ATI Eyefinity - the good, the bad and the ugly

Upon buying my new pc, I decided to go for the “best of the best” in the current semi-single card graphics world, as such – when I saw the ATI 5970 in stock, I instantly ordered before they’d run out (again!).

Now, my previous PC setup had a 30” Dell monitor running at 2560x1600, with a 27” Dell monitor for “support” and general two-monitor fun, but after seeing some of the really cool videos of Eyefinity in action on youtube, I decided I just had to try and see how it would work out.

The prices for the 30” monitors seemed a tad too steep for me to invest two additional matching monitors - not to mention I’d run out of desk-space – so the solution was to grab a hold of 3x relatively cheap 24” monitors to be able to run 1920x1080x3 (5760x1080). This went relatively well, however, the 3 outputs on the card are 2x DVI and 1x mini-DisplayPort, one of which proves to be more painful than the others! Now, there’s a technical explanation of why it “needs” to be a mini-DP, but I’m not going to go into detail here, I just wanted things to work! In addition to this, the regular mini-DP to DVI adapters won’t work with eyefinity, you need an active powered adapter, which really isn’t available in my region – unless you decide to go with the Apple link… and this is extremely expensive for just a small adapter!

After reading around, one of the reasons why you need an active adapter is to support a potential 30” 2560x1600 resolution, something which I really didn’t need. So, I checked out the alternatives, and apparently you can use a mini-DP to VGA adapter as long as you don’t go above the 1920x1200 resolution – it worked nicely and cost 10% of what the DVI adapter did!

Setting it up is a breeze really, go into Catalyst and select the order in which the screens are, and woosh! It merges all your screens into one! It’s quite funny to watch really!

Now, starting off with the good … I decided to give Dirt 2 a spin, the racing game that came with the graphics card, and it’s just plain awesome! The added vision that you have on the sides, really gives you a much more immersive experience, and I think it’s one of the few times I can honestly say I’ve really enjoyed racing games!

The bad … not a lot of games actually support Eyefinity just like that; some support the resolution, but just stretch everything so it’s so horrible that it’s just no use, while in-game movies tend to keep the aspect ratio of the originally intended video, resulting in you either seeing only the top, middle or bottom of the movie. If a game doesn’t support the resolution and jumps to 1920x1080, Eyefinity detects this and decides to go single-screen mode, so people should be able to go around this if they wanted to really.

The ugly part came around when I played Left 4 Dead 2 (for the first time in my life), as I really wanted to try a FPS with eyefinity! The level of immersion was so good and I’d literally jump when I’d see zombies jumping at me from “the side” – I was actually reminded of the first dark Half-Life sections back in the day where it’s all dark and quiet before you have a screechy head-crab jumping at your face, that’s how I was getting worked up during the first level of the game.

So, what’s bad with this? Well, as I finished the first 20-30 minutes I was getting fairly dizzy. I usually keep my mouse sensitivity fairly high, and this apparently really messed with my head, as I all of a sudden got the urge to run to the bathroom to throw up. I suspect there’s a warning label somewhere saying you should only play this with extremely horrible sensitivity, or in segments of 30secs at a time. Either way, I was throwing up and feeling sick the next 24 hours as a result of this, and I’m not the person to ever get sick like that sitting in front of a PC, ever.

All in all, Eyefinity is excellent fun for the games that support it – especially if used carefully when you encounter FPS-games. I recently played Settlers 7 with it, and apart from some minor misadjustments and the ingame movie problem, it’s really adding to the whole game experience. If you have an eyefinity-capable graphics card, there’s really no reason to not go for a setup like that regardless with the cheap monitors at the moment, even if you don’t use it for the eyefinity-mode, what’s not to like about 3 monitors? :)

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