Hands on: ATI Eyefinity review
10th Sep 2009 | 20:00
Now you can run six monitors in HD from a single graphics card
AMD is looking to expand your horizons with its Eyefinity technology, allowing you to run up to six monitors in HD from a single graphics card – and TechRadar has had the chance to play with the latest in graphics tech.
Although you'll have to wait and see how ATI is bringing the technology to our homes, Eyefinity is close to release and looking rather stunning.
Essentially, the technology allows you to run multiple monitors in high definition from your graphics card – and TechRadar was at the top-secret launch event to test out whether it's merely a gimmick, or if it's really a game changer for the company.
Although it is working hard on getting partners to provide the kind of monitor hardware necessary for the practical necessities of sticking six monitors together, AMD seems aware that the majority of us will not be forking out for a half dozen panels just yet.
But, as we flew an aeroplane through stunning vistas (not the OS) with our peripheral vision taken up with screen and not wall, we have to confess that the high definition multiple monitors were certainly helping us feel more involved in things.
Even with the rather sexy specially supplied Samsung monitors that sported much thinner bezels, the black lines were, of course, noticeable, but it was amazing just how quickly your eyes start discounting the edges of the screens.
The power of the technology that supplied Eyefinity was clear – this was a meaty rig indeed to provide stutter-free six monitor action (6 x 2,560x1,600 resolution, in fact) but it wasn't so pricey that it would be beyond the means of an enthusiast gamer.
Stick six 23-inch monitors in the mix, however, and you'd be looking for seriously deep pockets.
Still, as a concept, it was pretty damn cool, and we bore that in mind when we moved over to a more feasible three monitor setup – which will be available earlier than the six-screen behemoth.
Now we should point out that multiple monitors are nothing new, but in gaming terms getting a stable gaming experience while using the setup has been problematic.
Eyefinity (and the surrounding tech) changes that, and in spectacular style.
On the three monitors, the gaming experience was, in all honesty, not significantly worse than the six monitor set-up – and less likely to be pie in the sky for Mr average income.
Your peripheral vision extends far wider than it does vertically – and with the focus on the middle monitor, the side monitors gloriously plied our eyes with extra information without detracting from the gameplay.
The game being featured on this rig was Left4Dead, and it was certainly an advantage to be able to sense further around ourselves. It literally expanded our horizons in terms of gameplay – and, as a nice little added bonus – it made it much nicer to spectate.
Apparently many games are perfectly capable of taking advantage of the ridiculously large field of vision, because they take their maximum resolutions from what the graphics card tells them.
Because EyeFinity allows you to essentially treat the entire surface of your monitors as a single resolution, you simply choose what you are offered and the game adapts – giving you glorious action.
AMD was at pains to point out that this isn't applicable to all games, but an extensive list was shown including major first person shooters like Half Life 2, Crysis, and Far Cry 2, real-time strategy games, flight sims and so on that could run well on EyeFinity setups.
Of course, multiple monitors have uses outside of gaming – and EyeFinity allows you to set up the monitors in multiple configurations – with some portrait and other landscape, in an inverted 'T' with four monitors or in an 'L' shape for instance.
This, of course, boosts productivity and, for people who need multiple programmes running at the same time (AMD's example was city traders), and have the computers that can cope, this will prove to be a major boon.
We also asked AMD if the EyeFinity tech could cope with monitors with different resolutions and sizes, and received an affirmative – which means that you could begin to add monitors as and when you like, including re-using old ones.
Plus you can clone and span monitors to your heart's content, or even group screens together.
It's pretty damn cool, especially considering that it is close to a public release, and, although you might not be forking out for a six screen setup straight away, we can see the three monitor configuration gaining some traction.