BEFORE AMD starts rolling out its next generation of Southern Island GPUs, the usual performance refresh has appeared for the current ATI Radeon HD5870 single GPU and HD5970 dual GPU cards. While vendors like Asus and Sapphire focused on speeding up the cards with exotic cooling systems, Powercolor did something quite interesting that hardly anyone expected - it doubled the graphics cards' Eyefinity capability.
As one HD5870 Eyefinity GPU card has six Displayport outputs for, yes, six displays in parallel, it shouldn't be too difficult to get twelve Displayport outputs from a hypothetical HD5970 Eyefinity, if it existed. Well, it doesn't seem so simple, since no vendor has had such a card until now. And, if you see the Powercolor HD5970 4 B card here, there is the third slot opening occupied by the extra six display connectors, as you can see held by pretty lady Tia at the Powercolor booth at Computex.
Now, who would need 12 displays or, for that matter, 24 displays if you used two of these cards in Crossfire? Well, imagine a mad financial wizard monitoring multiple indices and stocks across several stock exchanges or, far more interesting, an immersive 3D 'cave' environment with a giant dome of two dozen 3D enabled monitors truly surrounding you. With falling monitor prices and thin-bezel models all around now, you could actually build such a dome for just a couple of thousand dollars or so. The full 4GB of onboard RAM also covers both multiple high resolution displays in full 3D as well as any large-memory GPGPU computing needs.
In this respect the Powercolor innovation is great, as everyone can have a true immersive 3D cave even at home, a step beyond the usual single-display 3D that's being so heavily promoted now. What I'd like to see are more advanced cooling options for the card, including a slimmer liquid cooling one so that the total footprint including all 12 ports can still go back to two slots. That way, the GPU speeds could go up another 15 per cent or so, providing extra muscle to feed all those extra displays.
And for more cost conscious or space restricted users, Powercolor also showed an Eyefinity five-display HD5770 card as well.
In the other GPU news at the show, EVGA and Gainward watercooled the GTX480. As Nvidia's highest end GPU is now a little less rare and easier to find, there are finally more of them around than hen's teeth. However, the heat and power consumption issues remain, and the key vendors are now creating custom solutions to solve either or both problems. Gainward and EVGA, both major Nvidia players, showed their water-cooling solutions, and both are the usual dual slot cards with one key difference. EVGA has a thick high throughput half-inch tubing system, while Gainward uses thinner quarter-inch tubing but with an external connection and radiator. In the second case, the system is more cumbersome, but any tubing leaks would be outside the system, preventing any malfuction due to that reason.
These cooling approaches by EVGA and Gainward sound like a suggestion to Powercolor. µ