Power Consumption and Closing Thoughts
AMD Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition Review: 6 monitor gaming! - Graphics Cards 101

The area of power consumption isn’t drastically affected by the additional 1GB of memory though we were only pushing a single panel in this test; expect it to creep up ever so slightly with more monitors connected.  But man, don’t expect to see them near GF100 numbers! 


First, let’s talk about the performance of the new Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition graphics card as a single monitor solution.  Performance is still great – right where we expected it to be after our testing of NVIDIA’s upcoming GF100-based GTX 480 and GTX 470 cards.  Even with 2GB of memory it continues to fall between the GeForce GTX 470 and GTX 480 but it leans much more closely in the direction of NVIDIA’s $349 option.  Unfortunately for AMD the additional memory didn’t make a dent in the benchmarks we saw – the 1GB HD 5870 was actually running faster than it with only a modest 5% clock speed advantage.  So, it would seem that adding 1GB of memory to an HD 5870 doesn’t improve performance any more than bumping its clock speed by 25-50 MHz.  To be honest, this was kind of expected as most games continue to be pixel processing bound, not texture bound.

In our brief testing of Eyefinity, the 2GB frame buffer did make a noticeable impact on at least one of our games: Batman.  With only 1GB of memory the game had to be run at Medium settings to even come close to being playable with 4xAA enabled.  With 2GB, it not only ran but ran on High at nearly 60 FPS and indicates to gamers that sometimes this is a falling off point at which specific hardware can’t go any further.  We saw that with the original HD 5870 in that case.  In HAWX and Metro 2033 though the differences in performance even at the 5760×1080 resolution were basically null.

Eyefinity Considerations

Obviously though the 2GB frame buffer is not what is going to make this graphics card exciting to people.  AMD didn’t call this the “Radeon HD 5870 2GB Edition” did they?  Nope, the Eyefinity 6 Edition is meant to tout AMD’s huge advantage in display connectivity over NVIDIA by showing a single GPU HD 5870 powering six discrete monitors at up to 2560×1600 resolution each!  Even the GF100-based GTX 480 and GTX 470 cards coming out on April 12th are stuck in “old days” of running two displays each.  Even a stick-in-the-mud gamer can see that this is progress at the very least.

AMD Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition Review: 6 monitor gaming! - Graphics Cards 102

In our experiences with the Eyefinity 6 Edition card in a true 6-panel configuration, specifically in the 3×2 array that will likely be most popular for users going this route, gaming nirvana will be drastically affected by what types of games you are playing.  First, the bad: first person shooters are out – plain and simple.  Having your focus and aiming reticule right where the bezels of the displays are really kills the effect and I found myself constantly shifting my eyes between the area above and below that specific bezel.  Even some racing games like Burnout: Paradise were no good because they didn’t offer any kind of in-cockpit view and thus the focus point, the horizon, was always being split by the monitor bezels.

What I did enjoy playing were games like StarCraft 2, Supreme Commander 2 (that did work in our previous driver build but not in this latest one…) and even DiRT 2 with its in-car view.  In those games the focal point was variable, or in the case of DiRT 2, just high enough into the center top monitor, and thus I could move my head and eyes around much more comfortably.  In those cases I really feel like the experience of playing on a 6-panel setup was unrivaled.

AMD Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition Review: 6 monitor gaming! - Graphics Cards 103

And, as I mentioned and showed in our video, users that go with a 6 monitor setup will still be able to run their FPS games on a 3 display Eyefinity configuration thanks to hot key options and some not-so-easy-to-setup profiles in the Catalyst driver.  It’s not the greatest answer for those of you that are willing to shell out for 6 monitors but it is something.

Pricing and Availability

AMD estimates that pricing on the new Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition will fall at about $479.  If that turns out to be the case that would put it at a $80 premium or so to where the prices of the HD 5870 standard card SHOULD be.  Considering the cost of extra memory and the inclusion of quite a few dongles and adapters, that actually doesn’t seem unreasonable.  The question of course will become whether or not a gamer sees the value of supporting up to 6 monitors versus the performance boost he would get by purchasing the GeForce GTX 480 which should be available for just $20 more.  As you saw in our benchmarks throughout this review, there is a noticeable gap between the GTX 480 and the HD 5870 – where will a gamer’s mind and wallet fall?

AMD Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition Review: 6 monitor gaming! - Graphics Cards 104

Closing Thoughts

I have to admit that even though I was let down by the FPS experience of gaming on 6 monitors, the sheer beauty of seeing a 3×2 Eyefinity configuration is awe inspiring.  I found myself finding things to fill the real estate with and could see someone becoming accustomed to it very easily for a permanent configuration.  Gaming on 6 panels creates a bit of a problem as we mentioned and only SOME games are going to see the benefit from it: fans of RTS titles and driving games will probably find it mesmerizing.  And the ability to fall back on 3-panels for FPS titles does seem like a waste of investment (especially if this is the majority of your gaming time) but at least the option is there. 

The Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition graphics card is aimed at a very specific type of gamer and to that end, AMD has succeeded.  I was disappointed to see that the 2GB frame buffer offered so little in performance advantages over the 1GB card so recommending it over other HD 5870s is hard to do unless you really do want the freedom of 4+ monitors hooked up to a single GPU.  Should you find yourself multi-monitor curious, this card is the only way to go.

UPDATE: We finally got our video review of the AMD Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition graphics card up and ready for you to view.  I apologize for the delay here but we had some major issues with our editing software, etc etc.  I think you’ll find the wait was well worth it! It is a bit longer than normal (about 20 minutes) but we take the time to walk you through how easy the hardware and software setup is, bezel correction, several positive and negative game play examples and more! 

AMD Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition Review: 6 monitor gaming! - Graphics Cards 105

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