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Video Cards for 3 30" monitors.

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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March 3, 2011 7:07:16 PM

Hi,

So I have never hooked up a 30" monitor and have no idea what all I will need for the task. I want to run at the max resolution so I believe I need 2 DVI cables per monitor. I'm basically looking for the most cost effective upgrades, and if anyone has suggestions on monitors feel free to leave those as well. Here is my current (relevant) hardware.

Motherboard - 1 x PCIe x16, 1 x PCIe x8/x16, 1 x PCIe x8 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Vid Card - HD 4870 X2 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I occasionally play games like Starcraft 2, and will be playing Diablo 3 when it comes out so a video card that can handle these would be preferred, but I can always drop to a smaller res for gaming if necessary. I run Windows 7 AND Ubuntu Linux so I want a video card setup that will work in both environments.

Thanks!
Jon

More about : video cards monitors

a c 359 U Graphics card
a c 195 C Monitor
March 3, 2011 7:16:12 PM

The HD 4870 x2 should have two dual linked DVI connections. Therefore, you should be able to drive two 30" monitors with it.

However, you will need to add another card to drive a 3rd monitor. Only the HD 5xxx and 6xxx series with Eyefinity capabilities can drive 3 monitors. Additionally, Eyefinity is limited to 5760 x 1080 resolution, or three 1920 x 1080 monitors.
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a c 125 U Graphics card
a b C Monitor
March 3, 2011 7:37:05 PM

I was pretty darn sure Eyefinity isn't limited to that. There's Single Link DP to HDMI/DVI adapters (Active, of course) that do up to 1920x1200 and then Dual Link adapters for the biggest 2560x1600 resolution.

But I honestly don't know... I don't suppose you have a source for that, jaguar?
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March 3, 2011 7:46:55 PM

What's the native resolution on the monitors? If it's 2560x1600, you CAN use Eyefinity (currently supports up to 7680x3200), but the question is do you want to be able to game across all 3 or just on the center one? If you are mainly interested in just having the monitors there for multitasking, something as simple as an HD 5770 w/ an active DP to DVI adapter will work. However, that will not be enough to game across all 3 monitors even at low resolutions, and you will probably have trouble playing at native resolution on even one monitor. I can't say much more until I find out the resolution, but if it IS 2560x1600, you're going to need some serious graphics horsepower to game across all 3 without dropping the resolution pretty low.
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a c 359 U Graphics card
a c 195 C Monitor
March 3, 2011 7:54:04 PM

Perhaps, I should clarify...

For gaming purposes I believe the maximum EyeFinity resolution is 5760 x 1080 (maybe 5760 x 1200). That's basically limited by the bandwidth.

Technically speaking, EyeFinity can theoretically support up to 8192 x 8192 resolution for display purpose (i.e. not while gaming) using six 2560 x 1600 monitors. At least that's what AMD claims.

http://support.amd.com/us/kbarticles/Pages/gpu50-ati-ey...
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March 3, 2011 7:56:42 PM
a c 262 U Graphics card
a b C Monitor
March 3, 2011 8:10:36 PM

I think you are looking at a pair of strong cards, like GTX580's to get the required performance.
A single 2560 x 1600 monitor has twice the pixels of a 1080P(1920 x 1080) monitor. It takes a strong card to drive just a single 30" monitor. I think you should be looking at a sli pair of GTX570/GTX580 monitors for performance. Same for ati, I think you need two 6970 class cards.

Each monitor needs only one cable, but it must be a dual link dvi cable which will be supplied with the monitor. Each has to plug into a dual link dvi output on the video card.
I doubt that there are any cards with triple dual dvi outputs.

All in all, an expensive proposition, but if you have the funds, it should be the best.
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March 3, 2011 8:42:15 PM

geofelt said:
I think you are looking at a pair of strong cards, like GTX580's to get the required performance.
A single 2560 x 1600 monitor has twice the pixels of a 1080P(1920 x 1080) monitor. It takes a strong card to drive just a single 30" monitor. I think you should be looking at a sli pair of GTX570/GTX580 monitors for performance. Same for ati, I think you need two 6970 class cards.

Each monitor needs only one cable, but it must be a dual link dvi cable which will be supplied with the monitor. Each has to plug into a dual link dvi output on the video card.
I doubt that there are any cards with triple dual dvi outputs.

All in all, an expensive proposition, but if you have the funds, it should be the best.



"I'm basically looking for the most cost effective upgrades" - makes me think that he probably isn't willing to shell out for the hardware to run all 3 in Eyefinity/ Surround.

If you don't have any interest in actually gaming across all 3 displays, you will more choices in terms of graphics horsepower. Like geofelt said though, if you want to game across all 3, you're absolutely going to need a pair of top end cards.

Also, if you go with ATI and you only want to game on one monitor, you CAN still have all 3 hooked up using an active DP to DVI adapter. I'm double checking right now, but I'm pretty sure it will support 2560x1600 resolution. Be aware that even with only one 2560x1600, you'll probably still need an SLI/ Crossfire setup to be able to play at native resolution unless you want to wait until the GTX 590/ HD 6990.

I just realized you mentioned SC2 in your first post, which pretty much takes gaming across all 3 out of the question since it doesn't support it. I have no idea what they're planning for Diablo 3, but that's a good bit down the road.

EDIT: Just checked, and the DP to Dual Link DVI adapters DO allow up to 2560x1600.
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March 4, 2011 10:04:49 PM

Kenny is correct. I basically just want to be able to drive games on one monitor, and then when I'm not gaming use all three monitors to do development (terminals, emacs/eclipse, chrome, and occasionally some VMs for testing). This is why I am asking for a cost effective upgrade.

Basically, I have a video card that can drive at least 2 monitors, so I want to know if I am better off spending money on another card to just run games on one monitor (and run it with my current vid card if that won't cause issues), or if I need to get two new video cards, etc.

Since I have to buy another card, I wouldn't be opposed to the idea of picking out something that can play games in 2560x1600 on one monitor, and I don't even mind spending money if I need to. What I am opposed to is jumping from a $250 card to a $900 card when the $250 card will play support my needs.
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March 4, 2011 10:05:39 PM

Also, thanks for all of the input so far :)  You guys are amazingly fast to respond.

One more detail (in case it is relevant) - it is very possible I will turn the monitors up on their sides, and I know most video card drivers support this with smaller monitors. Is this still the case with 30" monitors?
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March 4, 2011 10:10:06 PM

Don't think they do, but I don't know why I wouldn't be able to run 2 monitors with it. I have no idea if I can use it as well as another eyefinity vid card and keep from having issues.


I really should stop posting so much, but I forgot to mention that all 3 monitors will be dell 3007 WFPs, so the resolution is 2560x1600 and each needs a dual link dvi cable hooked in.
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a c 262 U Graphics card
a b C Monitor
March 4, 2011 10:42:30 PM

Most games play on one monitor only.
It is best to drive the gaming monitor with a strong video card. Something like a GTX570 or GTX580 for 2560 x 1600.
A second monitor can be attached, and there does not seem to be much effect on gaming.

I have two samsung 305T 30" 2560 x 1600 monitors.
For a while, I used a 5870, and gaming was OK, but not spectacular.
To reduce the load for gaming, I bought a cheap $20 ati 3450 card to attach the second monitor, and that worked properly, but the color quality was lacking.
I used a ati card because it used the same copy of the ati drivers.
But, honestly, I did not see much difference in performance.

When the GTX580 was announced, I sold the 5870 and attached both monitors to the GTX580.
Gaming was much better, and I have not felt the need to use a second Nvidia card.


In this case, a inexpensive second card would be the best solution. Make certain that it has two dual link dvi outputs if you want to drive two 2560 x 1600 monitors.
There should be no problem if they hold mostly static stuff like e-mail, performance monitors, or web pages.
I used a passive XFX 7600GS for a while which drove two 30" monitors nicely. Not at high fps, though.

Lastly, this month should see the launch of the GTX590, a beastly single card that can drive three monitors.
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a c 125 U Graphics card
a b C Monitor
March 5, 2011 1:30:18 AM

Honestly an AMD Radeon 6970 2gb card will run all 3 monitors and game one just 1 monitor fine. As mentioned if you go with Nvidia even just to run 3 monitors and game on a single monitor you'll still need to go with 2 cards. I would probably say SLI 560 Ti 2gb versions (from Palit) if you go that way, but a single 6970 2gb is going to work on its own and puts out good FPS at 2560x1600.
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Best solution

March 5, 2011 9:10:38 AM

wolfram23 said:
Honestly an AMD Radeon 6970 2gb card will run all 3 monitors and game one just 1 monitor fine. As mentioned if you go with Nvidia even just to run 3 monitors and game on a single monitor you'll still need to go with 2 cards. I would probably say SLI 560 Ti 2gb versions (from Palit) if you go that way, but a single 6970 2gb is going to work on its own and puts out good FPS at 2560x1600.


Check THESE benches out. You're going to be running into trouble gaming at 2560x1600 with a single card unless it's a 6990 or a 590.

If you really aren't concerned with gaming on all 3, my recommendation would be CF 6950's. I have been considering similar options for my own setup (3 1280x1024 monitors, very close to the same total pixels as 1 2560x1600), and it looks like the 6950's offer the best combination of price and performance. Once you hit 2560x1600, the 1GB 560's run into a vRAM bottleneck, and although Palit DOES make a 2GB version, I'm not really a fan of their cards. I forgot to bookmark the article I found about this, but I'll keep looking for it. The main point it made is that the 6950's DOMINATE at 2560x1600. Here's another set of benchmarks for you to look at that show what I'm talking about.

I actually used to use a solution similar to what geofelt was talking about (I had a PCI 9400GT driving my peripheral monitors), and it DOES work pretty well. However, with the horsepower of the CF 6950's, you will definitely have enough spare to drive the peripherals.

If none of the monitors have a DisplayPort output, you'll need to grab an active DP to Dual Link DVI adapter, but I'm pretty sure they're relatively cheap nowadays.

If you feel like splurging and getting SLI 580's, by all means do, but the 6950's should be more than enough.

EDIT: Somehow I completely missed the fact that you already have a 4870 x2. Picking up a second one should be enough to game on a single 2560x1600, and you can always pick up a cheap card to drive the two other monitors. That would definitely be cheaper than getting the CF 6950's. Just consider that you ARE buying cards that are now 2 generations old, and you can always sell your old card to cover part of it. I would say do whatever your budget allows, so if you can afford the 6950's (or even the 580's), do it.
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March 6, 2011 8:08:58 AM

kennyj313 said:

EDIT: Somehow I completely missed the fact that you already have a 4870 x2. Picking up a second one should be enough to game on a single 2560x1600, and you can always pick up a cheap card to drive the two other monitors. That would definitely be cheaper than getting the CF 6950's. Just consider that you ARE buying cards that are now 2 generations old, and you can always sell your old card to cover part of it. I would say do whatever your budget allows, so if you can afford the 6950's (or even the 580's), do it.


I don't really have a limit on my budget, but I find that if you tell people that they immediately suggest the highest priced cards, and from my experience buying 1-2 generations old tends to work on 99% of the games I play, and the few it won't play on max will still play on lower settings.

I appreciate all of your help, you have been amazing and I will definitely be frequenting these forums more often. Also, the anandtech link with benchmark comparisons was really helpful. I'm likely just going to go with a 6950 for now and keep my current card in the computer for the peripherals. That way I won't feel bad in 1-2 years if I replace the 4870 x2.
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March 6, 2011 8:11:11 AM

Best answer selected by joncalhoun.
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