XFX Radeon HD 5670 1GB Review
Eyefinity & Multi Monitors Continued.
The Result - Gimmick or Breakthrough?
Much like Extended Desktop Mode, it is possible to use all three screens for the purposes of workstation based and multitasking purposes. As the screenshot indicates, one has the potential to carry out a large number of tasks simultaneously. Multiple browser windows, a second operating system under Virtualisation, Music, Instant Messaging, Reminders, you name it, it's all open. There are however two major shortcomings with Eyefinity outside of games.
Downscaled Screen Resolutions
This of course does not apply to those who intend on using three identical monitors, however it remains to be an important factor to mention. As mentioned previously, Eyefinity functions with multiple monitors by means of downscaling monitors to the native resolution of the smallest, which in our case resulted in our 24” panels operating at 1440x900 each. This inevitably means lost space on the larger monitors, which in our eyes is a major downside over Extended Desktop Mode.
Limited Non-Game Usability
This particular issue applies to all Eyefinity users. Also due to the nature of an Eyefinity Configuration, it's user interaction is very different to Extended Desktop, where there are defined bounds between each monitor. The results are somewhat poor outside of games...
Simple actions such as maximising a window to fill just one screen is not possible under Eyefinity without the window in question stretching across all three screens. This means that all windows need to be manually sized, which is very awkward indeed. It gets worse too as our test setup was unable to maximise widescreen video properly. We might have almost accepted video playback to stretch across all three screens but instead it overlapped into the area of the two side monitors by roughly an inch. This is no good at all.
I would like to start saying positive things about ATi Eyefinity but I can't just yet. There's more.
We've quite clearly established that Disabling ATi Eyefinity and operating your three monitors in Extended Desktop Mode represents far superior usability outside of games. This is fair enough, but will this not prove tedious for those that regularly cycle between games and regular system usage? All in all, you will spend a little under a minute switching between Eyefinity and Normal Multi-Monitor modes vice versa. While I'm not suggesting that the procedure takes too long, I feel that it's rather irritating to have to do so. ATi could potentially improve usability substantially simply by assigning predefined Hot Keys to switch between modes or even offer a right click, "Run in Eyefinity Mode" function.
There is light at the end of the tunnel however as, beyond its niggles, it has much to offer.
Left 4 Dead @ 4320 x 900
In some ways, it might be a little difficult to appreciate the effect of Eyefinity with screenshots as it may simply appear as a heavily cropped shot, but it genuinely makes an impact on overall gaming experience. Within minutes you will have forgotten about the bezels that separate your three aspects of vision and focus on your frontal monitor as your main source of vision, while merely glancing at the other two. Essentially, Eyefinity introduces the concept of a peripheral vision in gaming which adds greatly to realism. Left 4 Dead proved to be an ideal game to put Eyefinity to the test, where the sight of zombie hordes coming at you from the corner of your eyes really keeps you on the edge.
Flight Simulator X @ 4320 x 900
Playing Flight Simulator X with our three monitors also yielded impressive results. While it generally had a positive effect on the realism front, the slow pace nature of the game meant that you will inevitably spot the flaws of multi monitor gaming setups, more so if your monitors do not line up correctly on your desk. This particular bank over Seattle looks brilliant as a screenshot, however in "virtual reality", the horizon didn't match, nor did some of the instrumentation, souring the experience somewhat.
It should also be mentioned that unlike in Left 4 Dead, the Radeon HD 5670 performed very poorly at this resolution in Flight Simulator X. Knowing the demanding nature of this game, it would be unfair for me to expect an ATi graphics card with 400 stream processors to cope at this resolution but the point still stands in that a faster graphics card is in order to guarantee acceptable performance amongst today's latest hits.
Now that we have evaluated Eyefinity, our final benchmarks will be carried out on a single Dell 2408WFP monitor.