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I want to buy a PC and run three monitors from it. I need the desktop to span across all three.

Purpose / intended use

This is for pretty demanding gaming applications so I need optimum speed, resolution, and quality in general. I'll need to work with up-to-date graphics hardware. Not necessarily absolute top-of-line, but let's say good, 1 GB graphics cards less than two years old.

I need to be able to expand the window containing the game across all three monitors.

Previous questions

I noticed this question here and I think I learned the answer -- install two video cards and take advantage of the fact that most video cards have at least two outputs. So you'd run monitor 1 from the DVI output of card A, monitor 2 from the VGA output of card A, and monitor 3 from the DVI output of card B, perhaps.

However in that question there was a fair amount of discussion of other options, situations, and topics so I just want to confirm that two cards is the right way to do it.

Mixing brands?

Also, do they both have to be the same brand, like both be ATI or nVidia? I know ATI has that Catalyst config utility, so if you tried to mix brands would that clash with the equivalent nVidia config utility? This matters to me because I already have a good ATI card I like so if I bought a machine with an nVidia card I don't want to everything to get all fluxed up.

What about three cards?

Graphics cards aren't terribly expensive these days. Would it make sense to install three cards to get the higher-quality DVI output on all three monitors? Has anyone tried this? Could it work?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Take a look at Jeff Atwood's blog: Three Monitors For Every User; here he speaks of AMD's Eyefinity cards which can handle 3 concurrent display outputs. He then references Converting DisplayPort and/or HDMI to DVI-D? for that third output.

Eyefinity on Newegg

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1  
+1 for Eyefinity, those things are designed for this purpose! –  Ivo Flipse Nov 8 '10 at 15:22
    
+1 for EyeFinity. Go this route, the nVidia equivalent functionality is HORRIBLE. –  Shinrai Nov 8 '10 at 16:53
    
+1 EyeFinity is the best solution for this. My 5870 rocks out. –  phoebus Nov 8 '10 at 20:58
    
OK that's probably the way to do it I guess. –  Ethan Nov 9 '10 at 5:44

Just buy a graphics card from ATI labeled "Eyefinity Edition". These cards range in price (and quality) from 50$ to 500$ so you can pick a model that suits your needs. They have multiple (up to 6) mini display ports and you can plug in a monitor in every one of them.

The software allows you to run several configurations like viewing different content on every monitor or stretching a image/video/game across all monitors.

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With DisplayLink hardware you get DVI over USB which you can then attach a monitor to. Their software allows up to 6 monitors attached in this way.

I have one and liked it for my third monitor. For programming it is great (as you do not have intense screen updates like with movies etc).

http://www.displaylink.com/shop/index.php?product=5

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you can also do this with triplehead2go available at newegg fairly cheaply if you have a supported video card already(the card doesn't necessarily need to be on the supported list - in my experience matching resolutions and refresh rates was enough).

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I like using the triplehead2go solution because directx spans all three monitors when running fullscreen games. In some other configurations it does not...just a thought –  hbdgaf Nov 8 '10 at 5:00
    
Looks OK but dang, three hundred bucks??? I could get three half decent video cards for that money. Are you sure that's the best option? –  Ethan Nov 8 '10 at 5:59
    
300 is steep. i've bought them way cheaper than that...i got it for 175 or so –  hbdgaf Nov 8 '10 at 6:03
    
Maybe they've raised the price. Lowest I can find on Froogle.com is $280. –  Ethan Nov 8 '10 at 6:32

Two cards is not the only way, but for most people's needs, it is probably the best, or at least the most cost efficient (depending on whether you have an extra monitor already).
There is also the option of getting a USB monitor, but these will typically be smaller screens with lower resolutions and options, but depending on your needs and budget, may be better suited.
Last is the option of just replacing your video card with one that can handle more than two monitors on its own. This web page contains a list of cards, some of which can handle up to four monitors.

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@MaQleod Your second link is broken. –  Sathya Nov 8 '10 at 4:12
    
I just fixed it, sorry about that. –  MaQleod Nov 8 '10 at 4:14
    
It looks like the info on that chart may be pretty outdated. None of the cards have more than a half GB of RAM. 1 GB is commonplace these days on cheap cards. Also, hard to say for sure but those look like pretty old price levels. What I'm looking for is more general info than specific product recommendations. –  Ethan Nov 8 '10 at 4:28
    
They still work on PCI Express, so they would all still be compatible with any modern system. Without knowing what you need to do on each monitor and what ports you have available, it is hard to give you the exact type of solution you have in mind. –  MaQleod Nov 8 '10 at 4:54
    
I kind of broke that down in my question -- intended use, ports, etc. I'll try to edit it to make it clearer. –  Ethan Nov 8 '10 at 6:00

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