December 2, 2010

Eyefinity Reveiw and Setup Instructions

So this Black Friday I decided to hang around newegg and I found myself 2 x Hanns·G HZ251HPB Black 25″ in addition to my Hannspree HF289H 28″ monitor.  I decided to do this because I already owned a Sapphire 5850 1GB and I had never messed around with multi monitor displays.  I’ll cover my results and the parts required to make it work.  I searched the internet far and wide for instructions on how to set this up and make it work and I finally got it all figured out and I’ll cover it below. 

So lets start with my build.  I’m running on a Gigabyte motherboard, with 8gb of DDR3 CL7, AMD Phenom II 965 and a Sapphire 5850 1gb and the monitors listed above.

To do an eyefinity setup you need 3 monitors and a ATI card capeable of doing eyefinity.  I believe all DirectX 11 Radeon cards are capeable of doing eyefinity.  I would recommend at least a 5850 to do an eyefinity setup otherwise you will run into some performance hits.  One of your monitors needs to have a Display Port Adapter shown here on the right.  If your monitor does not have one of these Display Port Adapters on it you need to purchase a ACTIVE display port adapter.  My monitors did not have Display Port Adapters so I had to purchase one seperately.  I purchased a Powercooler Display Port Adapter.  If you don’t purchase an ACTIVE display port adaptor then it will not work. 

Once you have all your parts in hand all you need to do is hook them up.  Connect one of the montiors to the display port adaptor and hook it up to the display port on the video card.  Hook the other two up to the DVI ports on your video card.  Now you have to enable enable eyefinity.  Once you have them all hooked up open your ATI Catalyst Control Center -> Desktop Displays.  You should see three monitors under that tab.  Disable two of the monitors *you have to disable them to do this following step*.  Once you have disabled the two monitors right click on one of the displays and click create group.  It should let you choose several configurations 1×3, 3×1, 2×1, etc.  We are going to assume you have three monitors and choose 3×1 configuration.  Finally it’s going to ask if you if the monitors are configured correctly.  If you can move your mouse from the far left monitor all the way over right monitor then they are configure right if you can then click no and it will let you choose the layout. 

Thats it… eyefinity is enabled.  If you want to use eyefinity within a game all you have to do is go to the video settings and choose the proper video settings.  If you have 1080p monitors then you would choose 5760×1080.  Now lets cover our thoughts on eyefinity. 

Pro:  I tried Bad Company 2 first with eyefinity set and it looks simply stunning.  The immersion factor with 3 montiors is amazing and breathtaking.  You really feel like you are in the game and with that said it makes the game that much more enjoyable.  I also enjoyed the peripherial vision effect.  While some may argue that it is useless I submit that it actually gives you quite the advantage when playing in FPS games as it allows you to see a great deal more then everyone else who doesn’t have it.  Some will disagree with me in this but I am proud to say that you don’t really notice the bezels or lines inbetween the screens.  I have a good 2 inch gap between my center monitor and the two side monitors and after playing for about five minutes I barely noticed it anymore.  It’s also easy to set games up to play eyefinity.  I even got Neverwinter Nights running on eyefinity with no issues at all and all I had to do was switch the resolution.  Eyefinity does give you an advantage and as I mentioned previously you really do see a great deal more on the screen.  You can see people who are beside who you wouldn’t of been able to see before.

Cons: Cost vs performance is a big issue here.  Running Eyefinity will put a massive strain on your video card.  I was able to max Bad Company 2 at 1920 x 1200 before I installed my additional monitors.  Once I had installed the monitors and changed to the Eyefinity the game was unplayable and I had to turn down to medium quality settings.  Once I had turned the settings down the game played extremly smoothly.  Having said all that you can setup Eyefinity to work with cheaper models of the 5xxx cards but you will loose overall graphical quality.  I would suggest if you are doing an Eyefinity setup to at least get a Radeon 5870 or above. 

The second issue I ran into was drivers.  I initially started on the catalyst 10.3 drivers and then upgraded to the 10.11 drivers.  Onc I upgraded I had several major and annoying problems the most prominant of which was scren flickering and tearing.  It was so bad I tried reinstalling it and still ahd the same issue.  After several reinstalls and several frustrating attempts to fix the issue I uninstalled the 10.11 drivers and reinstalled the 10.3 drivers.  Not everyone may have this issue but it was a painful one for me.  I would like to see in the future, more stable drivers and support for this product and some better support and for the love of God add an Eyefinity tab to the Catalyst Control Center so it’s easier to setup. 

Screen distortion of the side monitors is another thing i didn’t expect when I set this up.  The resolution on the side monitors can appear distorted or stretched.  This is apparently normal for the Eyefinity setup and apparently it shouldn’t be of concern.  I however did not know this and I spent several hours trying to figure out why it looked the way it did. 

Finally, the biggest issue I had wasn’t with the product itself but with the information out there about how to actually set it up.  I had to search far and wide for information on setting up this product, buying the parts and the difference between active and passive display adaptors.  None of this information appears to be easily or readily accessible from AMD and it would be nice to see some tutorials on how to use and prepare for buying an eyefinity setup.  If it hadn’t been for me casually mentioning my desire to purchase an eyefinity setup to one of my friends I would of purchased a Passive Adapter instead of a Active one. 

Conclusion:  When I first heard of Eyefinity the first thing I said was “this is stupid and won’t make a difference” and “the breaks in between the screens will make for a terrible experience”.  I am here to say that I was completely wrong.  After playing Team Fortress 2, Counter strike, Left 4 Dead 2 and Bad Company 2 for several hours now using my eyefinity setup I am going to say that I am never going back.  I am a complete believer now in multi monitor gaming.  After playing for about 10 minutes I didn’t even notice the breaks between the screens and the addition of the monitors helped add to my overall awareness of the maps I was playing on.  Overall, even through it’s faults, Eyefinity is a fantastic technology and I look forward to seeing it developed and perfected over the next couple of years.  I hope someone out there finds this review useful.  Below I have some pictures of my setup and parts and I’ve also got a video of Eyefinity in action.

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