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$500 Budget for many (3-6) screens and reasonable - good gaming

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  • Graphics
Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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June 3, 2011 3:42:44 PM

Hi Guys, I am intending on building myself a new PC in the order of $1500, but can be flexible and happy to allow the price to creep up if it is well justified for what I get.

Current plan is to put up to $500 into graphics. I am very happy to spend much less on it, and slightly happy to let it slip up a fraction.

Currently running a laptop with a second monitor in extended desktop which I love, so would like to expand to have many more monitors. I have a number of old LCD's (manly 15", all VGA) lying around which I was given. I would like to be able to connect minimum 3, realistically 4 and ideally up to 6 of these screens. (I'm happy to get some cheap converters from DVI to VGA if need be.)

Computer is used every day for a number of hours (hence why i'm happy to spend so much) generally for just bits and pieces such as email and uni work, and the second screen displays a video (generally a TV show) in the background. The computer is also occasionally used for things like electronics simulation (requires a lot of processing power), 3d PCB design (like CAD) and dreamweaver.

I'm not a huge gamer, occasionally play BF2 and Portal 2 and just started Black Ops (but my PC can't handle it.) I am also looking forward to BF3 coming out. I would like to be able to play these games on our new 3d TV in 1080p, in 3d (using 3dTV play or tridef). I would also like to try playing these across 3 screens (like eyefinity) but this is a requirement, just a nice idea.

I thought the only way to get this many screens outputted simultaneously (3-4 though VGA) and still have good graphics for games (both on TV and ordinary screens(separately)) would be to use two graphics cards in SLI/Crossfire each with two DVI (converted to VGA), however, I have been reading about DisplayPort 1.2 and that that could give 3 displays per port if a hub is used, but not sure about if the hubs are avaliable, or how much, or if they are my best option.

The short version of my question is: What is the best option for graphics at up to (around) $500 that will allow me min (3) to (ideally) 4 - 6 screens simultaneousness whist still being capable of good graphics through HDMI (in 3d) onto 3dTV (46" 1080p).

My current thoughts are two HD6950 in Crossfire allowing me 4 screens through DVI (to VGA), maybe more through the DP1.2, 3 screen gaming though eyefinity, and good 3d graphics through tridef on the 3dTV.

My other thought is that if I do it all via a single more powerful/expensive card (meaning all $500 goes to one card rather than 2) I would have the ability to add a second later making the build more powerful when it starts to age.

I realise that $500 for graphics may be a little generous for 'reasonable - good' graphics, but while I can be talked down, I'm happy to spend this as I will enjoy it and help future proof!

Other (very rough) specs are:
i5 2500k
Motherboard - $250 range, will pick once I know the rest of the specs
8GB Ram
SSD (maybe 2 in raid 0 if really lucky!)
Power supply will be picked once I know requirements of graphics. (thinking around 750W)

Any thoughts or advice is much appreciated!

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: 1-2 Months (depending on how long it takes to find all the right parts

USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Covered above

CURRENT GPU AND POWER SUPPLY: Covered above

OTHER RELEVANT SYSTEM SPECS: Very flexible, nothing is purchased yet, some ideas are mentioned above, but happy to take advice on them or others.

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Any, newegg.com is fine.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Australia

PARTS PREFERENCES: Most people seam to be suggesting ATI (Presumably for cost vs performance) but I'm happy to pay a little more if I get significantly better. I'm also thinking that nVidea may be better for the 3d games though (see above)

OVERCLOCKING: Probably No, but could be convinced if worth while

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Whatever is suggested, see above

MONITOR RESOLUTION: Many (3-6) 15" VGA @ 1024x768 and a 17" @ 1280x800. I'm not fussed about which are used and which not, happy to use all 15" instead of 17" if it simplifies.
I will also seperatly (not at the same time) connect to a 1080p 3D TV for some gaming.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Happy to spend a little extra if easily justifiable, most comments should be covered above.

Cheers
Anthony

More about : 500 budget screens reasonable good gaming

a c 124 U Graphics card
June 3, 2011 4:08:33 PM

Well... this is interesting. I'll start by saying that I have not set up an Eyefinity display myself so I don't know all the details, but I have done some fairly extensive research as it's something I'd like to do.

So, first off, using more than 3 monitors isn't always capable. First off you seem to be under a misunderstanding of eyefinity and crossfire. In crossfire, the second card's outputs will be completely dissabled, so you have to rely on a single card's outputs. A reference design 6950 supports up to 6 displays and has 2 dvi, 1 hdmi, and 2 display port. Also, you need to know that you can only use any TWO of the two DVI and the HDMI, not all 3. So 4 monitors will need to be on the display ports. Aside from that, Eyefinity does not work well with different size and resolution monitors. It will basically go by the smallest resolution across all of them, so it will look like crap. However, you should still be able to enable the screens separately at native res.

Also Nvidia offers multi monitor support but only up to 2 monitors per card, so you would need SLI cards and you would get up to 4 displays. But, the nice thing is their 3D support is more... stable... than ATI's (from what I've read).

Ok so all that being said, crossfire 6950s is a great choice and probably even more power than you really need. If you're not gaming with multimonitors you won't really need that much power, crossfire 6870s would deliver the same multimonitor support and also really great 1080p graphics power. I'm running crossfire 5850s, which at stock are between 6850 and 6870, and I'm maxing out all games at 1080p, and only a couple like Metro and Crysis are below 60fps. A lot of games get into the 100+ FPS range, and that's basically perfect for 3D (120 fps being max).

That's just my thoughts on graphics.

As for your other specs, I just want to say firstly make sure you get a motherboard with at least 8x/8x PCIe 16 lanes for crossfire - some of them are 16x/4x which is not as good. The other thing is I recommend you don't do RAID 0 SSDs. The reason being an SSD RAID does not support TRIM, which is what keeps SSDs running fast all the time. Without it, they would eventually write to every block of info and from that point on, every write will take 2 or 3x the time as it needs to first do a delete before it can write.
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June 3, 2011 4:23:01 PM

Thanks for the reply Wolfram23.

So if crossfire disables the second cards outputs, wouldn't it be better to get either a single 6950 or a single more powerful card? as the only reason for crossfire was to get the extra outputs.

I am aware about not being able to use both DVI and HDMI together, but I don't need to, so thats ok. Can I use both DVI and both DP together? Can I put a cheap DP to VGA convert into both DP to get 4 screens (2 via DVI, 2 via DP)?

Do you (or anyone) know anything about the hubs to allow 3 screens to connect to a DP? I've read about the concept, but not really found any good evidence of it.

Just to confirm, SLI allows both cards to output together? allowing to cards to display 4 screens?

Will make sure MB has 8x/8x - Thanks

Have been reading about SSD in raid 0 and that some had a garbage collector that dealt with this issue, but I need to do a lot more research before I'm ready to jump in.

Thanks for your advice, what would your final vote go to to allow the multiple screens for general use (study, coding and webdesign, and TV ect) as well as good graphics for the TV?

Cheers
Anthony
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a c 124 U Graphics card
June 3, 2011 5:16:25 PM

day1118 said:
Thanks for the reply Wolfram23.

So if crossfire disables the second cards outputs, wouldn't it be better to get either a single 6950 or a single more powerful card? as the only reason for crossfire was to get the extra outputs.

I am aware about not being able to use both DVI and HDMI together, but I don't need to, so thats ok. Can I use both DVI and both DP together? Can I put a cheap DP to VGA convert into both DP to get 4 screens (2 via DVI, 2 via DP)?

Do you (or anyone) know anything about the hubs to allow 3 screens to connect to a DP? I've read about the concept, but not really found any good evidence of it.

Just to confirm, SLI allows both cards to output together? allowing to cards to display 4 screens?

Will make sure MB has 8x/8x - Thanks

Have been reading about SSD in raid 0 and that some had a garbage collector that dealt with this issue, but I need to do a lot more research before I'm ready to jump in.

Thanks for your advice, what would your final vote go to to allow the multiple screens for general use (study, coding and webdesign, and TV ect) as well as good graphics for the TV?

Cheers
Anthony


-Crossfire tends to give a better performance value for your dollar than a single higher card, especially once you're talking about the likes of 6970 and 6990. So yeah a single 6950 will deliver what you want on your desktop, my only concern is when you go to play games on your 3D TV it might not have the power for over 100FPS with high details. If you don't mind turning down details a tad then it'll be just fine, but crossfire 6870s would be very powerful and less than $500.

-Basically, graphics cards only have dual-link output which means you can only use 2 of them. DP, however, basically delivers the signal in parallel so yes you can use DP and DVI together. One thing to note, though, is you need to buy an ACTIVE adapter, because a passive adapter will basically act like a regular DVI output and use up one of the cards 2 output signals. There are dual link and single link DP adapters, you need single link for up to 1920x1200 on a monitor - BUT - my guess is that the DP splitters are dual link. Dual link tends to be expensive, unfortunately. I have not really looked into DP splitters, sorry.

-Yes, SLI cards allow 2 outputs per card, so up to 4 screens between 2 cards.

I have not looked into RAID SSDs for a little while so I don't know about the garbage collection. As I understood it, it was impossible because the data is stored in different locations on each SSD. If they have fixed that, then great.

As I said, I think crossfire 6870s is a great deal for under $500 - but if you start adding up the costs of the DP adapters you might go over your limit. A single 6950 2gb is a force to be reckoned with and should be very adequate to your needs. It also has a nice advantage in that many users have successfully unlocked their 6950s into 6970s.
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June 4, 2011 12:54:19 AM

Thanks for the reply.

I'm thinking my two best options are either a single 6950 and a DP Hub/splitter such as
website: http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/productdetail.aspx?c...
datasheet/advertisement: http://i.dell.com/images/global/products/monitors/mmh11...

or two 6870 which I can use in non-crossfire for desktop use allowing 4xDVI and 4xDP then change to Crossfire when I play games on the TV (The computer would have to be turned off and moved, so even if I have to reboot, its not an issue!)

The advantage of the first is that I can always add a second 6950 in the future to make it more powerful, but the second already has two cards and does not require me to mess around with DP splitter/hub.

1) Is the second option possible? (Disable CF to allow me to use all 4 DVI Plugs?)
2) Which would you suggest?

Thanks
Anthony
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a c 124 U Graphics card
June 4, 2011 1:59:15 AM

Both are good options so it's really up to you. Disabling CF will indeed allow both cards to drive monitors so that's a pretty good idea.

Myself... I might just go with the 6950, especially due to it's good overclocking potential but also less hassle with crossfire. My experience with CF has been pretty good but I've heard some people are having problems with 6850/70s.
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June 4, 2011 2:38:46 AM

Best answer selected by day1118.
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June 4, 2011 2:38:53 AM

Thanks heaps for your help!
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a c 273 U Graphics card
June 4, 2011 8:50:24 AM

This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey
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