00
    :O They got two of those cards!! Lucky punks.
  • 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.
  • duk3
    Immediate availability? Yes.
    Even in stock! (When linked :P )
  • magicbullet
    wow......i feel so poor.
  • Should have just made the 5970 the eyefinity edition
  • 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.
  • mtyermom
    This begs the question: how long until we have zero-bezel displays?
  • 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 ;)
  • 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.