Crossfire, Eyefinity and You.

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31502_1311688796823_1368725465_30768315_5327779_n_thumb.jpgRecently, I upgraded my computers video card from a GTX275 to dual 5870’s to, hopefully, increase the framerate and overall enjoyment of having 3 monitors.

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.

Eyefinity:
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!

CrossFinity:
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.

–My problems–

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
Dirt 2 51fps 28fps
Bad Company 2 42fps 31fps
Metro 2033 31fps 22fps
As you can see, Crossfire definitely adds Frames per second.  But, the microstuttering makes it, a lot of the time, actually feel slower than with Crossfire disabled!.  its quite annoying.  This isn’t just isolated to these 3 games, it’s most the games that I have tried this with.  Keep in mind, this is Crossfire+Eyefinity. (CrossFinity.) The only way I have found to “fix” this issue, is to drop the detail levels of the game, which defeats the entire purpose of owning a second card, as I could just disabled Crossfire and enjoy the game at a smoother FPS, granted, a lower one, but it feels better.  This behavior was exhibited in every driver version I have tried. (9.12hotfix, 10.2, 10.3, 10.4, 10.5 and 10.x) every single driver felt the same.. there was just something “off” that felt WORSE than a single card.
IMG_0020
2.) The other issue I have had was only recently “answered” in the form of this post at FiringSquad (scroll down to the last paragraph of the “Radeon 5970 Eyefinity Support.)  My problem is I primary like my monitors in Portait Mode.  Where instead of the screens being LOooONG and short (like having them lined up regularly.) I like to have them on there sides, tall and narrow.  so it’s like one big screen, like the picture to the right.  I think it’s better for First person shooters such as Left 4 Dead 2 (Pictured.) Borderlands, Call of Duty, etc. etc.
The Problem, was Crossfire was not activating in nearly every game that I tried while in Portrait Eyefinity.  out of the 20 some games installed on my computer…2 so far have worked… just 3.  out of these 20, probably 15 will work when the monitors are in Landscape mode.  Interestingly, those 4 games are the only games that I have are DX10 games.  I decided to run a couple in DX9 only.  Oddly, they didn’t enable Crossfire this time.  Once I went back to DX10, Crossfire was enabled.  I decided to google this weird issue and so far, have only found a hand full of other people who have noticed.  I’m guessing, not many people use portrait mode for there eyefinity setup.  Let’s recap.
Directx 9 Directx 10 Directx 11
Crossfinity/Landscape Crossfire enabled Crossfire enabled Crossfire enabled
Crossfinity/Portrait Crossfire Disabled Crossfire enabled Crossfire enabled
Above you’ll see that Directx 10 is yellow for enabled, thats because there where a few Dx10 games that didn’t work, or wouldn’t start crossfire while in portrait.  the couple of dx 11 games I have use crossfire in any monitor configuration though.  since I only have a couple, I can’t say that dx11 is the saving grace.  especially when I have far more dx9 games….which flat out won’t start Crossfire while my monitors are in Portrait mode.
–The Verdict–
While I can say that Crossfire on a single screen could increase your frame rate to crazy amounts and allow for a lot of Anti-aliasing and AF.  Right now, I simply don’t see it as a viable option for those that where hoping for it to work miracles with multiple screens hooked up.  I dunno… maybe it is just something with my motherboard or something like that.. but, when I can get better performance out of 1 card as opposed to 2… there is a problem somewhere.
—–UPDATE: ———
Well, I kept messing with it, over and over, trying to figure out what the hell the problem was with the performance.  I realized after some close watching, that in nearly all games that ran “Smooth” in Crossfinity, that every 5 seconds exactly, the frame rate would drop for a split second, and go back up.  if the framerate was 60, it would drop to 45 for a a couple frames and than go right back up until 5seconds past.  This caused an extremely annoying “hitch” to all games.  The only real things that can cause such a behavior is bad ram timings, USB devices polling for too much data in that interval, some sort of monitoring program (firewalls, Anti-virus software, Hardware monitors like RivaTuner or MSI Afterburner.) or a HDD on the way out.  After messing with RAM timings endlessly, I found that wasn’t the problem.  I even messed with the PCI-E “Request Packet Size” thingy, didn’t work.  Changes PCI Latency, PCI-E Mhz, CPU speeds, Ram speeds… still nothing.  So, I basically removed the theory it was a hardware issue (on my computer, anyways.)
So, I started looking at different programs and processes that where running in the background.  Turned off every, what I thought, non-essential process and program running I could find.  Still, the same thing. On a last ditch effort I turn off “MOM.exe” (ATI Catalyst Control Center Monitoring service.) and “CCC.exe” (The actual Catalyst Control Center service.)  Now, I’m not sure which one it actually was, as I haven’t had time to do it all again.  But this removed the 5-second stutter!!.  I was so relieved.
Now, if only Portrait Mode was better supported, and some games still didn’t simply run like crap (Crysis, AvP.)

12 thoughts on “Crossfire, Eyefinity and You.”

  1. Issues here also, most noticeable in Dirt 2. framerate stays the same but has some hitching/stuttering . framerate does not drop at all .If it does, it is not noticeable in fraps.

    This mostly happens when turning and coming out of a turn. happens in singleplayer as well as multiplayer. game is on the verge of being unplayable even though it smooths out in the strait ways. I have tried everything possible. internet connection is excellent. happens on both gaming rigs. one is crossfinity and other is a single 5870. although on the rig with the single card. this phenomenon is not that noticeable. and actually could be some other issue. Maybe I’m just hypersensitive. because of my crossfinity problems

    This just started happening for me about 2 weeks ago. uninstalled through steam on both rigs, reinstalled.

    a little history:
    I was running 3 X ASUS VW266H 25.5″in Eyefinity w/bezel comp 6048 X 1200 resolution. w/bislink displayport active adapter. did not have this issue at all ,and dirt 2 ran smooth average- 60-65 FPS

    Just recently upgraded to 3 X Dell U2410 24″ monitors with same resolution. These are IPS panles with a native displayport. It was at or around this time that I noticed this hitching/stuttering. this would also be the only change I have done to my set up in that time period.

    When I had the Asus monitors
    I Was running the 10.3 drivers. because that fixed my windows flickering issue. (Another long story and unrelated to this problem) I never downloaded the 10.4 drivers. because I heard a lot of people were getting the flickering issue again . everything was fine. so i didn’t download them .

    Then I upgraded to the dell IPS panels with native DP. after doing so. I started getting to where my windows would flicker when I moved them around or would re size or scroll with the 10.3 drivers that had been running so good. the exact same issue i had before. So I figured it would be a good time to give the 10.4 drivers a try. Maybe that would get rid of the problem . Guess what……….. it did. all seemed good. then the 10.5 drivers came around and after downloading them I got the same windows flickering again and then I went back to the 10.4’s.

    Confusing ….Right !! thats how my whole experience has been with crossfinity. Very frustrating to say the least.
    anyway the issue you describe sound similar to what I am experiencing at this point in time.

    disabled crossfire.
    low settings.
    tried xbox controller ,G27 wheel ,and keyboard
    updated drivers
    cleaned rig , GPU temps never go above 60c
    nothing ??

    PSU: 1000W Corsair HX
    Processor: Intel Core i7 960 cooler master V8
    Motherboard: ASUS P6T Deluxe
    Memory: corsair 6GB DDR3
    GPU: 5870 X 2 crossfire
    HD: 300GB WD VelociRaptor primary, Seagate Barracuda 1 Tb X 2 storage
    LCD Display: Dell U2410 24″ X 3 in Eyefinity 6048 X 1200 Resolution
    OS: Windows 7 64

    Other rig is

    Chassis: Cooler Master HAF 932, air cooled
    PSU: Antec TPQ-850 850W
    Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition, stock cooler
    Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA790FXT-UD5P
    Memory: corsair 8GB DDR3
    GPU: SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 5870
    HD: Seagate Barracuda 1 Tb X 2
    LCD Display: ASUS VW266H 25.5″ 1900 X 1200 resoultion
    OS: Windows 7 64

    1. Hey McKie. Did you happen to try the trick I posted in the UPDATED section about disabling CCC.exe from Task Manager?

      I see you’re coming from the HardOCP forum. lol.. So, to answer you’re statement about not needing another CF bridge, Yeah, I’ve heard that too, but I keep going back to the article Kyle wrote about using crossfire at 2056x resolution, and said that he was told only 1 bridge connector was needed but when he installed 2 it smoothed out the game, so, I’m hoping that helps me out as well.

      now, back to your problem.

      Your issue doesn’t sound like a polling problem (where, specifically, it will hitch at an exact interval.) especially if it only does it entering and leaving corners. I find it odd that it ran fine until changing drivers around. did you do a driver sweep before installing the updates? (uninstall, safe mode, driver sweep, reboot into regular mode, install update.)

      I would also say that if this problem occurs on a single screen as well as eyefinity that it would be a GOOD sign, ’cause if it was ONLY in eyefinity it did this than there may not be a solution. but if a single display showed the same problem then it was something repairable. also, taking into account, it worked before.

      I would totally try just a drive cleaner before anything else, since that was really the only thing that changed.

      1. I first noticed this problem when I changed monitors. They are basically the same refresh rate . same resolution. just the newer ones are IPS panels with native display-port vs. the other set that was TN with DP adapter.

        I did use driver sweeper. and no I have not tried the trick you posted in the UPDATED section. will need to look that over again and give it a go.

        could you point me to the article Kyle wrote. in the mean time I will try another bridge and see what happens . I think I have a extra sitting around somewhere.

        1. Hey, McKie. After searching and Searching, I FINALLY found the article that mentioned needing 2 bridge connectors. the link is right here. http://www.hardocp.com/article/2009/09/30/amds_ati_radeon_hd_5850_video_card_review/8

          And here is the specific paragraph:

          “We experienced exceptional CrossFireX scaling, better even than what we experienced on the previous Radeon HD 4800 series. We did not think we would see much improvement in Arma II for example, but we saw better scaling with that game then we have ever seen with the HD 4800 series. We hope this trend continues, but we are still very worried about driver profile support with CrossFireX. We are worried about new game releases not receiving CrossFireX profile support the day games hit the street, delaying the potential performance one may experience out of a CrossFireX setup. This is the current nature of all multi-GPU configurations unfortunately. However, when CrossFireX works, boy does it work!

          AMD has informed us that only one CrossFireX bridge connector is now required on the Radeon HD 5800 series. We originally setup our two HD 5850

  2. I’m hoping someone can help me out. I’d read that crossfinity was supported with the 5700 series cards. I picked up two yesterday and cannot get it to accept the 3 monitor in eyefinity. Create group only allows me to do a 2×1. Enabling Crossfire takes the third monitor completely out of the displays sections. Cards are the ASUS EAH5770. And they seem weird as they don’t have a DP. They have 1DVI 1VGA and 1HDMI. Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Hey Scott, if you can return them, I would do so. There is no way those cards can do true eyefinity.

      If you want to keep them, the best you will be able to use is SoftTH. And since you’re going with 5xxx cards, it’s best to just get some that can do Eyefinity.

      The problem is: In order for eyefinity to work, at least one of the 3 monitors MUST be plugged into a DisplayPort. This doesn’t mean you’re monitor has to have a DP. I have a VGA monitor plugged into a VGA-to-DP adapter and have that plugged into the Display port plug.

      I guess to save on manufacturing and cut the purchase price of the “CuCore” line of 5770 cards, Asus cut out the DisplayPort, making the card incompatible with Eyefinity.

      So, My advice, grab your reciept, pack’em up and pick up a couple 5770’s WITH a Display port!. ALSO, do not forget to snag a DisplayPort adapter.

      I recommend either a reference AMD 5770, or, if you want a custom cooler, The HIS HD5770 H577FM1GD. It has a HDMI, DVI and DP.

      Now, adapters. if you plan on keeping the resolutions per monitor under 1920×1080. you can get a DP-to-(whatever) adapter without worry. Such as this. http://www.amazon.com/Accell-UltraAV-B101B-003B-Display-Adapter/dp/B003HC85D2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1277602771&sr=1-2

      This is the one I use, upon first connecting it, it wiggled and looked terrible, I just reset the resolution and all was fine every since.

      If you have anymore questions, don’t hesitate to ask, I’ll do my best to answer.

  3. Hello, a little off topic.
    I’ve got a new HD 5970 with 3 monitors working in Win7 with eyenfinity. I’m running the latest video drivers 10.6. I’m still addicted to borderlands and can run the game in landscape mode fine all be it a little on the stretchy side but that is the game’s issue not the card or drivers. My problem is when I try to run in portrait mode the game just hangs at random points during loading. I can run regular windows apps like office and such in 1×3 portrait fine. Just not borderlands unfortunately!

    I am envious of the picture above with borderlands running in portrait mode on three monitors. Is that your rig? or a friends? If so, could I please get a knowledge bomb dropped on me on how to accomplish this. I’ve been surfing the net looking for the secret sauce receipe to do this on my system but can’t find that last piece or two of the puzzle. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks.

  4. Hey Patrick, yes.. that is my rig. Borderline was one of the first games I tried with SoftTH. Which is what is pictured, but I do also having working with Eyefinity. I know for a fact that Borderlands does not work in cross-finity Portrait. Meaning the second card doesn’t kick on. It only uses one card while in portrait. I’m not sure if you are capable of disabling one of the gpus on the 5970. If you can, do that..

    Also, I haven’t booted the game up in portrait since updating. To 10.6 so, when I get off work tonight, ill boot it up and see if I get any weird loading issues and report back.

  5. hey,

    anybody tried to turn vsynch on?

    i have a crossfinity solution too (q6600@3,60 , 2×5850 , 5040×1050)

    if i turn vsynch off in games like crysis, bf bc2,… i will get the microstuttering.

    maybe the easiest solution for you all? 😛

  6. If you use Crossfire and Eyefinity, can you connect one of the 3 monitors to the other card eliminating the Display Port requirement. I have an adapter but the monitor that it is plugged into gets flickering all the time and I have to unplug and plug it back in a few times as well.

    1. Hey Jon. Technically, you can do this. But, unfortunately, you lose Crossfire. And the ATI drivers won’t use eyefinity. But, you can still do eyefinity style gaming with this type of setup for the most part using SofTH. which, works for the short term. I would recommend finding a cheap DP adapter. The link I provided a few comments up is the actual display port adapter I use and have been using for several months now without issue at all. I snagged it for around 25-30 bucks at Fry’s.

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