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New non-gaming system with three monitors

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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May 26, 2011 12:44:54 PM

I'm in the process of putting together a new system and would like some advice on a (most likely two) graphics card.

I don't do any gaming aside from the occasional round of plants vs. zombies. Mostly, I need to be able to drive 2 monitors at 1680 x 1050 and one monitor at 1920 x 1080, using DVI for each. I'm assuming that this means two cards. I use the screen real-estate for having a lot of terminals/remote desktop sessions/text editors/web browsers. I'll watch the occasional DVD or downloaded video, but I assume pretty much any card I get now can do that.

I'm looking for nvidia, because of it's good Linux support (this machine will be dual boot).

I'm not sure if this is the way it's usually done (relatively new here), but I'm just going to copy the fields from the 'how to ask' sticky and provide answers:

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Within the next few weeks to 1 month.
BUDGET RANGE: Not sure, although I don't want to buy anything I don't need since I have no plans on gaming.
USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Driving multiple monitors, watching videos, extremely light games.
CURRENT GPU AND POWER SUPPLY: New build, so no current GPU or PSU.
OTHER RELEVANT SYSTEM SPECS: Most likely an Intel i7 2600K.
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Newegg, but this isn't a requirement.
PARTS PREFERENCES: Needs to be Nvidia for Linux support.
OVERCLOCKING: No
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 2x 1680 x 1050 1x 1920 x 1080

More about : gaming system monitors

a b U Graphics card
May 26, 2011 6:09:53 PM

If you plan to use open suse then you might consider AMD GPUs too.Installing drivers is quite easy and requires two to three clicks at max.This feature is called one click install available at suse community website.
You don't need multiple graphics card to run three monitors.I am using one HD 4890 to run two displays(1440x900,1920x1080) on open suse.So if you plan to buy AMD gpu then I might be able to help you with the setup.
I don't know much about nvidia card setup but I'm pretty sure that you don't need multiple cards for three monitor setup.Just choose something which has three display output.
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a b U Graphics card
a b C Monitor
May 26, 2011 6:10:31 PM

Ok, so had to do a little research on the 3 monitors with the total display spanned.

For 3 monitors using Nvidia, you'll have to have two cards. No way around it.

For the cards themselves, you can actually go pretty cheap as your gaming isn't a requirement at all. It's mostly for multi-tasking. With this in mind, I can recommend either two 550's in SLi ($140 each) or two 560's in SLi ($190 each).

I'd recommend a good power supply, especially considering your other hardware. Good brands would be Corsair, Thermaltake, PC Power and Cooling, OCZ, and a couple more. Start at least with a 650 watt and move up depending on the GPU's you get. With the two GTX 560's, get a 750 watt just to be safe.

Here's the deal with using 3 displays driving individual monitors. When you do get everything, install the drivers, and connect the monitors, open up the Nvidia control panel, go over to "Configure SLi, Physx, Surround" and click "Activate all displays". This will drive each display individually and will allow maximized windows on all 3 monitors without goofy 3rd party applications being used while running in Spanned mode (which would give one HUGE desktop, but would force maximized windows to be spread across all 3 monitors, which isn't good for multitasking). You could always change this back whenever you want to do a little gaming by just going back to the Nvidia control panel.
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a b U Graphics card
a b C Monitor
May 26, 2011 6:11:52 PM

sayantan said:
If you plan to use open suse then you might consider AMD GPUs too.Installing drivers is quite easy and requires two to three clicks at max.This feature is called one click install available at suse community website.
You don't need multiple graphics card to run three monitors.I am using one HD 4890 to run two displays(1440x900,1920x1080) on open suse.So if you plan to buy AMD gpu then I might be able to help you with the setup.
I don't know much about nvidia card setup but I'm pretty sure that you don't need multiple cards for three monitor setup.Just choose something which has three display output.


Nvidia has always supported linux drivers better than AMD/ATI has, which is why he wants to go with Nvidia. Additionally, a single Nvidia card can't support more than 2 monitors at once.

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a b U Graphics card
May 26, 2011 6:23:43 PM

I think AMD's driver support for linux(at least for open suse) is good enough.I never had any trouble updating the drivers.
Since nvidia doesn't support 3 idsplays I think there is no point in going for two nvidia cards.As he is not playing games ,two cards would just be a waste of money along with increased power consumption.
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a b U Graphics card
a b C Monitor
May 26, 2011 6:26:23 PM

Sayantan, you're not reading clearly.

Nvidia cards in SLi support 3 monitors. BY THEMSELVES they do not. Two cards won't necessarily be a waste of money, his needs could change over time. I will admit that if he was running Windows, I would absolutely recommend a single card for Eyefinity, however he doesn't want AMD, he wants Nvidia.
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a b U Graphics card
a b C Monitor
May 26, 2011 6:28:36 PM

Well here's another question: will you be using CUDA? If yes the 550 is a good choice, otherwise I'd consider it overkill.
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a b U Graphics card
a b C Monitor
May 26, 2011 6:33:44 PM

It's not necessarily overkill as his needs could change over time.

Yes, he could go with two GTS 450's as they're 100 a piece, but the extra performance you would get from the extra 40 bucks per card (he's already spent the money on an i7 Sandy bridge processor mind you) would be well worth it in the long run. And yes, CUDA support is pretty cool.
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May 26, 2011 6:36:12 PM

My ATI 5850 supports 3 monitors at one time perfectly fine.
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a b U Graphics card
May 26, 2011 6:38:44 PM

Yeah I fully understand what you are saying.(single nvdia card doesn't support 3 displays).
So how do you think he would utilize the potential of two capable nVidia GPUs without playing any games??I don't think there are enough apps to utilize the GPUs to their full potential under linux.Also I don't think he would be using it to run scientific/engineering simulations which really reqires powerful systems.
He doesn't like AMD! thats fine. I was just telling him an option.
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a b U Graphics card
a b C Monitor
May 26, 2011 6:43:34 PM

My point. Unless your using CUDA (which is awesome) a passivly cooled GT 520 will do the job. If it were my money, I'd rather save the $200 from the graphic cards and buy another 5TB of harddrive space.
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a b U Graphics card
a b C Monitor
May 26, 2011 6:44:25 PM

DERP, the 520 doesn't support SLi and could only drive 2 monitors by itself. Nice recommendation.

I'm getting a headache now. It's like talking to a wall sometimes. OP, please do as you wish, I posted a good solution for you and yes, you could try using an AMD card that supports eyefinity (Please note that if you do, you would HAVE to use an Active DisplayPort Adapter for your 3rd monitor, whichever one that is). Either solution works fine. Do what's best for you and your budget.
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a b U Graphics card
a b C Monitor
May 26, 2011 6:55:14 PM

Why would you want to sli? You run them not in sli. Of course he will need two of the cards and it still saves him $200
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May 26, 2011 7:33:07 PM

The distribution for Linux will be Arch. I'll boot Windows only occasionally for some applications that don't play nice in Wine.

I'm a sysadmin, so it's all about being able to do a lot of things at once.

I wouldn't think I need SLI for this, although that's why I'm asking you guys. I very much don't need a powerful GPU so long as they can drive my monitors.

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a b U Graphics card
May 26, 2011 7:52:25 PM

If you go for nvidia cards then you must run on SLI to support 3 displays.eg GTS440 SLI , GT 240 SLI.(But i really don't see any point for SLI)
or
go for AMD HD 6450
I can tell you driver support for AMD is as good as nVidia in open suse.
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a b U Graphics card
a b C Monitor
May 26, 2011 8:34:30 PM

I don't know why everyone keeps going back to sli, but you can run more than 2 cards in non-sli mode. Linux shouldn't have a problem with it at all, just might have to modify the xorg.conf if for some reason the nvidia drivers don't do it automatically or screens disappear on reboots.
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May 26, 2011 8:37:52 PM

That seems odd to me. What you're saying sounds like "If you put in two separate nvidia cards without sli, you can only use two outputs". Why would that be?

I'm really not open to changing distros right now. I've been using Arch for the past few years after a lot of previous trials. Arch matches the way I work.
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May 26, 2011 8:38:27 PM

Supermuncher85 said:
I don't know why everyone keeps going back to sli, but you can run more than 2 cards in non-sli mode. Linux shouldn't have a problem with it at all, just might have to modify the xorg.conf if for some reason the nvidia drivers don't do it automatically or screens disappear on reboots.


That's what I was thinking. That's what I do now in my current box: 2 separate cards, driving two screens. That box is about 5 years old, though.
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a c 217 U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
a c 133 C Monitor
May 26, 2011 9:02:29 PM

Supermuncher85 said:
I don't know why everyone keeps going back to sli, but you can run more than 2 cards in non-sli mode. Linux shouldn't have a problem with it at all, just might have to modify the xorg.conf if for some reason the nvidia drivers don't do it automatically or screens disappear on reboots.


^+1

People are confusing 3 displays in 2D surround with having a 3 monitor extended desktop. With a desktop, you just need 2 cards. Two GTS240's would get the job done. Granted, you may want to SLI them, but it's not needed.
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a c 273 U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
a b C Monitor
September 5, 2011 3:18:45 PM

This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey
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