Note: This is a review of the Eyefinity function on the AMD (formerly ATI) 6950, the card has been reviewed ad-nauseam and is still (when properly flashed to a 6970 BIOS) in the top 5 of the performance cards list so I will not go into the details or benchmark the card.
All of us who are computer enthousiasts probably have at least one or two spare LCD panel monitors lying around, and because it can be done, it thereby must be done, hence…
System specs used: Intel Core2Duo 8400 overclocked @ 3.6Ghz, 8Gb DDR2RAM, Gigabyte motherboard (irrelevant as well as the hard drive and sound card…), 850W OCZ ZX series PSU, XFX Radeon 6950 w/BIOS flashed to 6970 mine is a 2Gb edition, Windows 7 Ultimate 64Bit
Setting up Eyefinity is rather more complex than it seems. One cannot simply enable Eyefinity, configurations must be had, stuff troubleshooted. How? By using the Catalyst control panel and using the menu to setup a new Eyefinity group.
The XFX 6950 has two DVI connectors, one HDMI, and two mini display-port connectors. It ships with the three following adapters:
Mini display port -> Display port
DVI -> HDMI
So as you can see, it can be complex to connect three or more monitors. In my case with two Acer X223H monitors, one old generic spare 17″ LCD flat panel, and an LG HDTV connected to the video card, it was even tedious to locate and use all the necessary adapters if only because the only input on the 17″ was a normal analog VGA. I understand however that for lack of space, it’s impossible to place five or six DVI outputs on the back of a card.
At first the system didn’t see the second Acer monitor, instead is insisted in inserting the LG HDTV to the group, which I didn’t want, not only is it bolted to the wall but also, I only use the TV with the PC for car racing games and the occasional Netflix, ahem, flick.
I found myself having to disconnect all but the main monitor, then adding the additional monitors one by one and gradually add them to the Eyefinity group, then once the Eyefinity profile had been saved, the LG HDTV could also be connected and it didn’t interfere.
I’m not a fan of using Eyefinity as a regular Windows desktop. Yes, the taskbar goes across all three screens and yes, you can maximize the windows to take up all three screens but sadly you can’t maximize any window to only one desired screen for instance for a web browser on one, Plants vs Zombies on a second and a movie on the third. For that, you need to leave the desktop in “normal” three monitor mode.
To make things worse, if like in my case one of your monitors is radically different from the other two, the resolution cannot be tweaked and you’re forced to use one of the presets, which make things look fuzzy on the non-native monitors. In my case, the total resolution should have been 5120×1024 but the highest choice I had was 3660×1024. This however is not a noticeable factor when playing games as the middle screen resolution seems to be the one that Eyefinity keeps “stock.”
What I’ve wound up doing was setting up three different profiles, a standard three monitor each with it’s own separate resolution and desktop area mode called “normal”, an “Eyefinity” profile for gaming and lastly, a “clone” mode where the main Acer monitor is cloned on the LG HDTV for car racing.
Did I mention the mess of cables behind the desk? This is definitely not a setup to use for someone with a clear glass desk.
So yes it’s kinda complicated to setup, yes the cables can be messy and yes, Eyefinity for normal everyday Windows desktop use is not the best. However, once enabled, Eyefinity in video games is staggering.
I’ve tested Left 4 Dead 2 first, the game sees the whole desktop as one monitor (at 3660×1024 ), allowing you to simply tweak the resolution. I’ve left it as is and the results are impressive. Eyefinity seems to make the side screens tunnelvisioned, which gives you an incredible range of sight better than your normal human peripheral vision probably could.
I then tested Battlefield 3 which also sees the whole desktop area as one single display. And it was even better because enemy soldiers and terrorists are not like zombies, and you can see them camping off to the side, making you harder to kill. Unfortunately for the Radeon card though, this is where I hit the limit on the graphics performance and had to lower my Anti-Aliasing to 4x instead of the 8x I was used to. Still leaving everything on ultra or high and using the same 3660×1024 resolution. At 8xAA I was getting the occasional lag, which is not present at 4xAA.
-Gives new life to first person shooters
-Makes the FPS experience more immersive than on a single screen
-Does not require any additional hardware, adapters or third party software
-Easy to setup within games
-Initial setup can be tedious
-Windows desktop resolution not very customizeable seems to follow a few arbitrary presets
-Obvious performance hit on games that demand more GPU power
-Fuzzy view on side screens because the LCD panel does not match the Eyefinity resolution
-Having more than two adjacent monitors requires a lot of room and may not be practical
-Wiring mess and video adapter cables and connectors can be complex
I’m forced to give it a 7/10 if only for the lack of practical use outside of gaming, however it does have redeeming qualities like the cost…
In conclusion it’s important to note that the three screen setup is definitely not for everyone, is it glorious in FPS games? Yes, does it look cool? Definitely, is it practical for everyday Windows use? No. Also a final note, the review is called 6950 review and I list the PC specs as having the 6950 GPU, but for those who know, a 6950 is really a 6970 waiting to be BIOS flashed. Also, there’s no reason for the how-to to work with a “stock” 6950.
Cost: 0$ provided you’ve already got a 5000 or 6000 series Radeon GPU or up and a few spare monitors lying around. Please note that we cannot accept any responsibilty for the Radeon 6950 BIOS flashing part which is of course, purely optional.