ASUS Matrix 5870 Platinum
With the pervasiveness of information being provided at an increasing pace these days, we are simply at the mercy of our monitors’ ability to display that information; quite simply, a single monitor cannot accommodate the visual real estate many people now need. I use three monitors across a desk on a daily basis for regular productivity tasks, usually multitasking between word processing, browsing, and photo editing applications, not to mention chat messenging and additional programs that require space on my screens. Frankly, if my desk could hold a fourth screen, I would connect one. Keep in mind, however, that this also requires more than one graphics card, and SLI or Crossfire is out of the question to boost horsepower in games across three screens, for example; they simple don’t work on more than only two screens. So, multiple-display setups and technology has largely been fraught with headaches and disappointment for those who need the extra space, or may even want to consider gaming in a more truly immersive environment. That is, until now.
ATI Eyefinity is an advanced multiple-display technology that enables a single GPU to support up to six independent display outputs simultaneously. You can boost productivity and multitasking with a vastly expanded visual workspace, as well as intensify gaming with immersive playing environments that offer a stunningly wide field-of-view. Eyefinity will alow you to group multiple monitors into a large integrated display surface, enabling windowed and full-screen 3D applications, images, and video to span across multiple displays as one desktop workspace.
There will be many combinations of viewing space configurations available, both in portrait and landscape format, as well as a hybrid of both simultaneously. These are shown below:
As you can see, the possibilities are staggering, certainly nothing like the antiquated and frustrating setups we must now endure. There are a couple of caveats here, however, in order to fully harness the Eyefinity features. The first is that Windows Vista or Windows 7 must be the operating system employed; you cannot use Eyefinity with an older OS. The second stipulation is that ATI’s Eyefinity will allow you to connect at least three monitors to a single card but one of the displays must be a DisplayPort panel, and this an unfortunate restriction at this point since very few monitors on the market currently have this connectivity. Lastly, it must be understood that powering three or more screens requires some serious graphics processing horsepower, and while the 5870 is indeed a monster, the simple fact remains that modern games that push a card will suffer in terms of framerates as a result, possibly making certain games almost unplayable. Don’t expect to play Crysis Warhead at 7680×4800 resolution without it being a slideshow.
There are, however, games that are playable at such extreme resolutions. In the video demonstration below, ATI Eyefinity multi-monitor technology is driving an immersive, panoramic gaming experience on Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. at an amazing 5760×2400 resolution and spanning across six monitors employing the Display Port 1.1 interface.
If you have the need for multiple displays and the budget to support it, chances are you’ll be inclined to run three screens across in landscape format, since 22" panels are quite affordable now, and it’s not as though monitors are obsolete in two years like a graphics card. If you were to invest in an additional monitor or two, you’d soon find yourself wondering how you ever managed to function with only one screen; you won’t go back, trust me.
This is a case, however, of the software preceeding the hardware. While Eyefinity is ready for primetime in the here and now, DisplayPort technology isn’t mainstream yet, and can get very expensive for large monitors. Further, panels that have DisplayPort connectivity but also come with very thin bezels to reduce the "jump" between screens are even more rare. Samsung is working on a couple such products but no release date has been mentioned. So the reality is that multiple-panel displays is now available, but it’s not entirely accessible nor affordable just yet.