ATI Radeon

Introduction

The selection of a video card for the modern photographer can often be confusing.  Many don't realize the video card dictates the capability of the entire workstation.  Proper selection is critical.  This is a journal of my thoughts reasoning, and choices during my recent video card upgrade.  Why I needed to upgrade, the considerations, and the choices.

"Modern Photographers" are often using multiple monitors, and they'll often want to process (render) the footage from their new video capable DSLRs.  Video places different requirements on the video card than does still imagery.  CS4 introduced the support of Open GL.  This means there are some great new features available if you're using a graphics card compatible with the Open GL standard.  Modern photographers have different requirements than we did just a few years back.  Everyone's needs are different, but I consider the following requirements both common and reasonable.

 

    1. Multi-monitor support.  The ability to run more than one monitor, including the assignment of a separate color profile for each supported monitor.
    2. Support for DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort connectors.  The trends is for all quality computer LCD panels to use HDMI or DisplayPort in the future.  VGA (analog) connectors are already history, and in a few years time I'd guess DVI will be too. 
    3. Enough on-board memory and power to render HD video in real time. 
    4. Open GL support for CS4. Other programs will be taking advantage of Open GL in the near future. 
    5. Reasonably quiet operation.  Fans are okay, but you shouldn't be able to easily hear them during normal use. 
    6. Reliability.  The card and it's drivers should be 100% reliable.  No exceptions.

 

The Need

Ever since upgrading to Win7 I've been running the same two year old Nivida driver for Vista.  I must do this because the old driver supports features on my cards the new Nvidia drivers don't.  Win7 would rather I run a Win7 certified driver.. but I haven't been.  Newer drivers certified for Win7 work best for Win7.

There is also the good news that a 2 year old $500 video card is already surpassed in performance by a $19 dollar (ATI 4350 for instance) card today.  Which means the top cards perform at levels no on even dreamed about two years ago. There is a huge performance difference between now and then.

Directx 8 was two years ago.. Directx11 is now a reality and it departs from the old in a huge way.  Rendering with hardware tessellation is the major advantage to Directx11, which basically means all that extra memory and GPU power on your video cards can now be used to render scenes in much greater detail at greatly enhanced speeds.  What makes this not "another Directx upgrade" is that the instructions are totally scalable, which means a single set of instructions are all that's needed to run all the desired resolutions.  What this means for you at the most basic level is great utilization of your hardware, more detail in Directx11 enabled games, and tons more speed.  This isn't just another incremental upgrade, this is a major upgrade.

Codecs used two years ago are mostly history.. and hardware vs. software decoding is far preferable for both quality of the signal (both audio and video) and speed of signal and usage of system resources.  If you can hardware decode a movie it's tons better than a software codec.  Music sounds much better too.

Newer cards are cut from smaller dyes (40nm) and use a lot less power.. so less heat as well.  Fans can turn at less rpm so less noise.

 

HIS Radeon HD 5770, bangkok images




Hardware Support Needed, My Workstation

(2) 1600x1200 21.5" monitors and an HDTV.

DVI to the computer monitors, HDMI to the HDTV.  As you know HDMI transfers both audio and video in the same connection.. so that's a plus.  My AVR is older and uses component, so I'll still run an optical SPDIF to the AVR and just run the HDMI directly to the HDTV.  This is fine with me as I prefer to use TV speakers for most TV watching.. and the home theatre sound for the occasional movie with a great DTS or Dolby Digital Pro+ soundtrack.

I will be replacing my LCD panels in the coming months, so the new cards must provide full resolution support (2560x1600) for up to two 30 inch panels.  It's also possible I'll be adding a third monitor to my workflow.  Multi-monitor support has been shown in several studies to increase productivity dramatically.

 

HIS Radoen HD 5770 packaging




The Search For The Best Video Card

Nivida has led the pack both in speed and driver functionality for years now.. until recently.  Recently ATI's 5700, 5800, and 5900 series not only beats Nvidia in performance, but are significantly less expensive.

ATI cards currently have the latest audio and video codecs.

All of the 5xxx ATI cards advertise being able to run (3) 2560x1600 monitors and the claim is that these cards can hold separate monitor profiles for all three monitors at the same time.  This means these cards have three LUT's.  In the past you only got (1) LUT for (1) GPU, this ATI 5xxx series would be a departure from that norm. 

A single 5xxx card should be able to run all three of my monitors, the (2) 1600x1200 21.5" and the (1) 1080p HDTV, with separate color profiles.  And these cards should meet my future needs as well.  I intend to test this carefully.  All three monitors must hold their profiles at the exact same time.

For gamers 3 monitors can be used with ATI's new Eyefinity technology which allows one game to bridge three monitors.  I have no use for this technology, but gamers sure will.

One caveat concerning the 3 supported monitors.  You can use any two of the ports ((2) DIV, (1) HDMI, (1) Displayport)) in any combination, HOWEVER if you add a third monitor one of these ports must be the Displayport.

 

HIS Radeon HD 5770 ATI




My First Plan

One card should do it.  I can replace the two older Nvidia 7950GT cards running my (2) 1600x1200 monitors via DVI, and my HDTV via component video.  I should also note that since each card had it's own GPU that gave me one LUT per card and I used both LUT's to color profile the (2) 1600x1200 monitors.  The HDTV remains unprofiled.

I will need a Displayport to HDMI adapter.  My plan is to run my HDTV via HDMI, both video and audio through a single HDMI cable.

Looking at the cards carefully, and taking into account I don't need much power for gaming, and the only extra power (graphic engine processing power) I do need is to run Win7's Aero and CS4's OpenGL which isn't much at all.  The least expensive card had 1gig of GDDR5 memory which is more than enough for my uses.

I decided to go with the 5770 card because at $165 (5300 baht) it represents the best balance of processing power for the money, and which fits my specific needs.  The 5770 card is significantly more powerful than the base 5750 cards, but only about $20 more expensive, and significantly less powerful and greatly less expensive than the most powerful/expensive 5990 card which comes in at over $640 (24,000 baht).  I just would never use that much power.

Note:  Power draw from the power supply will be greatly reduced from the last set of Nvidia cards.  The 5770 card requires a 6 pin power connector supplying a minimum of 75 watts (at max load).

 

HIS Radeon 5770 rear view




Additional Research

Displayport to HDMI adapters are very hard to find.  I can't find one in Thailand anywhere. 
The one I found in the states runs $99.99    This is grossly expensive, more than many very decent standalone video cards with HDMI support.

Cards such as ATI's 4350 card available from $19-$40 is available with an HDMI port, but ultimately this is an older card which provides less codec support than I desire.  Also, if I'm going to have two video cards I want them to be a matched pair so I can connect them in a Crossfire configuration for those times when I play with my Flight Simulator.  The 5770 card at 5300 baht is not prohibitively expensive.

I choose a 5770 card as a second video card and will install them in a Crossfire configuration.

10-12 manufacturers market ATI 5770 cards.  Which one should I get?  Some come slightly over clocked, some come with enhanced coolers, some come with game vouchers, and the warranties run from 1-5 years.  After reading no less than 25 reviews I have it narrowed down to 3 different manufacturers.  I don't care about the over clocking, but I do care about the warranty length and extra cooling as well as how well established the local distributor is.

 

HIS ATI Radeon 5770 power connector




Finding A Reputable Dealer

In Thailand this can be more difficult than you'd imagine.  Poorly trained staff, inadequate stock levels, and that there's a good 10-12 manufacturers marketing ATI 5770 cards.  I settle on
this distributor and this brand of card.  A three year warranty and a superbly rated cooler convinces me with their years long distributorship over a five year warranty card with a standard cooler and new distributorship.

And, I like the way these people talk on the phone and answer questions.  They also have the best price by 700 baht a card ($23) for the same brand as elsewhere.  They accept a bank transfer and promise to have my two new HIS 5770 cards, along with a new 10 meter long HDMI cable, delivered to my place by 2000 this evening.  If you've ever shopped at Panthip Plaza you'll know what a luxury it is being able to order by phone and skip the dreaded visit to Panthip Plaza.

I place my order.

 

HIS ATI Radeon 5770 cooling fan



The Arrival

At exactly 2012 the delivery Somchai knocks on the door and hands me (2) HIS 5770 video cards with enhanced coolers and a 10m HDMI cable.  The HDMI cable is pretty heavy duty.. ah well.

Inventory of the boxes reveals each card comes with a single Crossfirex adapter.  I notice there are two sets of gold plated "fingers" on each card which fits the connector.  Do you use the front of back connectors?  The manual wasn't clear on this and a few googles later I hadn't found it on the web, the HIS website, or the ATI/AMD website.  I find salvation in the form of high resolution images with blow-ups of the finger sets in my Asus motherboard instruction manual.  I now know how to connect the CrossfireX adapters in a two and three card setup.

 

HIS ATI 5770 connectors




Driver Preparation

Prudence dictates uninstalling the current video card drivers via the Programs menu in the Control Center.  Make sure the default video card drivers are the Windows video card drivers. 


Differences/Drivers/Windows Versions

A note on Windows video card drivers.  In XP the drivers were very basic VGA drivers which didn't allow for much other than taking advantage of several higher resolutions.  Installing the manufacturers video card drivers is mandatory in XP.

Vista video card drivers are greatly improved.  All common resolutions, color management, orientation, and multi-monitor extensions, and monitor selection are all enabled.  The only reason for installing the manufacturers video card drivers is if you want to enable SLI or Crossfire, change clock and other settings, or basically change advanced settings very few ever bother with.  Installing the manufacturers video card drivers is optional in Vista.  It's important to note that both XP and Vista allows using only one manufacturers video cards at one time.  You cannot use a Nvidia card in one video card slot, and a ATI in another video card slot.  If using more than one card they must be of the same manufacture.

Windows 7 is the best ever.  It allows setting every setting and function other than the advanced timing and clock settings.  Windows 7 also allows you to mix and match video cards from both video card manufacturers, Nvidia and ATI.  The only real reason you'll want to install the manufacturers video card drivers is to enable SLI or CrossfireX, or perhaps set your HDTV timing and adjust over scan.

 

Heatsink, fan, HIS, ATI, 5770


SLI and CrossFireX

What is it and how does it work?  Nvidia's SLR or ATI's CrossFireX is possible when two or more of the same model video cards are connected together via "electrical strapping" across the gold fingers on top of each card.  When two or more video cards are strapped together data can flow between the cards GPU's in both directions and two or more GPU's can now work in concert as a single more powerful GPU. 

SLI and CrossFireX is very popular with gamers seeking to maximize their maximum frame rate so a video game will appear to operate more towards real time, with real time being the goal, so that for instance if a man is walking down the street they do so with perfect fluid motion in the same way as if a real man was videotaped.  The more frames per second a system can achieve, the more 'real' a game appears to the player.  Video games place extreme demands on the system and it's video cards, and each video game has different demands.  A given hardware setup might allow 15fps with one video game, and 60fps with another.  This is why those who review video cards always 'test' the cards with a selection of the most popular high powered games of the current time. 

You must also understand that if you have multiple monitors, that once you enter SLI or CrossFireX modes, all video resources focus on a single monitor which you've selected as the SLI/CrossFireX default.  You cannot run multiple monitors in SLI/CrossFireX modes.  A recent exception to this rule would be ATI's EyeFinity use.. where you're bridging a video game across three or six monitors.

 

Eyefinity, HIS, ATI, 5770



Installation

Its not time to replace your old video card(s) with the new pair.  As discussed, revert your video card drivers to stock Windows video card drivers.  Reboot and ensure the system is running on the Windows video card drivers.  Power down the system and remove your old video card(s).  Take this opportunity to blow out any dust and dirt from inside your box.  Make sure you've removed the backplane covers from the video card slot(s).  If your system board has more than one video card slot refer to your motherboard instruction manual to determine which slot(s) you should use.  Seat the video card(s) and secure them with the thumbscrews.  Connect a six pin power connector to each video card.

If you'll be running two or more video cards in SLI or CrossFireX modes you can now attach the strapping across the cards from one gold finger set to another.

Secure the computers covers and power up the system.  The system should boot up using the Windows Video Card drivers.  Install the manufacturers drivers according to instructions in the manual and reboot.  You're now ready to configure your multiple monitors, HDTV, and any special features you desire.

 

Free Dirt II Offer




My Installation

When working on electronics I prefer to schedule a time when I'm not tired and I won't be disturbed.  Not only can you zap your new video card into a worthless piece of junk, but you can also end up zapping yourself into a 6 foot long wooden box.  With this in mind I waited until the house was empty, just me and two very helpful parrots with a lot of opinions and a desire to thoroughly investigate each new part.

I have basic rules I follow with electronics that go back to my days of working on cryptology communications equipment with the U.S. Navy.



1.  Power down and remove the AC power cord from the computer.

2.  Before removing the side panels attach an anti-static wrist strap around your wrist and connect the other end to a solid earth ground.

3.  Remove the side panels to the computers case.

4.  Lay out the new parts which will be installed in the order of installation.

5.  Lay out the hand tools you expect to use.  In this case a pair of wire cutters and a Phillips head screwdriver with a magnetized tip.  The magnetic tip is to help ensure I don't drop an errant screw down in the works where I can't find it.  If you can't find it you might not notice it's bridging two contact points. Well, until you power on the system and everything goes dark.

6.  Have plenty of canned compressed air to blow away the dust before removing parts.  I blow away the dust before removing parts so I don't unintentionally blow dust into electrical contacts or slots I'll need later.

7.  Remove all the screws and set them in a plastic tray.  The only metal you should be using in the repair of electronic devices are the tools.

8.  Carefully remove the cabling.  There are two 6 pin power cables going to the old video cards. These must be removed and secured to the side.  The monitor cables which connect externally should also be removed if you haven't already.  If there are any other cables impeding your work, remove them.

9.  Once the cables are removed remove any braces, cards, or whatever might be in your way.  In my case I had an internal brace, a 120mm fan I would no longer need (it was blowing across the passive coolers on my old cards, my new cards have their own fans), a PCI USB port card, an internal fan controller card, and six cables total.

10.  With the old cards removed I once again blew out any dust the old cards prevented me from reaching.  I use this chance to carefully look around with a flashlight for any lose cables or trouble spots that might visit me later.

11.  I install the new video cards one at a time.  I notice these have double head blanks so I needed to also remove two rear plane blanks.  The large GPU coolers and fans make using the PCI slots they cover impossible.  I will not reinstall the PCI USB port card I removed.  It provided four extra USB2.0 ports I didn't use as I've got two extra on the back plane connector bundle.

12.  Once the new cards are securely in their slots I seat them firmly and then shine a flashlight along the length of the slot to ensure the cards are seated all the way.  They are so I install and firmly snug down the screws which hold them in.

13.  From this point on I merely install the two 6 pin power cables, the fan controller, and the internal brace.  I'm almost done.  Before reattaching the sides and covering things up, I take this last chance to carefully look around the interior with a flashlight and ensure I didn't accidentally disconnect other cables.  I didn't so I close it up and secure the sides.

14.  Now it's time to remove the old component video cables and audio cables I ran under my carpet to my HDTV and home theater sound system.  I remove them and roll them into a bundle.  With the HDTV removed from the wall I grab my canned air and clean things up a bit.  Now I run the single HDMI cable to the HDTV which carries both sound and video, and double check that my SPDIF optical cable is still in place with my home theater AVR (audio video receiver).  Everything is great so I connect the HDMI cable on both ends.

15.  I'm now ready to power up the system, but before I do I put away my tools and move all the old parts and boxes away from the computer.  Keeping your work area clean and neat pays big dividends towards an accident free workplace.


Powering Up The Computer

There is always a bit of apprehension when powering up a computer after a major parts replacement.  You wonder if it will work.  If you've been careful and not hurried yourself into a shortcut or mistake it will be fine.

My Asus BIOS recognizes the new cards and prompts me to re-enter all my BIOS settings.  I do.  Now I'm booting into Windows and we come up on one monitor running at 800x600.  I let the boot process finish and then immediately change the resolution to 1600x1200 by right clicking on the desktop and choosing the "screen resolution" option.


Configuring My Settings

Now I'm ready to install the ATI Catalyst drivers and applications so I do.  It's a 2-3 minutes process and now it's time to reboot.  A minute or two later I'm back in Windows on one monitor.  I right click on the desktop and click on "screen resolution" and immediately enable my other two monitors and select the proper resolutions for each.

Everything seems fine as far as video goes, but I notice I'm not getting any audio out through the HDMI port.  I first thought it was a setting, but after checking my settings I found them to be correct.  I decided to reboot once again, because often when installing a single part, that part might contain 2 or more "devices" which often much be installed separately.  In this case the new video cards also had audio drivers and some communication port devices to install.  I rebooted three times and after each reboot I noticed function after function coming on line.  You'll want to remember this, because this is exactly where many people starting wringing their hands together and getting worried, which often escalates into misdirected anger at Microsoft, the card manufacture, or even the parrots!  When in doubt take the time to reboot several times, with a long pause after each reboot to let your computer sort things out.



Color Profiling

Here's the deal.  It's ALWAYS recommended to re-profile your monitors after installing a new video card or even something simple like a cable.  However, while there might be very small but real differences between video cards, the real differences are in the monitors themselves.  I had connected one monitor via DVI to each video card.  I opened the color profile manager and aimed them at the old color profiles and everything looks great.

For now I'll leave this alone and continue to test these cards over the next week.

After a week or so I'll connect both DVI monitors to a single card and see if ATI has indeed delivered on its promise for a single GPU to support two LUT's, thereby allowing two monitors to run at the same time with their own profiles.  Actually, ATI promised three LUT's with any 5000 series card.

I'm especially curious about this.  First, I have many clients who would like to get away with buying a simple video card that can drive two LUT's into two monitors.  I want to be able to answer their questions with 100% accuracy.  Second, ATI will be releasing it's 5000 series mobile video cards which promise the same thing.  To date there has never been a single video card laptop which can run two monitors at the same time with separate color profiles.  On paper it appears the new 5000 series cards can!  This is huge for photographers.  As a side note, there were 'some' (very few, only two models) dual video card gamers laptops, costing well over $5000 USD's which supported 2 LUT's.. but these were specialty pricey items.


Other Considerations

My last set of cards ran from 55c at idle to 80c under full load, not too hot for video cards.  I'm curious what these new cards will run at and I'll hunt down a temperature monitoring utility later tonight and then update this area.

My last cards in my standard configuration used 380 watts as reported by my APC UPS real time monitoring software.  The same configuration is now using 292 watts.  That's a huge improvement considering I boosted the video processing power well over 25x.  I'll do some full load comparisons later and update this section later.

Is the HDMI signal a better quality than the component signal?  Very slightly.  But where the real differences are is in the setup.  The HDMI signal is a digital signal and perfectly fills the screen side to side and top to bottom with it's 1920x1080p resolution.  With the analog component signal I had to use a utility to custom adjust the resolution to 1772x984.  The HDMI is easier and a slightly better quality signal to your eyes.

Also, the HDMI passed audio and I hear a big difference here.  More bass, higher highs, a much wider dynamic range.  And again it's easier.  Less and smaller cables.  Better quality.  Win win win.

There is still the matter of how well these cards hardware decode certain video formats like .mkv and mpeg-4 using the hardware codecs.  Initial impressions are that there's a huge difference here both in quality and processing power.


Summary

For now I'm back on-line and able to do all my work both with imaging, and for listening to music and watching movies.  On the very outer surface it might not seem like I've accomplished much for the money I spent for this upgrade (12,400 baht total) or my time.  After all, we're still driving three monitors, processing the same images, watching the same movies, and listening to the same music.  What did I gain?

Well, to start I'm using nearly 90 watts less electricity and generating that much less heat.  I run my workstation 24/7 so that will quickly add up.  Then there's the quality differences for images, music, and video.. I'll need to spend a few weeks with the system to accurately report these differences, but at this time they seem significant.  And then there's the ease of use.. and I think this is huge.  AND, I have two more DVI ports to run monitors from.. and another HDMI port.  Or, I can run two Displayport devices.  Have I thought about adding a third computer monitor and perhaps another HDTV device to the system?  Yes I have.  I'll admit to being curious.  I have a third monitor available.  I'll give it a try and see if it enhances my productivity.  If I can profile 6 monitors with these two cards like ATI says I can.. then I'll have some real gains to consider.

For now I'll clean this up and get this report out.. and then I'll update it in a few weeks, or however long it takes to thoroughly test and check out these cards.

 

Three Weeks Later

 

HIS Radeon, HD 5770, 1gb GDDRS, HDMI, 1080p, Bangkok Images

 

I'm getting ready to write the final chapter.. the research is done.  Here is the meat of the testing.



1.  These cards DO support multiple LUT's.  They claim 3 per card, I've verified 2.  I can only run two monitors per card because if running 3 monitors 1 monitor MUST be connected via a DisplayPort and I don't have a DisplayPort compatible monitor.

2.  The cards I bought, I bought because the reviews showed it's unique cooler/fan to cool significantly better than most of the other 5770 card competition.  The cards run at 42c at idle, 68c at max load.  I can overclock using the included clocking utility by as much as 25% and have it pass all the tests and not run the temp more than 70c at max load.

3.  Directx11 is awesome if you have a compatible game.  The free game (Dirt II) they provided is way ahead of anything else I've used.. but I'm not a gamer so take that for what it's worth.

4.  IF the mobile version of the 5700/5800/5900 works concerning LUT's like these do.. we'll have the first notebook where the notebook screen and an external monitor can be profiled.. This will be very cool...

 

Final Chapter

HIS packaging. Bangkok Thailand


If you read my mouse review a week or so back you'll remember I found an issue with the video driver that was causing the mouse to hang, but only when playing a movie through the 2nd video card.  The rest of the time it felt okay.. but not really solid like I thought I remembered it from before.  I ended up disabling a switch on the video card drive and that seemed to cure it, but I still wasn't totally sure it felt right.

So.. later I go into ATI's "Overdrive" utility where you can overclock, set fan speeds, runs reliability tests, etc.  Playing with the clock speeds and comparing  cards it became apparent both cards were not running the same, yet they are the same.. Right down to the serial numbers being in order..

I should also note that at this point the my Performance Index Scores in Win7 were in order, 7.6 (processor), 7.6 (RAM), 6.0 (Graphics), 6.0 (Gaming Graphics), and 5.9 (Primary hard disk).  To put this in perspective 7.9 is the highest possible, and the 5.9 score for the hard disk is indicating for a Western Digital Velocioraptor which isn't exactly a slow hard drive..  So with these scores I really didn't think all that much could be not running right.

The underperforming card bothered me so I took it back to the store and they were going to replace it on the spot, and when they did I saw that while it was the same brand card and had the exact same specs, it was in fact a newer series.  I asked if they'd take in return both cards and they said yes.  Later that day I installed both new cards in my system.

 

HIS HD 5770, ATI Radeon



Immediately I noticed the mouse worked 100% like it should.  Everything was much more snappy.  And the scores are now 7.6, 7.6, 7.4, 7.4, 5.9...  The 1.4 improvement is significant if it was an upgraded card.. but for the same card it's huge.

Now, everything works as it should.  Some research shows this newer series of card carries a different firmware set and a different fan.. everything else was the same.  Either one or both of the old cards had issues, or the firmware did.  Not sure.

The new cards have only 3 ports each.  (1) DVI, (1) HDMI, and (1) DisplayPort.  They will run and profile three monitors, but not all ports are created equal.  When running three monitors, the monitor with the most resolution must be connected via HDMI.  I'm not sure why it's this way or if they'll fix it later via firmware.  When running two monitors it doesn't matter.

 

HIS HD 5770, ATI Radeon, Bangkok Images



We should also note that older monitors have DVI inputs (and really old VGA, the cards come with DVI-VGA adapters), but virtually every new monitor of even modest quality comes with these three ports, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort.. and they perform equally with all three. 

All three are digital inputs.  But, HDMI can carry sound.  So if your monitor has speakers you'll want to connect it via HDMI so the single HDMI cable carries both sound and video, vs. running two separate cables.

So what happens if you want to run two computer monitors and an HDTV from the same card?  The computer monitors would need to have less resolution than the HDTV.  OR, you would need to run a second card to power just the HDTV.  ATI's new 5450 card retails for $49, has passive cooling, HDMI, Displayport and DVI outputs, all the latest audio codecs for DTS and DDP, and will run an HDTV as well as the more expensive 5770.. so there is an inexpensive fix if this is an issue. 

At the same time this card can run three 2560x1600 monitors so this is a powerful card.  It's too bad about the HDMI highest resolution oddity but I'd guess they'll fix this via firmware.

These cards can also be purchased with (2) DVI ports, (1) HDMI, and (1) DisplayPort, but these models take up two back plane covers.

This is pretty cool technology.  One GPU, and three LUT's.  No one else does this.  I hope this translates to their new 5000 series laptop cards coming out soon.  ATI will also soon be releasing a card with six ports!  You can run and profile six monitors from the same card, and further you can stack them 2 high and 3 across, and some games will span all six monitors to work as a big single monitor.  This would be very cool if you're a gamer.

I should also note that my dealer didn't have the models with the free DIRT II game voucher.  I sent an email to HIS and asked if they'd send me one anyway and they agreed.  A free DIRT II game voucher is in the mail.  So, perfect service from this company, but perhaps a few new product bugs in the first set of cards.

If these cards continue to work without issue I'll probably use them for the next several years.  I'm only running 3 monitors, but I have support for 3 more.  Somehow I doubt I'll outgrow that any time soon.