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Graphics Card Considerations for Three-Monitor System

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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September 22, 2011 10:11:14 PM

What should I consider when selecting a graphics card(s) to drive 3 monitors? I want to build a gaming system that will play Sword of the Stars II across 3 monitors. However, I'm a little confused as to how I should go about selecting an appropriate card.

My system already has three of these monitors:

Asus ML228H 21.5" 1920X1080 2ms Full HD LED BackLight LED Monitor Slim Design 250 cd/m2 10,000,000 :1 (ASCR)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I would be building a new tower from motherboard up. I favor AMD processors, so I think AMD or ATI graphics chipset would be best.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Not applicable. I'm really more interested in learning to how select a proper card.
BUDGET RANGE: Not applicable right now, but the lower the better, of course! :D 
USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Gaming (Sword of the Stars II, Unreal Tournament), Office, Internet
CURRENT GPU AND POWER SUPPLY: Not applicable (new system)
OTHER RELEVANT SYSTEM SPECS: AMD CPU, probably ASUS or Gigabyte motherboard
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Newegg.com
PARTS PREFERENCES: AMD or ATI
OVERCLOCKING: No
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe (What do you think?)
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080 (three monitors)
September 22, 2011 10:30:06 PM

The only reason I'm not into this monitor is because it has no DVI port. It uses HDMI to DVI or VGA.
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a b U Graphics card
September 22, 2011 10:45:57 PM

Interesting monitor choice, I assume each came with a DVI-D - HDMI adaptor? But to your question, what is your budget? That will ultimately guide you to what card(s) you should be considering.
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September 22, 2011 10:58:03 PM

since you will be doing triple display FPS gaming, I wouldn't recommend going with anything less than 3x 6790 or better cards (560 ti for nvidia)
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September 23, 2011 3:12:42 AM

Thanks for the responses, everyone, but what I'd really like to know is what technical specs should I consider? For example, would memory, core clock speed, or number of stream processors be more important?
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a b U Graphics card
September 23, 2011 5:50:45 AM

For eyefinity the most performance dependant factor is the amount of VRAM. Ideally if you will be doing allot of gaming in eyefinity you want 2GB VRAM. Which leaves you with the options of 2GB 6950, 6970 or 6990's.

Now before I undoubtedly get some unintelligent responses calling me an idiot for my first statement, let me clarify. Yes all the factors you mentioned above are obviously important to GPU performance. However when deciding between say two cards clocked at 1000MHz with 1GB VRAM and a card clocked at 880MHz with 2GB VRAM the second option will produce better results at the resolutions you will be running. Obviously when considering cards containing the same capacity of VRAM then note the clock speed (you can always OC yourself or purchase factory OC'd cards for better performance over the reference cards). Make sense?

[edit] Just to clarify, VRAM is not the same as memory, for example the 6990 has 4GB of memory but only 2GB VRAM (as it is essentially two 6970's places on the one board)
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a b U Graphics card
September 23, 2011 6:24:11 AM

yeah 6970 or if you got the big bucks 6990 for single card setups (yes I know)
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September 23, 2011 3:32:57 PM

Ninja Pants said:
For eyefinity the most performance dependant factor is the amount of VRAM. Ideally if you will be doing allot of gaming in eyefinity you want 2GB VRAM. Which leaves you with the options of 2GB 6950, 6970 or 6990's.

Now before I undoubtedly get some unintelligent responses calling me an idiot for my first statement, let me clarify. Yes all the factors you mentioned above are obviously important to GPU performance. However when deciding between say two cards clocked at 1000MHz with 1GB VRAM and a card clocked at 880MHz with 2GB VRAM the second option will produce better results at the resolutions you will be running. Obviously when considering cards containing the same capacity of VRAM then note the clock speed (you can always OC yourself or purchase factory OC'd cards for better performance over the reference cards). Make sense?

[edit] Just to clarify, VRAM is not the same as memory, for example the 6990 has 4GB of memory but only 2GB VRAM (as it is essentially two 6970's places on the one board)


So, if I should plan on having at least 2GB of graphics memory, can that be spread across two cards? For example, do you think two of these would effectively drive my three monitors?

XFX HD-677X-ZNFC Radeon HD 6770 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Where do I find the VRAM spec?
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a b U Graphics card
September 23, 2011 5:03:49 PM

well i don't know much about sword.....but unreal will run with this setup
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September 23, 2011 5:46:45 PM

If you choose to purchase a single card for three monitors I would recomend the 6870 or 6950. You'll certainly need more VRAM, but if you choose to go for a CF configuration, the 6670 you mentioned might do the trick. Those games you mentioned aren't half as demanding as most recent games and will do fine with such a card, but if you want to be ready for the next generation of games I'd highly advise to opt for two 6850 or one 6870/6950.
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September 23, 2011 5:48:29 PM

pcpro178 said:
So, if I should plan on having at least 2GB of graphics memory, can that be spread across two cards? For example, do you think two of these would effectively drive my three monitors?

XFX HD-677X-ZNFC Radeon HD 6770 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Where do I find the VRAM spec?



Ok if your looking at a 6770 1gb but getting 2 of them which would give you 2gb of memory your Vram is still going to be 1gb. If you got 2 6950 2GB card which would give you 4GB it will still only be 2GB Vram. It only goes off of 1 card. It does not double up.

I have a 6950 2GB card and I run my games in eyefinity w/ 3x 23" monitors. Example I play Black Ops in eyefinty res. of 5760x1080 w/ everything set to high except shadows i get 117-125FPS. If I run one monitor at 1920x1080 everything on up on graphics I get 125fps. So really does not make a difference for me so i always run eyefinity.

My PC specs: I7 2600k, 8GB corsair vengeance ram, 128GB SSD, 6950 2GB video card, X-Fi sound card, ASUS Sabertooth P67 board
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a b U Graphics card
September 23, 2011 9:09:18 PM

Correct 6770 only has 1GB VRAM. VRAM and memory in this context are not always the same. VRAM (despite its origins) could also be considered as the 'frame buffer'. A 2GB 6950 is a good start for an eyefinity system, although the games you mention are not what one would call demanding I would suggest at least this if you want to get some longevity out of the build.

[edit] this is obviously dependant on your budget.
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September 27, 2011 8:29:55 PM

Thanks, Ninja. That is very helpful. In your previous response you stated, "Ideally if you will be doing allot of gaming in eyefinity you want 2GB VRAM. Which leaves you with the options of 2GB 6950, 6970 or 6990's." However, I thought that a graphics card's VRAM is essentially half of the card's advertised memory. For example, a 2GB 6950 would have 1GB VRAM. Is that correct? If so, do you mean that if I go that route, I should use 2x6950 in Crossfire?
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a b U Graphics card
September 27, 2011 11:09:12 PM

Nope. All the three cards mentioned there have 2GB VRAM. Using them in crossfire will not increase the VRAM, so 3x6970's still has an effective 2GB VRAM. Generally the VRAM will be equal to the advertised memory of the card, this only starts to differ when considering multi-GPU cards such as the 6990.
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September 27, 2011 11:13:29 PM

Best answer selected by pcpro178.
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September 27, 2011 11:15:16 PM

slcmike said:
The only reason I'm not into this monitor is because it has no DVI port. It uses HDMI to DVI or VGA.


Yeah, I was a little disappointed over the available connectors as well, but its looks and performance is outstanding!
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!