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fathom88

Question On Using Three Monitors at the Same Time

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Hey. Has anyone tried to use three monitors at once? I've seen it done with a racing game. Was this specific to the game? I would like to be able to make one big screen out of three smaller screen (maybe even have each one be a separate desktop). I want it be general use; meaning I don't want it just to work for DOOM 3 alone. How would you do this? Would I need special hardware? Any help would be great.

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I am not sure about full screen games but I use 3 monitors and windows can be stretched across all three jus by draging them bigger. One word of warning though.... It looks terrible unless you are a long way from the screens and you are using identical monitors with black casing. The only hardware you need is three monitor outputs (I use the onboard graphics for one screen and a Graphics card with two outputs for the other two), windows does the rest.

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In my previous company I used to work with 4 screen monitors(it wasn;t a gamedev co - it was far from that) and my sincere advice - anything more than 2 monitors is a pain. And yes you need a special hardware which(video card) which can accomodate 4 monitors.

And it worked for almost any windows application. You could either stretch the program to the 3 monitors or you could have programs working on different monitors.




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It's commonly done in certain areas - often 'simulation' style games such as car racing, or flight simulation.

You commonly (well not commonly, but it's not that rare) find people in flight simulation (my particular forté) have 4+ screens as well as various specialist attached devices to simulate a full cockpit. Indeed some take this so far as to make a complete replica of a cockpit - I know of one setup that uses the front end of a real 727 as such (although, this level of addicition (or perhaps, the addiction isn't too rare, but the ability to throw money at it is) is fairly rare).

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In answer to your question; yes it is possible, but it's expensive.

Firstly you have to have a graphics card that can support all of the monitors, and you also have to be wary of your PSU power as having more monitors will such up alot more juice from your PSU and your mains.

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As far as games go, this requires two things. First, the game must be running on video hardware that is capable of treating multiple displays as a single device (primarily Nvidia's span system for the moment). Second, the game must be specifically designed to handle extra-wide resolutions so the image will span all of the displays. This support is actually quite rare. Alternatively, the game has to be written to handle specifically rendering multiple images to different displays (which is very rare in games, and is almost exclusively limited to advanced simulators).

If you're writing a game engine from scratch, it isn't terribly difficult to write multi-display support - although it's a heck of a challenge to make it perform well. However, simply plunking down a couple of extra monitors and rigging them up to your video card won't give you panoramic displays in the majority of games. Usually you'll find that they simply render to the Windows primary display, and leave the others alone entirely.

I've played X² - The Threat on a triple-monitor display. Aside from the horrid performance strain of drawing three times as much as normal, it was a pretty cool experience, but far too much trouble to do on a regular basis. I still use a dual-monitor setup for working, but gaming is (at least for now) pretty much entirely single-screen.

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I know DirectX has support for actually sending different data to individual video cards. I Star Trek:Armada 2 actually took advantage of this if you had mulitple cards. You could transfer its cinematic viewer over from as small little window on the primary card to a full screen view being handled by the other card.

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I'd say that most games ignore any monitor except the primary display. I tested it using a simple OpenGL app I had made. Not changing any line of code, my full screen demo thingy went from one screen to the other when I changed the primary display. To clarify, I don't mean at run-time, rather restarting the app. My setup is with two different video cards, one Intel onboard cheap thing and my RADEON 9200. I had updated this computer with parts from another, but I couldn't take the onboard card out, so I just kept both.

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If I wanted to three monitors, I would have 1 AGP graphics card and two PCI cards? I want to do it as cheaply as possible but still have good picture quality. I saw some special Matrox cards which is a single card solution with mutliple outputs. I didn't realize they still made PCI based video cards. Can you guys recommend some? I'm trying to do some CAD developement. I want to stretch the CAD app over two monitors and have the third be open to MS Office (or maybe e-mail). You get the idea.

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Depends on your current video card setup. If your card supports dual-output (almost all recent cards do) then you should only need one additional PCI card to round out the set. If your card only has a single output, just buying a single dual-head PCI card will also get you a total of 3 displays.

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How's the picture quality? I know of plenty of good AGP cards, but what about PCI cards. I doubt ATI makes X800 PCI cards. Heck, they're phasing out AGP in favor of PCI-Express. You can't get the new X1600 in AGP.

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If all you're doing is applications, you don't need much of a card to do an extra display. My GF4Ti4800 handles dual TFTs at 1280x1024 with no problems at all. I've used cards based on Trident's CyberBladeXP chipset to do dual monitors at similar resolutions, also with no problems. Windows in and of itself isn't very demanding on your video hardware (well, at least not until you get Vista).

Most of the good last-gen cards are still available in PCI variants, and a lot of budget/non-3D/barely-3D cards (like the CyberBlade chipsets) are readily available for very cheap.

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How is the installation? Do I simply pop the additional PCI cards in and the drivers handle the rest? One last question; Nvidia or ATI (hey if want to run OpenGL based games; Nvidia is the better choice)? If I already have an ATI, I probably have to hook up another ATI card. Thanks for all the help.

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Once your second card is in and drivers are installed, plug in all of your monitors, then open your Display properties in Windows. You should see a little monitor image for each connected display device. The options for entering a full screen mode vary, but it should be pretty self-explanatory.

You'll probably also want to at least get the demo trial of UltraMon, as it adds a lot of invaluable multi-display functionality.

I usually try to stay out of the ATi-vs-Nvidia war, but I'd say in general that sticking with a single brand in a multi-display box is less likely to create problems.

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