My current computer has two 19" Trinitron monitors. I'm going to build a new machine, keeping those monitors and adding a third LCD one, 18" or so. (Using another CRT is out -- I know from experience with the current setup that it would heat the room up too much.) I use 2D almost exclusively.
I was thinking of using a Matrox Parhelia AGP video card. The problem (aside from it seeming overpriced) is that when a Parhelia is used to drive three monitors, they all have to be at the same resolution. At the LCD display's native resolution of 1280 x 1024, the other two displays will be unreadable without massive headaches, so I'll have to use a lower, non-native resolution. But it's my understanding that LCD displays get blurry when run at non-native resolutions, so that doesn't seem like a great idea. (If anyone knows of a good LCD display for which this isn't much of a problem, or knows of a site that ranks monitors by this criterion, please let me know.)
My other option, of course, is to run the LCD from a PCI card. But I will be using several HDD's in the future, and I'm worried about saturating the PCI bus. So the question is, how do I go about estimating how much bandwidth various PCI video cards will use? This doesn't seem to be something that is much worried about -- I see PCI cards for driving *four* displays out there -- but I'd hate to risk slowing things down if I don't have to.
I don't know how many HDs you will be using, but if you can manage to only use the IDE controller integrated into the southbridge and you've got a recent MB (with a high speed link between the southbridge and the northbridge) you should be fine using a PCI card. The reason is that the IDE controllers integrated into the southbridge aren't using any bandwidth on the PCI bus.
However... if you are using a discrete RAID controller integrated on the motherboard (these are using the PCI bus even though they aren't placed in an actual PCI slot) you could experience problems although I'm not sure how severe they'll be when you are not using 3D graphics.
Of course...... if you plan on using a gigabit ethernet card running in gigabit mode you will be almost sure to saturate the PCI bus :-)
Hope this helps.
<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by AndyK on 12/01/02 10:06 AM.</EM></FONT></P>