Crossfire, Eyefinity and You.May 18, 2013
Prior, I was using SoftTH for 3×1 gaming. While the software was extremely flexible and, personally, a more preferred method of Mult-monitor gaming as it allowed far more customization. The 5xxx cards are MADE for multi-monitor gaming thru Eyefinity. Sure, it sounds like just a gimmick, given that SoftTH proved just about anything could do it. But, the Radeon 5xxx line was designed with this in mind, with the ability to hook up 3 displays to one card, and a hefty amount of streaming units to help keep those higher resolutions running smooth. Going from SoftTH to the built in Eyefinity setup, I gained anywhere from 20fps to 50fps. Some of the negatives of Eyefinity are few, but substantial.
First, in order to use bezel compensation, the ability to “increase the screen size past the bezel around the viewing screen.” so you get a more seamless, window like view is only allowed when you have 3 of the same monitor. Second, all monitors must be pointing the same direction when using 3 in a portrait fashion. May not sound like a problem, but not all monitors are symmetrical. some have larger bezels at the bottom, or even curved, non-uniform bezel bottoms near the base, making it impossible to get a clean, gapless look between the monitors unless you swivel one of the end screens the opposite direction. but this isn’t something you can do with Eyefinity, you could with SoftTH.
And the single biggest issue I am having right now with Eyefinity actually has to do with Crossfiring 2 cards together. Not too long ago, Crossfire simply didn’t work at all with Eyefinity. When Eyefinity was enabled, Crossfire was ignored. Until the 5970 was released (2 5870’s on one board.) with that, ATI released the 9.12hotfix drivers that allowed for Crossfire+Eyefinity (Cross-finity) But this had issues, and to this day, it is still far from spectacular… lets face it, it’s just about useless.
–Know the lingo–
So, I’ve thrown around some fancy words that a few people aren’t accustom to. Lemme explain a few key items that this article talks about.
SLi and Crossfire:
Sli (Scanline Interleave.) was originally developed by 3dfx in 1998 and used in there Voodoo2 line of videocards. What you would do, is you could buy 2 Voodoo2 cards, connect them via a cable, and the cards would trade off duty on who rendered each set of interlacing frames. think of it as a rail trolley cart where you have to bump one side and then the other to move. Imagine doing that by yourself (slow.) now imagine a friend helping. it was a lot like that.
Fast forward to 2010, Nvidia and ATI now use the same principle. The latest line of Video cards from both companies can actually run up to 4 cards at one time. While the technique and coding is different, it all started from 3dfx so long ago. SLi is now known as “Scalable Linked Interface” and is used by Nvidia, while Crossfire is the term used by ATI and there ability to run multiple cards.
With the release of ATI’s Radeon 5xxx series of video cards, They have introduced the ability to connect up to a staggering 12 displays simultaneously. While the most common configuration is 3×1. Meaning 3 displays in a single line (like the picture above.) They are also selling a card with the ability to run 6 displays (3×2. 3 displays on top of 3 more.) Powercolor is staging to release a card that can run 12 at once. Pictured here. While the basics of this aren’t particularly new, the technique is. instead of the computer thinking you have 3/6 or 12 different monitors hooked up. With Eyefinity enabled, the computer will think you have one single LARGE display hooked up.. meaning, when you start up a game, movie, etc. instead of the software thinking “Ok, I’ll just run right here..in this screen only.” the software sees a single huge display and goes “lets run in this one giant screen.” This may sound like it’s just a simple software trick, which, in kindof is…the way that the Radeon 5xxx cards are made is what makes them stand up to the added resolution spike!
This one should be easy to get, if you google the term only a couple hits come up, This is when you have both Crossfire, and Eyefinity enabled. Simple as that.
—The Myths Debunked—
8x-8x motherboard is why is sucks!
My computer is no slouch. i7 860 overclocked to 3.8ghz, 8gb 1666mhz RAM, 620gb RAID-0, 2×5870’s. a Few reading this are going to go “Well, the 1156 sux0rz for crossfire stupid, 8x-8x is why it fails. lololol.” To that I say, you’re an idiot, and read THIS. Which basically says there is a meager 4% performance hit. so, instead of getting a 61% increase on a 16x-16x motherboard, because you’ll never get 100% more performance from adding another card, I’d only get a 57% increase. Lemme explain a little:
Newer motherboards have PCI-e slots. These slots are what you put your video cards, sound cards, etc into to communicate with your computer. These slots run and certain “speeds” 1x, 4x, 8x, 16x and 32x. 16x, which 1366 socket motherboards have 2 of, can move data back and forth from the card at 16,000MB per second. Yeah, that’s a lot. The 1156 socket board also has 2, but is only able to run one of these slots at 16x at one time. Meaning, when you put in another card into the other 16x slot. BOTH slots drop down to 8x. (8,000MB of data both directions.) Now, that may sound like a huge disadvantage. But again, it’s only 4%. Now, back to the Myths.
Only 9.12hotfix is supported!
This is not accurate at all, each driver SINCE the 9.12hotfix is able to run Cross-finity. The 9.12hotfix was just the first driver to enable it, but every release since then can do it.
You’re CPU is bottlenecking!
…While this may technically, as crazy as it sounds that a 3.8ghz quad core 8-hyperthreaded CPU be true that it is the bottleneck, at super high resolutions, it’s possible… but, it would NOT warrant the kind of performance or flat out LACK of crossfire activation as I am having, and many others are having.
There is no such thing as Microstuttering
I have seen a few forum threads trying to say that Microstuttering doesn’t exist…. which is complete crap. For everyone not “in the know”. “Microstuttering” is a phenomenon deeply inherent in the SLi/Crossfire experience. What is “theorized” as happening, is that when the 2 cards are swapping data, one card will either miss the data for a frame being rendered and just wait for the next one. this can happen hundreds of times per second which results in a sudden, sharp drop in framerate. but then the game goes back up to it’s regular framerate a split second later. What this will result in is a gameplay feeling that is slower than what your framerate readout is.. So, while in crossfire mode, you can brag about having 120fps in a game, but,.. really.. it only feels like 60fps, or, but getting 50fps in CF (crossfire.) but it feels like 25. What this can cause is a laggy feeling in controls, less then smooth framerates…and just an overall feeling that it totally isn’t worth it to even have the second card installed! This has happened to me in many games. While a single monitor is fine because you’re getting such a high framerate, spanned across 3 monitors, Crossfire is almost unusable in many instances without dropping the detail.. which is exactly WHY I bought the second card to begin with.. defeating the purpose.
While testing my CrossFinity setup, I have come across 2 major problems that nearly warrant the return of one of my cards. Both have been tested individually, and are working properly. But in crossFinity, I have this happen:
1.) Performance at ultra high resolutions (above 4900×1600.) doesn’t “feel” as smooth as simply having 1 card. While, technically, according to the Frame Rate output, it is.
|Crossfire Enabled||Crossfire Disabled|
|Bad Company 2||42fps||31fps|
|Directx 9||Directx 10||Directx 11|
|Crossfinity/Landscape||Crossfire enabled||Crossfire enabled||Crossfire enabled|
|Crossfinity/Portrait||Crossfire Disabled||Crossfire enabled||Crossfire enabled|