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A $30 Adapter, a World of Eyefinity Possibilities

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SKYMTL

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Even though it is the talk of the town these days, multi monitor gaming has been around for years. Adapters like Matrox’s iconic TripleHead2Go led the industry towards a wider acceptance of surround setups but in all reality, the concept never really caught on all that quickly. Let’s be honest, the road to surround gaming has long been paved with high prices, bulky adapters and insufficient driver support. Game support also just wasn’t quite up to snuff due to limited developer interest in the possibility of spanning three or more displays. Even if you did get everything to work properly, there was still the matter of thick monitor bezels intruding into your field of vision to contend with.

With their HD 5000-series’ Eyefinity technology, ATI turned over a brand new leaf in the book of display immersion and surround gaming in general. With it, users now have the means to span three to six displays directly from their graphics card without the need for any expensive connection adapters and from the comfort of the Catalyst Control Center. There was however one serious limitation to this wondrous new technology from ATI: the need for a DisplayPort connector.

DisplayPort in and of itself is simply billed as a direct replacement for the DVI connector we have all come to know and sometimes hate. Unfortunately, ATI’s goals for running more than two displays off of a single card hinge on the use of this relatively new-to-market standard and this seems to have somewhat curtailed the initial excitement about Eyefinity. The reasoning behind this lack of enthusiasm was due to the fact that DisplayPort-equipped monitors were (and still are) more expensive than their DVI-totting brethren. Alternately, one could choose to go another route and buy an active DisplayPort to dual link DVI adapter but this also had one major drawback: a $120 price tag.

NVIDIA’s own Surround solution burst onto the market without the need for next-generation display connectors but since their cards lack the ability to run three active display outputs, SLI was necessary. Crossfire setups on the other hand don’t support more than two monitors without at least one DisplayPort connector feeding information to a display so in essence ATI needed something to compete with NVIDIA Surround that didn’t involve a huge monetary investment. Enter the $30 DisplayPort to single link DVI adapter.

EYEFINITY-7.JPG
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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The DisplayPort to Single Link DVI Adapter

The DisplayPort to Single Link DVI Adapter



Passive, Active; the Differences

EYEFINITY-6.JPG

When Eyefinity was first introduced, many were confused about exactly what type of DisplayPort adapter needed to be used in for systems configured with three DVI-equipped monitors. Some sites were advertising products which converted a DisplayPort signal to DVI for a little as $10 while others advertised “active” adapters for more than $100 a pop. Is there a difference? You betcha.

Even though DisplayPort is supposed to replace DVI, the signals produced by these two connection types are very much different from one another. A few devices have the ability to natively pass a DVI signal directly through the DisplayPort connector and all they need is a simple, inexpensive pass-through (or passive) adapter. On the other hand, ATI’s HD 5000-series produce a native DisplayPort signal without DVI attributes and as such the signal needs to be actively converted. This naturally leads to the price premium on active, dual link adapters.


Single Link for the Masses

EYEFINITY-1.JPG

One of the main reasons for the high price of many active adapters is their compatibility with the high bandwidth, high resolution dual link DVI standard. However, a single-link DVI connection still allows for resolutions up to 1920 x 1200 at 60Hz which encompasses the vast majority of monitors currently on the market. Even the soon to be standard 1080P computer display resolution falls well within the limits of a single link DVI. If you want higher resolutions you will still need to go with the dual link connection though.

EYEFINITY-4.JPG
EYEFINITY-2.JPG

Make no mistake about it, active single link DisplayPort to DVI adapters haven’t been seen on the market as of yet but things are about to change. AMD is aiming to satisfy the vast majority of the gamers out there by pushing several manufacturers to begin distributing both the standard and mini DisplayPort versions more widely. Board partners will also be including them as part of their standard packaging for some ATI GPUs. The price if bought separately will be a svelte $30 and retailers should begin stocking them over the course of the next week or so.
 

SKYMTL

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Parting Thoughts

Parting Thoughts


With NVIDIA’s newly christened Surround initiative, ATI was put into a bit of a tough position. Their competitor’s solution was compatible with literally every single monitor while the HD 5000-series required one of two items: a DisplayPort-equipped monitor or a widely available yet costly dual link adapter. Things needed to change and change they did.

By pushing for the availability and helping with the development of inexpensive single link adapters, AMD is in the process of making multi monitor far more accessible for a larger cross-section of the market. Granted, buying three or more monitors isn’t a proposition many would care to stomach but at least there are now infinitely more monitor options and price points to choose from. Also, with monitor manufacturers slowly jumping on the slim bezel bandwagon, we could be sitting at the very cusp of a renaissance in multi monitor gaming. AMD even provides a handy micro-site where it is possible to find a list of Eyefinity validated dongles and provides an excellent resource for anyone thinking of jumping onto the multi monitor bandwagon.

EYEFINITY-3.JPG

Just be aware of the limitation: any monitor with a resolution above 1920 x 1200 won’t work. In all reality though, if you need the resolutions provided by a dual link connection, you will likely be able to afford the $120 for the higher-end adapter anyways. Edit: These adapters can also be used on any DisplayPort output so if you happen to have an Eyefinity 6 or Eyefinity 5 card, every output could be fitted with a dongle.

After using the DisplayPort to single link DVI adapter for the last few days, it has become quite obvious to us that AMD really is onto something here. This is an uncomplicated solution that doesn’t require device drivers to be installed beyond the usual Catalyst software suite and unlike the expensive dual link adapter; it doesn’t require external power either. As Apple like saying about their own products: it just works.

Anything that allows for more people to have access to multi monitor setups can only mean good things for the PC gaming industry. As such, we have nothing but applause for AMD taking the initiative and lowering the overall cost of owning an Eyefinity setup.



 
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