While we all wait for the promised marvel of 3D gaming to go mainstream and infiltrate our eyespace, the fine, fine folks of AMD have cooked up something to tide us over. It's the EyeFinity system for your PC (obviously), and it's shaped up to be a pretty robust marvel.
On a recent trip to Austin, Texas, I was invited to the AMD campus to check out some of their new technology and products, and I was impressed with their dedication to this new system.
For those who haven't seen the new EyeFinity setups, it's a new system that uses a graphics card with multiple display ports to blow-up your game to fill three, four, or even six adjacent screens. While you can always buy a ridiculously huge monitor for a ridiculously huge price, EyeFinity gives gamers the chance to not only see their games displayed in a larger context, but also in a wider one that actually bends the field of vision around the player's head—increasing the viewable range of the gameworld, and giving an immediately noticeable sense of immersion.
The attendees at their event mostly got to see a pair of racing games, the brand-new Formula 1: 2010, and the same dev's (Codemasters) slightly older and scruffier cousin, DiRT 2. Both games gave a great impression of the visuals you get for a racing game using this system. The three-screen setup really increased the sense of speed and motion that you felt while your car careened through the various turns and straightaways. This feel of digital driving with peripheral vision goes a ways in bringing an arcade-like specialness to these types of games.
Moving on to a six-screen setup, it was the flight-action of Tom Clancy's HAWX. While this setup was not "curved" like its three-screen brethren, the game was enough of a visual show-stopper to distract from that fact. Aircraft were careening wildly through the air, loosing rockets over a dense cityscape until the demo's pilot accidentally took his machine into a building—for a cacophonous explosion. It's immersion they're after, and these huge setups are pretty awe-inspiring.
Finally, I also got to see a three-screen EyeFinity setup featuring Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I was most interested and impressed with this configuration. I mean, it's easy to see why you'd want more screens for a first person shooter: it simply kills. More screens equals more vision equals more ways to see the enemies around you. The advantages are real and immediate, and after getting my bearings a bit I was taking out terrorists left and right. In an FPS, this sort of display is a natural evolution that a PC games enthusiast will want to make a part of their system.
Outside of games, EyeFinity also allows for a very large digital workspace, if you're into multi-tasking while at work. The clear advantage here being that even a group of small monitors costs a deal less than a single, massive display.
The only slight drawback to the experience with EyeFinity is the beveling situation caused by the outer edges of the monitors.
I'm happy to report, though, that the "blocking" effect one might expect from the bars quickly fades, as the eyes compensate and fill in the gaps.
There are also software work-arounds, as well, for those games where in-games items such as a targeting reticle might be placed "behind" the bevels.
Of course, there is the price component of setting up a new system such as this one. For PC gamers with some moxie, however, it may not be as pricey as they would first imagine. While a mid-range graphics card capable of giving you such a setup can set you back four or five hundred dollars, you can always count on getting small displays at great prices. A trio of 25" displays might only put you back around $900, so the total package for someone upgrading might only be a little over $1000. While certainly not chump change for most of us out there, the dedicated will find that it's not too much to pay for a truly impressive visual experience.
While on their campus, we were also told about AMD's new ultra-thin APU will be launched early next year. This unit, dubbed "e350" serves as both CPU and GPU for the system, and it's compatible with DirectX 11 graphics. I'm excited at what this means for the PC gamer on a budget, as this new processor will not only be tiny, but also quite affordable—bringing down the price of notebooks using this technology from around $800 to around $400. That's a big difference, and one that will be great for people who play PC games but don't want to shell out for top-tier equipment.
Overall, AMD's commitment to the whole spectrum of the PC gaming market bodes well for keeping it both relevant and immersive. My thanks to AMD for the generous tour of their facility and the demonstrations of the excellent EyeFinity!