Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

AMD's ATI Radeon Eyefinity Performance Review

We’ve covered AMD’s ATI Radeon Eyefinity in terms of the experience provided, and now we will evaluate how Eyefinity actually performs across the entire line of ATI Radeon HD 5000 series video cards. From the Radeon HD 5970 down to the Radeon HD 5750, we review the performance of Eyefinity in some new games and some old.


Eyefinity Performance Summary by Card

The best way to summarize Eyefinity performance on the ATI Radeon HD 5000 series is to break it down by card and give you our opinion, based on our gameplay experiences.

Radeon HD 5970

If you want the best Eyefinity performance right now the Radeon HD 5970 is going to give you the best framerates. Thanks to the recently released Catalyst 9.12 Hotfix driver, CrossFireX is supported now on Eyefinity resolutions to some extent anyway. We have shown that the Radeon HD 5970 does have benefits in some games, but in some games it does not have any at all, and may actually deter performance.

Though you may get the highest framerates, that doesn’t mean you can actually utilize those to improve the gameplay experience. We think the Radeon HD 5970 is quite limited by having only 1GB of RAM per GPU at resolutions like 5760x1200. It is the nature of CrossFireX to duplicate textures between the GPUs into each GPU’s local memory, that being 1GB of space. At 5760x1200 the demand for memory space increases, especially when you factor in antialiasing. The Radeon HD 5970 could be being held back by its current memory size at Eyefinity resolutions. We hope AMD or its partners are planning future models with 2GB per-GPU in mind. We think it may be beneficial for Eyefinity.

Radeon HD 5870

The Radeon HD 5870 did very well for a single-GPU video card. It is thoroughly able to play every game we threw at it at 5760x1200. The only caveat is that you will have to lower settings depending on the game. It doesn’t really matter if the game is new or old either. Case in point, Left 4 Dead 2 is new, as well as DiRT 2 and those games played very well on the Radeon HD 5870. However, GTA4 didn’t perform as well as those games when the resolution was increased, and it is much older. Overall, this video card provided the most stable performance, without any performance drops, without any jerky or choppy behavior, it was all there.

Radeon HD 5850

Since the Radeon HD 5850 is cheaper, it automatically becomes more appealing just by price alone compared to the Radeon HD 5870. However, when it comes to Eyefinity resolutions there can be big differences between the HD 5850 and the HD 5870. DiRT 2 is a good example, in this game we were able to run with all the new fancy DX11 Tessellation effects at 5760x1200 on the Radeon HD 5870, but we were not able to with the Radeon HD 5850. The Radeon HD 5850 is the video card where we would call the edge of what you want to be running with Eyefinity resolutions.

Radeon HD 5770

The Radeon HD 5770 is what we would call under-performing for larger Eyefinity resolutions. Yes, the Radeon HD 5770 can run all Eyefinity resolutions, but in most games that is going to cost you a severe drop in image quality and thus the gameplay experience. Only in very few select games, or older games perhaps, the Radeon HD 5770 would work well. For example some older games, released 5+ years ago, might play very well on it at Eyefinity resolutions. Some newer games even like Left 4 Dead 2 also play well, but for the most part, it is underpowered for Eyefinity resolutions.

Radeon HD 5750

Technically the Radeon HD 5750 is capable of all the Eyefinity resolutions the rest of the video cards are. We tested it, and it is true, games will run at 5760x1200 on it. However, if you thought the Radeon HD 5770 was slow at 5760x1200, you haven’t met the HD 5750 at 5760x1200. Basically, several games were entirely unplayable tested here, and the ones that were had to be so drastically reduced in image quality it was simply crap, and not worth playing on at all. For Eyefinity gaming, the Radeon HD 5750 is to be avoided. Of course, it does have other uses outside of gaming in multiple display configurations, but this evaluation is focused on Eyefinity for gaming.

Eyefinity with New and Old Games

As our evaluation has shown, even older games can still pose a burden for current generation video cards when you raise the resolution really high. Eyefinity allows us to play games at extremely high resolutions, and older games like Flight Simulator X and Grand Theft Auto IV push the Radeon HD 5000 series in new ways at these high resolutions. Even though they are older games they have a need for faster GPUs when running at Eyefinity resolutions. No video card came close to maxing out GTA4 yet, not then, and not now. The need is very much there for faster video cards, especially now that we can run new and old games at 5760x1200 and upwards.

One thing I have learned while playing with AMD’s ATI Radeon Eyefinity technology is that it can breathe new life into old games. It has been a real thrill loading up older games in an Eyefinity configuration and enjoying them all over again in new ways. I have loaded up many games this past month with Eyefinity, going all the way back to the Quake 3 days. While I wish I could include every one of them here in this evaluation to get my point across, I can’t, so you’ll just have to take my word for it, Eyefinity is not just for new games.

The Bottom Line

ATI’s Eyefinity breathes new life into forgotten games. And it is responsible for delivering incredible experiences in new games too! Around HardOCP, Eyefinity has been responsible for a few of us falling back in love with PC gaming. There has been a lot less work done around HardOCP in the last two months because of Eyefinity. It goes without saying that with older games you aren’t guaranteed that you’ll be able to select the Eyefinity resolutions in the menu; some may require a bit of hacking to get them to work; but when they do though, wow, it is a whole new experience.

Many folks that have forsaken PC gaming for console will find Eyefinity luring them back as Eyefinity provides you with something no console can; more of the gaming world in your field of vision. Eyefinity is not just a larger screen; it is more pixels on that screen. You will see more of the gaming world than you have ever seen before.

Below is a sized down screen shot at 5760x1200 in Modern Warfare 2 on 3 24" displays. Below it is the "same" screenshot from a single 30" 2560x1200 display. The Eyefinity "screen" measure approximately 66" diagonally and of course the 30" is 30". As you can clearly see Eyefinity opens up your view tremendously beyond even what a 30" display shows you. We have an article coming up soon showing you more comparisons. But do keep in mind that Eyefinity is seeing more of your gaming world, not just seeing it bigger.

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Eyefinity is also for the future of gaming. Games like DiRT 2 will run on the entire Radeon HD 5000 series in Eyefinity resolutions. Multiple display gaming definitely seems to be the wave of the future of gaming, and AMD certainly receives credit for being the innovator of this new wave in gaming.

(Editor’s Note: I am still getting feedback from folks that seem to think Eyefinity is some kind of gimmick. Well it is not. Eyefinity is the real deal and has done more to enhance our gaming experiences at HardOCP than anything else has in a long time. 3dfx SLI brought me 1024x768. Then a few cards brought me 1600x1200 and then 2560x1200. Then Eyefinity brought me 5760x1200 and 3600x1920. Am I saying that Eyefinity is the single most important technology since 3dfx’ SLI? Yes I am. I fully believe that we are only at the tip of the ice berg. )

In summary, for Eyefinity gaming, most hardware and gaming enthusiasts do not want anything less than a Radeon HD 5850 with a resolution as large as 5760x1200. Obviously, lower resolutions with smaller multiple displays is going to give you overall better performance. Still, we think 5850 is going to be the "cut off" point for a great Eyefinity experience. If you can afford it, go with the Radeon HD 5870; it HardOCP’s preferred card. Looking at pricing though, the 5850 is probably the best value going in video cards at the moment. The 5850 is hard to beat overall. If you’ve got a large budget of expendable cash, then the Radeon HD 5970 is going to offer you the best performance overall. Keep in mind though; the 5970 is a mixed bag. Certainly though we will see the dual GPU performance only get better with future driver releases.

Here again is our video review of Eyefinity in action and what exactly it takes to get it running on your system. If you want to skip head after the open gameplay sequences, there are about 5 minutes more of realworld Eyefinity gameplay at 5760x1200 at the 29 minute mark.