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PowerColor Radeon HD 5870 Review

Date: 2009-9-24

   The Road to EvergreenThe ATI Radeon HD 4000 series made its debut with the Radeon HD 4870 and HD 4850 in June last year. Little did we know that these were the cards that heralded the comeback ...

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ATI Eyefinity

With the Radeon HD 5800 series, ATI is also introducing something new called Eyefinity. In a nutshell, what this means is extended support for multi-monitor setups, with up to six screens in fact. With the standard Radeon HD 5870, you'll be able to power up to three screens at up to 2560 x 1600 resolution each.

But with a special Eyefinity variant of the Radeon HD 5870 however, you'll be able to hook up to six monitors at full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution via DisplayPorts . Although this feature is for a decidedly niche audience, it looks pretty impressive especially if you are into flight and racing simulators, or if you're the kind who needs multiple applications open for viewing at the same time, like monitoring the stock markets. Eyefinity is also fully customizable, allowing you to arrange the screens as you wish and you can have your monitors in landscape or portrait mode.

PowerColor Radeon HD 5870 Review
Eyefinity is probably only for the most extreme hardcore power-users, but it opens up a world of possibilities of what you can do with your system. Here are some ways that you can set your monitors up.

PowerColor Radeon HD 5870 Review
The Eyefinity 6 variant of the Radeon HD 5870 comes with six DisplayPorts, allowing you to drive up to six monitors at full HD resolution. DVI was not an option since that would mean a tri-slot card at least.

DirectX 11

When talking about ATI's latest graphics cards, there's also a need to elaborate a bit on the improvements and new features that are found in DirectX 11, the latest version which is only found in the upcoming Windows 7 (and for Vista with an update). One of the most important new features that DirectX 11 brings to the table is compute shaders, made possible by DirectCompute. This feature makes it possible for the GPU to take on non-graphics related tasks such as physics acceleration. In fact, with DirectX 11 integral in Windows 7, ATI has previously shown demos of a drag and drop video transcoding function native in Windows 7.

On this related note about GPU computing, AMD has also partnered with software vendors like Adobe, ArcSoft, CyberLink and Sony to offer ATI Stream support on the Radeon HD 5800 series for applications involving video transcoding, encoding, DVD upscaling and other tasks which can take advantage of GPU computing.

Apart from DirectCompute, multi-threaded rendering is another eagerly anticipated feature. Traditionally, commands to the GPU are handled by a single CPU core, which underutilizes the other CPU cores and hampers the GPU. But in DirectX 11, multiple CPU cores can now be used to queue commands to the GPU. This makes better use of the CPU cores and will also greatly speed up the rendering pipeline.

Last but not least, another notable feature that DirectX 11 introduces is called tessellation. What tessellation does is increase the number of polygons visible in real time dynamically by means of a complex algorithm. This results in greater detail and translates to a higher level of realism. To get a better understanding of tessellation, here's a demo video by ATI below. While tessellation has been touted and supported by ATI GPUs since 2001, it did not get broad support previously. With this feature now in DirectX 11, expect developers to make greater use of it.

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