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Triple Monitor Setup with HD 3870

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June 13, 2008 7:48:47 PM

First Post! Thanks for your thoughts.

Building my new system for the occasional game and Flash development.

Someone has convinced me that ATI works better with multiple monitors. I'm not sure if that is true or not.

My current triple monitor setup has 3x Dell 2005WS. I currently use one PCI-e Nvidia and one PCI Nvidia card to support this, but I'm upgrading the entire computer and I'll be upgrading one of the 20" to a dell 3008FPW.

I'd like to know if I should get three HD 3870s and hook each monitor up to each card and run them in crossfire. Or will two be enough with the 30" hooked up to one and the 2x 20" hooked up the other?

At this point it seems that the number of motherboards with 3x PCI-e 2.0 slots is pretty limited. It should be noted that I plan on upgrading the 20" to 24" whenever the next gen Dell 24" is released.

Alternatively, is the multi-monitor support being better with ATI just rubbish?

@Geotech - I do use ultramon and love it! Definitely more pixels. My current problem is that all the extra subwindows with my applications force me to move them to extra monitors, taking up space that I need on the extra monitors for utilities such as preview/email/database! The 30" will allow me to have that single application and all of its subwindows in one screen while allowing me to have my utility windows open in the other small monitors.
June 13, 2008 8:09:59 PM

Actually it is true that ATI monitor support is "better". Although, not necessarily better support in the sense of visual quality, but more support would be a better way of putting it. Multiple monitors works while using ATI cards in crossfire is enabled, where as you can only use one monitor when using Nvidia cards in SLI mode.

You only need one HD 3870 to use three monitors if you also have an integrated graphics processor. You need to enable both video controllers, although be sure to make sure your primary monitor is one of the monitors running from the HD 3870, so you will be getting the benefits of that card while running games, movies, etc.

EDIT: Grammar
June 13, 2008 8:34:33 PM

I actually thought my 7600gt had more dual monitor options than my 3850. Either way, more pixels=better productivity. Try software like Multimon or ultramon.
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June 13, 2008 8:52:14 PM

I wanted to ask what's your budget on video cards and what motherboard you would be using. I would personally recommend an Intel motherboard that supports Crossfire. Buy two ATI HD3850s or 3870s and run them in crossfire. Unlike Nvidia, ATI supports multiple monitor while running Crossfire.
a b C Monitor
June 13, 2008 9:09:58 PM

Not disagreeing with the two above me, but its my understanding that what they are saying is not 100% true. If you have CF running, and launch a full screen game, then the AMD drivers disable CF at that point and launch the game. When you exit, then the CF drivers are enabled, and you continue as normal. If CF is disabled while playing, then I don't think you'll be able to use the other monitor, it will be blank.

The same is true for SLI however. What makes it worse, is that the drivers DON'T disable SLI, you have to do it manually. Not only is that a PITA, but it takes more time to do it yourself.

If the others have more info (like a link that shows I'm wrong...), I'd love to hear it. I don't use either tech, but I like to stay up on it.
June 13, 2008 10:26:59 PM

Thanks. With my current setup I have some redrawing issues on the PCI card monitor if my system is struggling. I often have quite a few applications open, three that take up close to 1.5 gigabytes of memory total and one is somewhat graphics intense.

Is there a performance benefit to having each monitor hooked up to each card? Perhaps two would suffice, opening up my motherboard possibilities.

Perhaps I don't understand the necessity of crossfire and it's use. Maybe the 30", if used for a game, should be hooked up to two 3870s alone with crossfire enabled and the other 3870 reserved for non-crossfire use. To be honest I only play games once in a great while, so it really is something I could adjust hardware wise if necessary.

Does multimonitor crossfire support mean that if the cards are hooked up and in crossfire mode, for a game say, that my peripheral monitors would be active with full use? Whereas in SLI, the primary monitor is active and utilizing the power of all the cards while disabling the peripheral monitors?

It would be a lot easier to figure all this out "hands on", unfortunately, that would be a bit expensive!
a b C Monitor
June 13, 2008 11:01:14 PM

You've only spec'd out your current video setup, whats the rest of the computer look like? If you are having memory issues, you should upgrade to 2GBs, or 4GBs of memory, not swap your cards. (unless you are talking about needing 1.5GBs of VIDEO memory)

The most common form of 3 monitors is to hook up the main monitor to a single card. As the only monitor on it. Get a second card, and hook up the side monitors to it. (do NOT link them together.) If you do this, you can use any motherboard. You could even get a P3x/P4x motherboard, and use Nvidia video cards. Put a nice 8800GT/GTS card in the primary PCIe slot, and a lower card in the other. You will have the performance needed for games, while not having to worry about what motherboard to get, or having to wait for SLI/CF drivers to be disabled.
June 13, 2008 11:05:39 PM

Sorry, my current budget for this system without the 30" monitor is $1750. This is a complete upgrade as I've been on a budget system for 14 months due to uncertainties that are now certain.

I've already acquired a case, power supply and 3x Seagate Barracuda 250GB HDD for Raid 0.

I'm planning on 8GB of RAM, Windows Vista 64bit

The rest is undecided.
a b C Monitor
June 14, 2008 12:56:28 AM

If he gets a motherboard that supports EITHER CF or SLI, then he doesn't need to worry about CF or SLI. (he could even use a PCIe 1x video card.) I don't suggest running the 3850, for the monitors he's mentioned, it won't be enough for gaming.

I'll stick with what I've said already. CF/SLI board, doesn't matter. I personally would get a nice P35 board, an 8800GT/GTS depending on your budget/game requirements, and an 8600GT for the second monitors. You should be good to go.
June 14, 2008 7:12:45 PM

4745454b said:
If he gets a motherboard that supports EITHER CF or SLI, then he doesn't need to worry about CF or SLI. (he could even use a PCIe 1x video card.) I don't suggest running the 3850, for the monitors he's mentioned, it won't be enough for gaming.

I'll stick with what I've said already. CF/SLI board, doesn't matter. I personally would get a nice P35 board, an 8800GT/GTS depending on your budget/game requirements, and an 8600GT for the second monitors. You should be good to go.



I guess I'm still a little confused then about CF and SLI. What is the point of it if I'd never need it?

I'm also curious if I would see any benefit from having each monitor on it's own card rather than 30" on one and the 20"s on the other.

With respect to gaming I wouldn't actually be using all three monitors. I have not seen any game that supports multiple monitors with different resolutions. Right?
a b C Monitor
June 14, 2008 8:45:01 PM

You need a CF/SLI motherboard for the extra PCIe 16x slots. You aren't going to enable it, but PCIe 16x video cards have better price/performance ratios then either PCI or PCIe 1x video cards.

Usually when people do this, they only do "accelerated work" on one screen. The side screens hold their Email programs, chat program, and other simple 2D screens. This is why I said to hook up one screen to the best card, and put the other two screens on the second card. Even IF it runs 1% slower, there aren't any speed sensitive tasks being ran on them.
June 14, 2008 11:06:01 PM

4745454b said:
You need a CF/SLI motherboard for the extra PCIe 16x slots. You aren't going to enable it, but PCIe 16x video cards have better price/performance ratios then either PCI or PCIe 1x video cards.

Usually when people do this, they only do "accelerated work" on one screen. The side screens hold their Email programs, chat program, and other simple 2D screens. This is why I said to hook up one screen to the best card, and put the other two screens on the second card. Even IF it runs 1% slower, there aren't any speed sensitive tasks being ran on them.


I understand that PCI cards are slow, definitely. What I'm confused about is why I wouldn't be using xfire or SLI.

If you are saying that I will never use xfire or SLI, then the argument of ATI having better multimonitor support is out the window and I would then go with the two Nvidia cards and choose an excellent board for OC'ing a quad-core.
a b C Monitor
June 14, 2008 11:15:31 PM

The others were talking about multi monitor support, not me. The only time I talked about it was my first post, pointing out that CF does not support multi monitors, it simply disables the other screen when you start up a game.

My next post is where I give my opinion as to what you should run. Two video cards, one big one, one smaller one. Because you aren't going to link them, you can buy either an SLI or CF board. I personally would get a P35 with an 8800GTS (or 8800GT if your gaming requirements aren't so high.) and an 8500/8600GT for the other two monitors. I never suggested running SLI/CF, just get the motherboard.

You could get a tri PCIe 16x board and enable SLI/CF, but I think it will probably be more hassle than its worth. And as you've pointed out, those boards are not very common.
June 15, 2008 12:19:21 AM

Got it. So what I'm looking at is Nvidia being more of a hassle when using SLI when multiple monitors are in use. ATI simply automates more of the process when going into game mode with xfire or SLI enabled which is the only time it's used.

Instead of getting multiple ATI cards for xfire, just let the more expensive, yet more powerful single Nvidia 8800GTS drive the 30".

3x 3870 (512MB) = 480

1x EVGA 8800GTS (512MB) = $244
1x EVGA 8800GT (512MB) = $170

Alternatively, it would appear that I could get dual 1GB 8800 GT for the same price as the triple 3870s.
a b C Monitor
June 15, 2008 2:11:33 AM

You wouldn't need to get some of these cards. Whats the cost of an SLI/CF motherboard with 3x PCE 16x slots, plus two cards worthy of SLI/CF plus the lower end card?

For example, you could get a three PCIe 16x CF board with two 3870s and a nice 3650. Or you could get a three PCIe 16x SLI board with two 9600GT's or 8800GT's and a single 8500/8600GT. Either way, I bet a "normal" SLI/CF board with a single 8800GTS and 8500GT will cost less. As an added bonus, you won't need to worry about getting an 800W PSU to drive 3 video cards. Getting two cards is simply cheaper.
June 15, 2008 3:20:43 AM

Agreed that two cards saves a bundle and provides a lot of options versus two cards.
June 18, 2008 2:56:36 PM

Ok, I just ordered this from new egg for $100 under budget, which I'm using for a new UPS:

Base:
Lian-Li Lancool Case ($140)
Seasonic 700W PSU ($170)
Asus P5K Deluxe w/ WIFI ($149)
Core2Quad Q6600 ($210)

Graphics:
XFX GeForce 9800 GTX Black Edition ($319)
XFX GeForce 9600 GT ($139)

GB:
Muskin 2x2GB DDR2 1066 ($135)
3x Barracuda 500GB SATA HDDs ($270)
2x DVD Burners


New Keyboard, All-in-one card reader

I'm hoping that in a couple of years I can get by with a MOM, CPU, memory, graphics upgrade. I'd like to get a lot of years out of the rest. I'm sticking with 4GB of RAM for now to see how it goes -- actually less with windows vista 32-bit. I have retail ultimate, so I'll upgrade when more things move to 64-bit.
a b C Monitor
June 18, 2008 9:22:51 PM

Looks very nice. There are ways you could have saved more money, but the build overall is VERY solid. Respected name brand parts all the way around, and the parts of are sufficient power to muscle your way through just about anything.

Congrats.
June 18, 2008 10:27:16 PM

Thanks for helping to justify my expense and for answering my questions. I was definitely confused and headed down the wrong path! I'm super excited about the huge warranties with reliable companies.

I'm guessing you are thinking that the PSU, Mushkin fancied up 1066, and 9800GTX added little value for more $$$? Those were my primary, "what the heck, why not?" components.

I also ended up going with a Dell 3007 instead of the 3008. I won't be using it as a TV, blueray player, or game console tv, so it was pretty unnecessary.

My savings from that is going into a new desk for the home office.
a b C Monitor
June 18, 2008 10:49:27 PM

The 9800GTX is fine, but the 9600GT for side monitors is a little overkill. I would never drop $140 for a case, but then I don't have the money to do that, so as always, cases remain a personal choice. The only other thing I saw that made me wonder was the 3x500GB harddrives. But then I assumed you were going for a RAID5 setup.

Either way, it doesn't really matter. Your parts are coming, and they look to be good ones.
a b C Monitor
February 10, 2010 5:07:14 AM

and this one is older still at 1.5 years...
a b C Monitor
February 10, 2010 8:07:32 AM

WTF was that?
Necro threading !?! :heink: 

!