XFX Radeon HD 5670 1GB Review
Eyefinity & Multi-Monitor Functionality
Redefined Multitasking for the Masses?
A major advantage held by ATi is their new Multi-Monitor Technology known as "Eyefinity". Prior to the release of the Radeon HD 5xxx series, you'd be limited to use one or two displays per graphics card and no more. This was due to a hardware limitation that manifested in the types and configurations of display outputs used. If your graphics card sported HDMI and/or DVI, those interfaces commanded a dedicated clock source for every port implemented to the graphics card. However the new Displayport interface benefits from the ability to drive multiple displays from just a single clock source. The nature of displayport means that it is now feasible to implement the functionality to run up to three monitors at once or even six with an upcoming derivative of the Radeon HD 5870 graphics card. In a nutshell, technological advances combined with a pinch of ATi initiative have brought something new and rather special to the home user.
Even for the Misfits?
Common sense would dictate a three monitor setup to consist of identical panels of the same size and native resolution. Symmetry matters greatly under many multi-monitor uses and if anything else, it simply reduces the risk of unnecessary complication. Sadly, this idealistic notion comes in at a stellar price tag, more so if you're an IPS or PVA panel snob. On the other hand, many users have redundant televisions/monitors waiting to find another use and as such might also have little care for commonality, let alone colour production or contrast ratio. With this in mind, we decided to assemble an eyefinity setup for the "budget conscious" and so, with a mindset of overzealous anti-symmetry and intentional imperfection, we found ourselves with the mongrel Eyefinity configuration that we hoped for.
Different monitor brands? Check. Different sizes? Check. Varied aspect ratios? Check. Further details can be found in the table below.
|Dell Ultrasharp 2408WFP||Samsung P2470HD Monitor||HP L1908W Monitor|
|Display Output||Displayport||HDMI||VGA |
Since our visit to ATi's Eyefinity briefing in London last year, we have been fully aware of the feature's adaptability in terms of mixing and matching monitors. Theoretically, our combination of monitors should work fine...but how about in practice? Let's find out...
We begun our triple monitor endeavour with just our Dell Ultrasharp 2408WFP monitor connected, for installation processes. Next, we connected our Samsung HDTV and then finally our HP Monitor. So far so good...ish.
Ati Catalyst Control Center automatically initialised all three monitors in “Clone” Mode, where all three monitors are generating duplicate content. In order to do anything useful with your three monitors, you will need to check in to the Catalyst Control Panel. Before, I go into any further detail I'd like to mention the monitor configurations available.
1) Single Monitor
2) Triple Monitor – Clone Mode
3) Triple Monitor – Extended Desktop Mode
1) Disabled (Any of the above used)
2) Enabled – Grouped Monitor Mode
“If you're using Three Monitors, Eyefinity is enabled.” - Well no, not quite.
It is indeed possible to use all three monitors without Eyefinity. ATi's Catalyst Driver allows you to operate your monitors as three separate devices and thus be able to use conventional multi-monitor modes, however this is not Eyefinity. Enabling Eyefinity will coax your system into believing that your three monitors are infact one single device that operates at one large resolution.
Returning to the situation at hand, it is as simple as a couple of key presses to change your monitor configuration from the initial Clone Mode to Extended Desktop. This essentially left us with a large workspace of three independent monitors, all operating at their native resolutions of 1920x1200, 1920x1080 and 1440x900 respectively. From a multitasking perspective, this is a very unique experience.
Having tested both Cloned and Extended Desktop Modes, it became quite evident that the Catalyst Driver's supposed “user friendly” nature was about to turn a little pear shaped.
"I went to the store to buy ketchup but could only find opaque bottles of 'preserved liquid tomato-vinegar'..."
Those of whom who are used to ATi's Catalyst Control Center are aware of its relative ease of use. If you wanted to change global image quality settings, you know you'd go to the "3D" section. Likewise if you wished to overclock your graphics card, you'd go to the "Overdrive" section. Under similar logic, if you wanted to go about enabling ATi Eyefinity Modes, you would access the "Display" section. As a matter of fact if you were to access the Display section, I can confirm that you're in the right place. However, unlike the aforementioned examples where you will very quickly find parameters such as Anti Aliasing or Graphics Memory Frequency respectively, you will not see the word "Eyefinity" at all. More to the point, there is nothing upon initial inspection that particularly suggests that such a feature even exists.
The submenu's to enable Eyefinity were present within the Display tab however. In order to find them, it required two things. First of all, you need to click on triangles within the menu that expand the drop down options that you need. Second and most importantly, you need the initiative to recognise that the option "Create Monitor Group" is a logically equivalent command to "Enable Eyefinity". It may seem as though I'm being somewhat particular, but surely one would expect such a major feature to be easily accessible and under it's widely known marketing name? Figures.
In ATi's defence, the rest of the configuration procedure was painless. All in all, the initialisation process took less than 30 seconds so with the exception of nomenclature trouble, we were up and running in no time at all.