Product: ATI Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition
Company: AMD
Authour: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: March 31st, 2010
Eyefinity: The Technology

Launched at AMD's VISION event in September 2009, Eyefinity is a multi-display technology that seamlessly provides multiple large surfaces to applications. Supported bottom to top in the HD 5000 series, a DisplayPort output is used to connect a third monitor. The driver can then be used to make the combined area of the displays seen as a Single Large Surface (SLS).

Eyefinity Desktop
Eyefinity Desktop

The AMD ATI Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity6 edition extends that support to six attached displays, providing Ultra Enthusiast level consumers with a new option for their ultimate computing needs. The card offers several crucial changes from the standard Radeon HD 5870, starting with replacing all normal display outputs with six mini-DisplayPort outputs. This allows the rear vent of heatsink to be full length, which is important for increased power of the card, now powered by a 6-pin and an 8-pin PCIe power connector. The ATI Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 is the first graphics card capable of rendering in excess of 1 billion pixels per second in today's titles, unleashing PC game environments of unprecedented size and resolution.

DisplayPort

DisplayPort is a royalty free display interface standard developed by VESA that can provide a 17.2Gbps data rate and offers a secondary control link. Embedded DisplayPort (eDP) has been adopted widely by OEMs for internal connections inside computers, such as notebooks. DisplayPort supports color depths from 6 to 16-bit per color component, with resolutions restricted only by link bandwidth.

Mini DisplayPort to Full DisplayPort
Mini DisplayPort to Full DisplayPort

DisplayPort provides a protected content playback path using DisplayPort Content Protection, a 128-bit AES encrypted method from Philips, as well as supporting HDCP. DisplayPort also supports audio, including an 8 channel LPCM audio path. AMD introduced support for this with Catalyst 9.12, extending their support for 7.1 Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio over HDMI to include DisplayPort.

Connectors, Adapters and Timing Signals

AMD's adoption of DisplayPort enabled Eyefinity due to its lack of timing signal requirement - the Evergreen family's display engines offer timing signals for two concurrent digital outputs only, which is why you can't use DVI + DVI + HDMI outputs for Eyefinity; and why you need an Active DisplayPort adapter. A maximum of two 'legacy' displays can be connected and active at any one time - here 'legacy' means HDMI, DVI, VGA - i.e. anything not DisplayPort. This includes 'legacy' displays connected via passive DisplayPort adapters.

Active DisplayPort adapters include TMDS transmitters to add the missing timing signals for Dual-Link DVI or HDMI, or Digital-to-Analog Converters for VGA output, and can be powered from a USB port. AMD have a list of validated adapters, here. Included with the retail boxed Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity6 edition cards are five adapters - two to full size DisplayPort, two passive single link DVI adapters, and a passive HDMI dongle. The Eyefinity 6 edition still requires four of the six displays to be connected via DisplayPort, or to use an active DisplayPort adapter.

File 13 - Quad CrossFireX Eyefinity
File 13 - Quad CrossFireX Eyefinity

The recent Catalyst architecture update (Catalyst 10.2) also introduced support for Eyefinity in a CrossfireX configuration, other than the Radeon HD 5970. All displays must be connected to the primary rendering card - it doesn't look likely that multi-card output will be ever enabled, and AMD's showcased Linux 24-display Eyefinity is unfortunately shelved.


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