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Triple Monitors & Painful Drivers

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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March 13, 2008 4:03:59 AM

There are a couple of related problems making me consider a new video card right now.

One is that during a move about 5 months ago one of my monitors broke. They were both 24" 1920x1280 beasts. Anyway, the insurance finally came through...in fact, doubly so. I now have three of these monitors (and I do get to keep them, it's not a mistake -- long and ultimately uninteresting story). Sadly, I can only drive two of them at once at present time. Maybe I can solve this?

The other fact is that trying to fiddle with the drivers for the Geforce 7900 GT so that anything displays at all is a sort of hell that is draining away my soul. Every once in a while some insignificant change will destroy my fragile matrix of settings and my computer once again boots into screwy lines and I have to fix it blind, with only my cellphone for Internet lookup. I always manage to do it but I shouldn't have to put up with this crap. But I can manage a while.

Finally, although I do a lot of work with remote terminals and systems programming, I also play games and every couple weeks somebody who plays games naturally starts to grow jealous of all the new video cards in existence. Not that it's necessary yet.

From some preliminary research it seems it's extremely rare for a single video card to just drive three monitors (which is to say, others say it's extremely rare and I've yet to see a spec that explicitly allows for one). There do seem to be solutions involving multiple video cards. However I certainly don't want another of the same video card and I also don't want to find my problems increasing if I use two separate ones. Also, I definitely don't want to overdraw my power supply, but my understanding of how much headroom I have for power before needing a new supply, is limited. Also, my eyes sort of glaze over with all the discussion of PCI-e and PCI and AGP and whatnot -- I can connect two connectors that look the same, but I don't want to buy something and then realize I can't even plug it in.

Another solution I've seen is basically a hardware splitter that makes the whole thing look like one wiiiiiide monitor; I think I'd lose resolution this way because of the limitations of DVI, and regardless it is highly desirable for me to have at least 2 logical monitors.

My budget is "I can afford it, so long as I'm not actually wasting money". It's kind of nebulous but my point is that I'm not necessarily looking for the cheap way out, but I'm not keen on wasting money on imperceptible differences either.

So, the good news is that I have a very thorough set of system specs with this post :) .

Antec True Power II 550W
NEC ND-3550A DVD+RW 16X8X16X
2x Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 320GB SATA2
4x OCZ Platinum XTC PC2-6400 1GB DDR2-800 CL4-5-4-15
Intel Core 2 Duo E6700
EVGA E-GEFORCE 7900 GT
Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3
1.44MB floppy drive

Running Vista Ultimate x64

(various USB devices, in case they are significant to the power aspect: mouse, keyboard, webcam, smartcard reader, printer/scanner, bluetooth dongle, often an external HDD)

Any suggestions?
March 13, 2008 4:40:29 AM

for 3 monitors, especially if youre considering gaming... a matrox triplehead2go (digital edition) would work quite nicely (due to it offering bezel management, dvi support, usb powered, and more sensible connection layout than the original, etc)... although the maximum supported digital resolution for it is 'only' 3840x1024/3.9 megapixels or 3840x1200/4.6 megapixels, thats not due to the device itself, but rather the limitations of the connections/software involved.

that aside, and running 1280x1024 per each of 3 monitors (or 1920x1200 for each of 2) for supported digital resolutions, the size of each monitor would make up for the 'loss' in resolution, if you were to run at the lower resolutions.

each monitor via included or downloadable software has the ability to function individually for desktop and or application uses, such as maximizing windows to where theyll only occupy a single monitor by default, unless you wanted 'fullscreen', etc.

either way though, this would enable use of all 3 monitors from a lone dual-link dvi gpu output... instead of worrying about multiple gpus even, unless you wanted to go sli from a single dvi output, which would work as well.

if you were to use the analog ability of the dvi output with a dvi/vga adapter, i dont think youll encounter a resolution limitation, except by what the gpu is capable of, which will remove the supported digital res limitation of the th2g, allowing for possibly 5760x1200/6.9 megapixel resolution with the 3 24" displays... though im not positive... and if it did work, that would definetly mean a new gpu anyhow.

the downside though of it is the price, the DE version costs as much as a new gpu does ($300+)... whereas the older analog version can be found for up to $100+ less. though by the same token, the analog version has less to offer as well featurewise.

digital-
http://matrox.com/graphics/en/gxm/products/th2go/digita...

analog-
http://matrox.com/graphics/en/gxm/products/th2go/home.p...
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