When we last visited our six panel Eyefinity setup, we had it up and running with games at a full 5680×2160 pixel resolution.
Now it’s time to talk performance and practicality. What kind of gaming performance will you get with three or six panels? To understand what kind of performance to expect, we need to take a closer look at the card itself.
The Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity edition ships with the same core clock as the standard HD 5870: 850MHz. However, it ships with 2GB of 1200MHz GDDR5 memory, as opposed to the 1GB on the standard 5870. The extra memory means the board consumes a little more power. System idle power on our Core i7 975 test system was 138W with Eyefinity and 284W at full throttle, as compared to 134W and 268W for the stock HD 5870.
According to AMD, cards will be available from add-in board partners, at a targeted price point of $479 USD. As we noted in our setup article, some adapters will be included: 2 mini-DisplayPort to DispalyPort adapters, 2 passive mini DisplayPort to single link DVI connectors and a passive mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter. So if you want to go for the full six panel setup, you’ll need to buy additional adapters.
We’ve already heard from Sapphire Technology, who will be one of the first companies shipping the Eyefinity edition card shortly after the official launch.
Note that Eyefinity is flexible about the number of displays. With a 3 x 1 pattern, you can have a surround gaming display, while with 6 x 2, you get the “video wall” effect. But you can also have a 5 x 1 group, and really submerge yourself in the game.
Game support is still evolving. For example, while Dragon Age: Origins supports Eyefinity, another Bioware title, Mass Effect 2 doesn’t. AMD is establishing an Eyefinity certification program to assist game developers in building more robust Eyefinity support into their titles. Also, AMD is announcing the AMD Display Library (ADL) SDK update which will allow app developers to properly enumerate multiple monitors running in Eyefinity mode, including bezel compensated modes and various monitor topologies.
We tested a Radeon Eyefinity Edition reference board, using an expanded set of tests. We used our standard PC graphics test platform:
- Intel Core i7 975 @ 3.3GHz
- Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard (X58 chipset)
- 6GB Corsair DDR3-1600 @ 1333MHz
- 1TB Seagate 7200.12 hard drive
- LG Blu-ray ROM drive
- Corsair 850W PSU
- Windows 7 Ultimate x64 edition
The driver used for our testing is an updated version of Catalyst 10.3, which has additional Eyefinity functionality rolled in.
As with standard GPUs, we tested at 1920×1200 (4x AA); we also benchmarked at 2560×1600 (4x AA) using a 30-inch Dell 3008WFP. The one exception was Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising, where we used the single, in-game AA setting.
Finally, we benchmarked two Eyefinity configurations: a 3 panel, 5160×1080 setup and a 6 panel, 5160×2160, 3×2 arrangement. Eyefinity testing was performed with AA off. Since we have no other Eyefinity benchmarks, we’ll report those without comparing to another card.
We benchmarked with the following suite of titles:
- Unigine Heaven 2.0 (DX11 synthetic benchmark)
- DiRT 2
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
- Battle Forge
- Far Cry 2 (Ranch Long and Action scripts
- Tom Clancy’s HAWX
- Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising
Single Monitor Benchmarks
First, let’s look at performance in single display mode. We’re comparing here to a stock Radeon HD 5870.
|1920×1200 4x AA||Stock Radeon HD 5870||Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity|
|Unigine Heaven 2.0||17||17|
|S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat||36||37|
|Far Cry 2 (Long)||76||76|
|Far Cry 2 (Action)||63||62|
|Tom Clancy’s HAWX||88||88|
|Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising||74||72|
At 1920×1200, 4xAA, we’re seeing essentially no difference in performance. That’s not a big surprise, as the clocks are the same; only the memory quantities vary. The DiRT 2 number looks more substantial than it really is, at a little over 4% better.
Moving to 2560×1600, 4x AA doesn’t shift the results by much.
|2560×1600 4x AA||Stock Radeon HD 5870||Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity|
|Unigine Heaven 2.0||13||13|
|S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat||20||23|
|Far Cry 2 (Long)||52||51|
|Far Cry 2 (Action)||47||48|
|Tom Clancy’s HAWX||65||65|
|Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising||56||56|
The 2GB frame buffer Eyefinity edition chalks up more results in the win column, particularly with Call of Pripyat and Crysis. Here, the extra memory of the frame buffer might come into play in certain games that can make use of the added frame buffer space.
Really, though, you’re not going to buy a $480 board with six display connectors to play on one monitor, right? Let’s check out multimonitor results.
Eyefinity Benchmark Results
We tested two different configuration: 5160×1080 (three 1080p panels) and 5160×2160.
Certain classes of games just work better if elements like targeting reticles don’t span bezels. On top of that, you can set up six monitors to create a pair of 3 x 1 groups. One group can be used for games, while the other group keeps Windows apps active. Yes, you can have Tweetdeck running and play your games.
Let’s check out the difference in three panel and six panel results.
|Unigine Heaven 2.0||18||10|
|S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat||27||18|
|Far Cry 2 (Long)||62||35|
|Far Cry 2 (Action)||47||30|
|Tom Clancy’s HAWX||59||37|
|Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising||46||29|
Let’s discuss graphics settings before we parse the results. We ran the Unigine Heaven with tessellation set to moderate rather than extreme (we used the extreme setting for the single panel tests.) Also, we dialed down the detail just a bit in the Call of Pripyat benchmark, setting SSAO to low and turning of contact hardening shadows. The other games were all set to maximum detail settings, except that AA was turned off.
As we can see, some games are playable in both modes. HAWX and DiRT 2 are playable in full, six-panel mode, though for best results, you still might want to dial down some of the detail levels in DiRT 2. Graphics intensive shooters, on the other hand, fared much better in 3 x 1 mode rather than 6 x 2. That’s more preferable anyway, due to the aforementioned problem of reticles spanning bezels.
Note that if you are willing to forego some graphics detail, performance in 6 x 2 mode does improve notably. For example, we cranked Crysis back to “high” instead of “very high”, which drops the game to DX9 mode. The result: 5160×1080 ran at 25 fps (versus 18 in very high), while 5160×2160 posted an average frame rate of 14fps (versus 8 at very high mode.)
Final Thoughts: Excessive or Cool?
AMD’s Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity edition is both excessive and cool. Right now, it’s the only AMD card with more than 1GB of usable frame buffer. (The HD 5970 has 2GB, but also two GPUs. Each GPU has 1GB dedicated to it, so it’s effectively a 1GB card.) So if you simply want more graphics memory, then that’s the card for you. For example, if you’re running triple 30-inch displays, you might want the Eyefinity edition card, so that you can run some games at a glorious 7680×1600.
Really, though, if you’re running smaller displays, you don’t really need this card unless you want to run at least four displays. As we’ve noted, the 5 x 1 configuration is interesting for an incredibly immersive experience, as well as setting up multiple groups (a pair of 3 x 1’s is pretty cool as well.) What’s impressive is that you do get reasonable frame rates in Eyefinity mode in a number of games, and if you’re willing to sacrifice some eye candy, many games.
Some games aren’t suitable for the 6 x 2 mode, however, because of those pesky bezels. We’re looking forward to displays with thinner bezels. RTS games are problematic in 6 x 2, not because of bezels, but because of the difficulty of visually tracking the mouse cursor.
On the other hand, we’re imagining an MMO like World of Warcraft running in 3 x 1, 5 x 1 or even 6 x 2 mode. That would be excessive – and very cool to boot.