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Do gamers really need six monitors? Having two displays—maybe even three—on your desk certainly makes sense for a productivity boost. And having run some games on three displays, we can say that the added immersion in the game world can indeed be compelling. But you can run three displays with any Radeon HD 5000–series cards, provided you have at least one DisplayPort monitor.
Sapphire and AMD are betting that some gamers will lust after more than three displays, which is why Sapphire is shipping the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity Edition. This isn’t just a stock 5870 with six monitor connectors; it also ships with a 2GB GDDR5 frame buffer. So even if you aren’t planning on running six displays on your desk, the 2GB of VRAM might itself be attractive.
Eyefinity is flexible as to monitor configurations. You can have the six displays arranged in two rows, which can be configured as one huge surface or two 3x1 surfaces. Or, you can have five LCD panels in line for a wraparound gaming experience.
Sounds intriguing, right? But what about performance? We put the Sapphire card up against an XFX Radeon HD 5870 XXX Edition and the Asus GTX 480 card.
In single-display performance, what you immediately notice is that the Eyefinity Edition can’t quite keep up with the overclocked XFX card, although the differences are pretty small. The Asus GTX 480 pretty much wins across the board. So if you’re planning on using just one or two displays, the Asus GTX 480 is likely a better single-GPU card. But then, you don’t want an Eyefinity Edition card for just a couple of monitors, right? To check the chops of the Eyefinity Edition, we ran the benchmarks in both three- and six-panel configurations, at 5160x1080 and 5160x2160, respectively. None of our three- or six-panel benchmarks had antialiasing enabled, which is fine since gaming performance is already so limited.
HAWX and Far Cry 2 seem to be playable on six panels, even with detail levels pumped up, but minimum frame rates will dip down into single digits. Three-panel gaming, though, looks viable across the board, particularly if you turn down some of the graphics detail.
The one real gotcha with this card is monitor support. The Eyefinity edition has six mini-DisplayPort connectors, but only five adapters ship in the box: two mini-DisplayPort-to-DisplayPort, two MDP-to-DVI passive, and one MDP-to-HDMI. So if you want to go with six-panel gaming, you’ll need one to four more adapters, which cost about $10 each. That’s in addition to the $500 cost of the card.
Is it worth it? If you want more than three panels with just one graphics card, this is the only game in town, short of some pro graphics cards that cost even more. So if you’re lusting after—and have the room for—four or more LCD monitors on your desk, Sapphire’s Radeon HD 5870 gets the job done.
Four, five, and six displays with one card; 2GB VRAM.
Not the fastest card for the price; six-monitor gaming is performance-limited.
|Three displays 5160x1080 ||Six displays 5460x2160 |
|Unigine Heaven 2.0 (fps) ||18 ||10 |
|Battle Forge (fps) ||30 ||18 |
|S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat (fps) ||27 ||18 |
|Dirt 2 (fps) ||42 ||25 |
|Far Cry 2 / Long (fps) ||62 ||35 |
|Far Cry 2 / Action (fps) ||47 ||30 |
|Tom Clancy's HAWX (fps) ||59 ||37 |
|Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising (fps)||46||29|
|Sapphire HD 5870 Eyefinity ||XFX Radeon HD 5870 XXX||Asus GTX 480 |
|Unigine Heaven 2.0 (fps) ||17 ||13 ||26|
|Battle Forge (fps) ||47 ||49 ||61|
|Dirt 2 (fps) ||71 ||71 ||80|
|Far Cry 2 / Long (fps) ||75 ||78 ||103|
|Far Cry 2 / Action (fps) ||63 ||65 ||76|
|Tom Clancy's HAWX (fps) ||89 ||92 ||104|
|Crysis (fps) ||32 ||33 ||31|
|S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat (fps)||37||38||39|
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7-975 Extreme Edition in an Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard with 6GB of DDR3/1333 and an 850TX Corsair PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate. All games are run at 1920x1200 with 4x AA.