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How can I maximize the number of monitors?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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December 11, 2009 1:04:01 AM

Hey folks,

I'm really a bit confused on how SLI, Crossfire, and all of that stuff relates to multiple monitors. I know what the technologies are, yes. But, I really don't care about SLI/Crossfire support...I play lower-end strategy games and spend most of my time doing software development (multiple browsers, multiple terminals, IDE, email), which is why I'm absolutely itching for a better setup with the number of monitors.

So my question is this: How do I know that I can just slap in another PCI-e graphics card and get another two or three completely distinct monitors off of it? I don't want display cloning; this is all for my own at-home workstation. I've seen motherboards with 5 PCI-e x16 slots. Keeping in mind that I don't care much about rendering performance, am I thinking right that you could theoretically throw in 5 compatible (and similar) graphics cards, with two DVI outputs and an HDMI output on each, and get 15 monitors with separate pictures? Now, granted, that's excessive...but I'd really like to know, because it seems like multi-monitor setups aren't discussed as often as obtaining more FPS in favorite games.

Thanks for any information!
December 11, 2009 5:39:07 AM

Well, I'm new to multiple monitor setups. I have two right now, a 24" and a 17" from different GPUs. It's my understanding that you can plug a monitor into each DVI plug. I'm not sure about the HDMI and two DVI at once. I can have a total of four monitors with my current GPUs, which is plently.
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a b U Graphics card
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December 11, 2009 5:57:08 AM

As far as i know it is indeed as easy as putting multiple cards (same card for best compatability) into your computer to get more outputs for monitors. All you then need to do is set each display to extended mode from clone, which is the defalt. Also move the screens around in the driver screen to set one monitor next to another, set screen resolutions and such and your set.
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December 11, 2009 12:57:53 PM

Yeah, you're right; I decided to man up last night and ripped into an older box on my LAN and took the nVidia 9500 GT out of it and threw it into my good box along with the 9800 GT already in it to find out the answer because I knew I couldn't sleep without it. While the HDMI did not work to yield a 5th monitor, which was also a big question, the additional VGA/DVI slot on the 9500 GT paired up with the 9800 GT to yield 4 monitors total. I'm not sure why it didn't work; it's possible that it didn't work because the card is outdated and was only meant to support two of three slots. Or, it's possible I didn't have the drivers for that card on my computer...or that I didn't enable a setting somewhere for it, although I've always had monitors autodetected without an issue, at the very least after a reboot. I'll have to figure it out later tonight.

I actually purchased a motherboard with 3-Way SLI capabilities, so I've got 3 PCI-e x16 slots for graphics cards and just need to fork out an extra $100 or so and grab two more cards now. While I wouldn't be surprised to see the day in which I want 8 monitors (In fact, I could already use 8, which would be an ear server, ejb server, war server, extra terminal for compiles/digging in logs, Firefox, IE, support tool/email, and IDE, yech, ridiculous) I should be able to get all I truly NEED off of my setup for now. Thanks for the advice.
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December 11, 2009 4:48:11 PM

Indeed most cards sold today, including your 9500 GT's can only support 2 outputs even though they have 3. Only ATI's 5000 series can support 3. There are other workstation cards that support 4+ monitors form Nvidia or Matrox but those could be more expensive because they are ment for rendering.
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December 11, 2009 6:22:49 PM

Interesting. I did not know about DisplayPort or the fact that many graphics cards only had two signal chips.

I'll probably just plunk some 9500 GTs into my computer, then. They're comparatively cheap and should work well enough, and I have no intentions of using SLI. I figure I can get up to 4 monitors dedicated to my computer for about another $350 or so, then, which isn't nearly the hit I was afraid I was going to take when I first started looking into this. Thanks again!
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