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I need to be able to see the desktops of 4 separate PCs at the same time. Ideally I'd like to avoid using 4 monitors. A KVM won't do the trick because I need to see all 4 displays simultaneously. Is this possible with a special monitor or maybe some kind of adapter that would merge all 4 video inputs into a 2x2 grid?

Edit - the applications will be running 3d graphics so any kind of remote desktop solution would need to be able to handle a decent frame rate.

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What OS are the PCs running? –  Chris_K Nov 20 '10 at 23:14
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Do you just need to see them, or actually interact with them? This will make a HUGE difference in how to go about it. If all you need is to modify a signal path to display multiple inputs on one monitor, that is easy. If you want to actually be able to use the desktops that are displayed, that is much much more difficult. –  MaQleod Nov 20 '10 at 23:58
    
XP or Win 7. Just need to see them not necessarily interact - but bonus points for both! –  Josh Rickard Nov 21 '10 at 1:16
    
Not sure why you'd want to be running 4 separate PCs on one monitor as opposed to the conventional 1-really powerful-PC + multiple monitors. –  JFW Nov 21 '10 at 4:27
    
Reading through the answers and comments, I'm thinking it would be helpful to know what is preventing you from using multiple displays. That might help us in coming up with the optimal answer. –  nhinkle Nov 21 '10 at 5:59

7 Answers 7

up vote 7 down vote accepted

These quad screen splitters are pretty expensive:

SmartVM

Network Technologies

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Fast, right, cheap... that does what he asks, and does it right... expensive is the thing he can't control. –  WernerCD Nov 21 '10 at 2:50
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Although... for $4k... it might be cheaper to just get 3 more monitors with a KVM for a single keyboard/mouse... hard to say... –  WernerCD Nov 21 '10 at 3:03
    
Love the idea, but for that price, I think I would try and make 4 monitors work. –  Troggy Nov 21 '10 at 4:11
    
Thanks, marking your answer as the accepted solution based on my original question. With the price, though, I will probably be going with a 4 screen solution. –  Josh Rickard Nov 21 '10 at 19:29

I think a viable solution would be to run 4 instances of Remote Desktop Connection - this would definitely work in the XP case, and appears to be supported in Windows 7 as well. If you have a good-sized monitor, you can tile the sessions and have full interactivity with all of them. You can also zoom into one for a short period of time if needed.

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Based on the above new information about 3D graphics, I suspect remote desktop or VNC won't be very good. Frame rates for VNC are usually not good. Remote desktop usually does better but it does not handle DirectX (as far as I know), meaning you may not get anything at all by going that path. –  quickly_now Nov 21 '10 at 1:59
    
If you have Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise on the remote computers, and any version of Windows 7 on the client computer, you get somewhat accelerated graphics over remote desktop. On a LAN, especially if you use gigabit ethernet, the framerates should be fast enough to see 3D graphics if they aren't too intensive. Aero works over it. –  nhinkle Nov 21 '10 at 2:22
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Rather than saying "Framerates will be bad" - I think it would be better to ask "How important are framerates?". Just because it needs to be visible, doesn't mean it needs to be fancy. You can tone down stuff - backgrounds, screen size (Children can be 800x600... parent can be 1080x900 or whatever), disable stuff that's not needed (Especially in RealVNC or similar). I'd go this route DEPENDING on what actually needs to be visible. If its just text, great. If it's graphics/video... not so great. –  WernerCD Nov 21 '10 at 2:46
    
Just saw the "graphics are important" part... A lot depends on what framerates, resolution of the 4 inputs and bandwidth –  WernerCD Nov 21 '10 at 2:52

I think you are looking for a video mixer with multiple views. They can be expensive. Here is link to one that supports 3D and can view 10 sources on one monitor http://catalog2.panasonic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/sModelDetail?displayTab=O&storeId=11201&catalogId=13051&itemId=452711&catGroupId=37051&surfModel=AG-MX100

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I know that you are looking for a one monitor solution, but it could be that you don't know about a solution like Synergy and think that 4 monitors means 4 keyboards and mice. It doesn't have to be that way. Synergy makes it so that you can use one keyboard and mouse with four different PCs, Macs or Linux desktops in a seamless fashion. The developer has talked about making synergy also have the ability to share one monitor with multiple PCs, but I don't think he is there yet. Anyways, its a potential solution.

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Would this work for you?

http://www.ehow.com/how_6759435_hook-video-inputs-one-monitor.html

I really think what you are looking for is a KVM switch

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The OP wants to see all four outputs at the same time, so a KVM switch won't work (as is pointed out in the question). –  ChrisF Nov 21 '10 at 0:09

I think your best bet would be to have some sort of remote viewing app installed on 3 pcs, and monitor them from the 4th.

I don't think there exists a monitor that takes 4 inputs and combines the image.

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I considered remote desktop/vnc but from what ive read the performance might not suffice. I'll be running apps that use 3d graphics so I'm not sure how the frame rate would hold up. –  Josh Rickard Nov 21 '10 at 1:21
    
Ah. In that case performance using remote desktop or VNC will not be pretty. –  quickly_now Nov 21 '10 at 1:57

I came across some software a few years ago that allows different computers (even running different OS) to share a single common keyboard and mouse.

I think this might be it.

Perhaps not exactly what you are after but maybe a step in the right direction.

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That won't work for the asker, he is using multiple computers with one monitor, that will only work with one monitor. –  Wuffers Nov 21 '10 at 0:18
    
Perhaps using that, in combination with a bunch of remote desktop sessions (or VNC). –  quickly_now Nov 21 '10 at 0:29

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