ATI Radeon 5870 1GB Eyefinity Review - Conclusions

Submitted by skipclarke on 24 December, 2009 - 04:20

Article Type: 

TripleHead2Go Support

Unfortunately ATI was not able to implement support for custom resolutions (needed for 5040x1050) in the Catalyst software for the Radeon 5800. In speaking with our ATI rep, both the hardware and software were built new from the ground up. It wasn't an issue of carrying over an existing feature in a "software" upgrade, but in prioritizing resources within the new Catalyst build. You can utilize the TH2Go up to 3840x1024, but not on higher resolutions. Thus, the Radeon 5870 is not a valid upgrade path for most TH2Go users.

Opportunities for Improvement

No product is perfect, and I've outlined a few things that ATI could do to improve the Radeon 5870 and the Eyefinity experience. The good news is that most of the improvements are software based, and could be implemented in future driver releases. Both hardware issues I note below will be resolved in the Eyefinity6 release. It will be a 2GB board with 6 DP ports. The choices of ports and 1GB RAM were made to balance support for Eyefinity and support for the larger graphics market which was the primary target of the Radeon 5870. The 5870 basically opened the doors for Eyefinity from a hardware perspective. The Eyefinity6 will cater to our market.


2GB Card - Eyefinity users need 2GB - it's that simple. ATI should have launched with a 2GB option, especially for those EF users runing 5760x1200. We've seen in our NVIDIA testing how increased framebuffer will provide for a smoother experience at high resolution and/or high AA. Eyefinity users on the forum were asking for a 2GB card on launch day, and I believe they would have paid the appropriate premium for it.

3+ DisplayPorts - In speaking with our ATI rep, I found out that the two DVI ports were implemented to ensure an easy upgrade and backwards compatibility (from an installation perspective) for a large percentage of their existing market.


Catalyst Control Panel - ATI has been releasing monthly updates to the Catalyst drivers, so we know there are engineers working on the software. The solution may be as easy as adjusting the skin used in the CCC. An improved CCC would provide a better experience for all ATI users. Specific attention to Eyefinity would help highlight the technology and assist users with setting up their displays.

Intermediate Resolutions - This is probably one of the bigger outstanding issues. The lack of a viable "middle mode" in Eyefinity can mean the difference between a title being playable or unplayable for a user. ATI has picked 3840x1024 as that mode, which is unusable on widescreen displays. Rather than attempt to enable every possible resolution, a viable solution would be to simply pick 5040x1050 as that "middle mode."

Bezel Management - At their launch event, ATI demonstrated Bezel Management on a Linux-based installation. They have publicly stated they are working on the feature for Windows, but there is no ETA for a driver update or release.

CrossFire Support - Limited CrossFire (CF) support was implemented with the release of the Radeon 5970 (essentially an "X2" card). CF support was given wider release over the last few days (as of the completion of this review), with the release of the 9.12 driver. Users are still working through some initial issues with the implementation, and we are yet to determine how many games are able to support both Eyefinity and CrossFire at the same time.


I've spent a lot of the review talking about the things I don't like about the Radeon 5870. None of these issues are large enough that they should dissuade you from jumping into Eyefinity. Fixing even some of these issues would be the difference between Eyefinity been a great experience and an outstanding experience. I want that outstanding experience for myself, and for my users at the WSGF.

As a "normal" video card, the Radeon 5870 delivers great performance while it generates less noise and less heat inside your computer case, and all for less money that its current competition. It has outstanding DX10 performance, and is the only card family to support DX11. Based on that alone, the Radeon 5870 comes highly recommended.

However, there is more to the 5870 than just being a "normal" video card. The Radeon 5870 launched Eyefinity, and brought multi-monitor gaming to the mainstream. Gone is the need for additional hardware (as long as you have one DP port) and custom driver support. Gone are the limitations of 5040x1050 and 57Hz. I've outlined its shortcomings throughout this article, but they really do pale in comparison to what Eyefinity brings to the table today and what it can be tomorrow. Remember, no product is ever perfect.

If you haven't experienced multi-monitor gaming, then it is hard to explain what you're missing. The best I can do is direct you again to our YouTube Channel. If you've been waiting for the right time to take the plunge, I believe Eyefinity opens up that possibility to you.