The Crosshair Problem

With my wall of panels constructed it was time to plug them all in and begin the easy part. At POST and while starting Windows, only two of the panels actually display anything. Installing the driver and going through the Eyefinity setup process is the same as for a lesser number of displays. I will say that driver interactions involving creating/manipulating the six displays are sluggish. You just get the feeling that there's a lot going on under the hood. I've included a video below that shows a complete driver setup of a 6 display Eyefinity system so you can see for yourself. Pay attention to how long it takes for each display to activate at some points during the install.

With the software configured I had a single large display that appeared to Windows as a 5760 x 2160 monitor.  And here is where I ran into my first problem using an Eyefinity 6 setup.  Dialog boxes normally appear in the middle of your display, which in my case was at the joining of two monitor bezels. Here's an example of a dialog box appearing on an Eyefinity 6 setup without bezel correction:

Note how the dialog box is actually stretched across both panels. It's even worse in games, but luckily as of Catalyst 10.3 AMD has enabled bezel correction in the driver to avoid the stretching problem. While bezel correction makes things look more correct in games, it does cause a problem for anything appearing behind the bezel:

Half the time I didn't even notice when a little window had popped up asking me to do something because it was hidden by my bezels. This happens a lot during software installs where the installer is asking you a question while you're off paying attention to something else on one of your 6 displays. 

In my previous coverage on Eyefinity I mentioned that the thickness of the bezels wasn't an issue for gaming. In a three display setup I still stand by that. However with six monitors, particularly because of this occluded center point problem, bezel thickness is a major issue. 

It's an even bigger issue in certain games, particularly first person shooters because there's usually a crosshair in the middle of your screen. Take a look at what aiming in Battlefield Bad Company 2 looks like with an Eyefinity 6 setup:

Somewhere behind that bezel is an enemy on a vehicle. You simply can't play an FPS seriously on an E6 setup, you have to guess at where you're aiming if you're shooting at anything directly ahead of you. Here's another example in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat:

Eyefinity 6 was just not made for FPSes. The ideal setup for an FPS would actually be a 5x1 portrait mode, which is currently not supported in AMD's drivers. AMD is well aware of the limitation and is working on enabling 5x1 at some point in the future.

Racing, flight sims or other person titles are much better suited to this 6-display configuration. I recorded a video of our DiRT 2 benchmark as an example:

The experience in these sorts of games is much more immersive, although it is frustrating to only really be able to use a subsection of titles on such an expensive display setup. You may find that it's more affordable/immersive/useful to just take the resolution hit and get a good 720p or 1080p projector to hook up to your gaming PC instead.

The aspect ratio issues that are present with a 3x1 landscape setup aren't as prevalent in a 3x2 configuration. At 5760 x 2160 you're much closer to 16:9 than you would be at 5760 x 1080. Far more games stretch well to this resolution, although there's still a lack of good compatibility with the majority of games out there.

AMD claims it is working with developers on enabling proper FOV and aspect ratio adjustments for Eyefinity setups, but it's not always easy. AMD is also working on alternatives to deal with the crosshair problem - for example by making the games aware of bezel correction and shifting the position of the crosshair for Eyefinity users. The AMD Display Library SDK update includes resources for developers to use when developing for Eyefinity platforms.

Given the secrecy surrounding Eyefinity's creation it's not surprising that most developers haven't had the opportunity to include support for it in current titles. Going forward we should see more native support however. Some developers are viewing technologies like Eyefinity as a way of differentiating and promoting PC versions of console titles to help boost sales.

Completing the Eyefinity 6 Build More Games & Productivity
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  • fernando.gomes@ydreams.com - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link

    Hi, Anand.

    Did you have a chance to try (or ask the AMD guys) about 12 screens? Crossfiring 2 E6 cards makes you wonder about that chance.

    I once had a chance to put up a 4x3 screen, 2 years ago, with absolutely no bezel whatsoever, but that set up cost my company an insane amount of money. Each screen cost 7.000$, for starters.

    I see this E6 as an alternative to keep an eye on. I couldn't care less about the bezel problems, as my company usually sets up multiscreen displays either with projectors or with bezelless LCD's, but 6 displays might not be enough for our line of work.

    So, can it be crossfired to a 12 screen 3D accelerated output ? (I'm not concerned about performance, as our apps usually don't stress GPU's much)
    Reply
  • fernando.gomes@ydreams.com - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link



    When I wrote "a 4x3 screen", I meant "a 4x3 multi-screen display, as per 12 x 720p displays arranged in a 4x3 grid"


    PS: damn, we should be able to edit our own posts!
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link

    It can be done. They had it working under Linux using X-Plane back at their September launch. However it's not even close to being in a shipping state, and I don't have the foggiest idea when it would be. Reply
  • fernando.gomes@ydreams.com - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the quick reply, Ryan.

    Can you tell me how that works, in practice. Now that Windows 7 (and Vista) ditched horizontal spanning, I can't just set my company's apps to 3072x768 (3 screens), because that resolution is not even made available by the driver anymore.

    From my previous experiente, I can say that as long I have the taskbar spanned through 3 screens, it is safe to assume that I will be able to accelerate 3D apps at the same resolution as the desktop, at least.

    Eyefinity must be somewhat different. If the Catalyst 10.3 is still compliant with WDDM 1.1, then I'm guessing our 3D engine must be 'approved' or at least able to aknowledge the availability of Eyefinity.

    Back in the XP days, spanning throug 2 screens was transparent - the 3D app didn't even know it was outputting to 2 or more screens, but with eyefinity, compatibility must be achieved at a much lower level. Is that right?

    I'm sorry to bother you, but I don't have access to a hands-on approach.

    Thanks,

    Fernando
    Reply
  • fernando.gomes@ydreams.com - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link

    I'm sorry for the long post, guys.

    Shorter version:

    - Does the desktop look like XP in Span mode ?(I think I see a taskbar streched along 3 screens, in Anand's video)
    - when you run a 3D app (one that is NOT oficially compatible), will 'awkward' resolution (say 5760x2160) be availabe as a choice?

    If you answer YES to these 2, then I'm saved, and I'm in trouble aswell, as my company only supports Nvidia (and changing this standard will cost a lot, testing in Quality Assurance will be havoc. Time for a change, I guess. :)

    Fernando

    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link

    Background info: Eyefinity is the trade name for what AMD calls Single Large Surface technology. SLS operates pretty much as how the name implies: the drivers provide a very large resolution option for applications to work with, and then AMD's hardware takes care of chopping up the image for multiple monitors. Providing the OS/software with a very large resolution is the fundamental aspect behind Eyefinity.

    So to answer your questions, yes, 3D games see the large resolution. As for the desktop I've never tried it (and Anand currently has all of our Eyefinity gear). To applications/games at least, this is completely transparent. Eyefinity support basically amounts to being able to handle the oddball aspect ratios and the higher resolutions.in the case where resolutions are hard-coded in.
    Reply
  • vgdarkstar - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link

    I would like to point out to all the naysayers of multimon, you stop seeing the bezels after using it for a bit. Do you notice your nose? it's the same effect. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link

    I agree with that completely which is why I said it wasn't an issue in a 3x1 setup. However in the case of a 3x2 configuration you always notice the bezels in the center of your screen because they often occlude important information (e.g. dialog boxes, crosshairs, etc...).

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Zstream - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link

    Why is it that people believe this setup is meant just for gaming? What about people who can have six LCD screens monitoring all sort of devices in a corporate world? What about those who use photoshop and can use other multi-monitor software?

    Just a thought, not all geeks are gamers you know ;)
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link

    Oh I agree, and that's why I mentioned dialog boxes as being a problem. Honestly I think the biggest application for a 6-display setup right now is for more than just gaming. It's just a shame that you have to buy a $479 gaming card to enable it :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply

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