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Using multiple display PC

Using three monitors with one PC is problematic but worth the effort. In this article I will show you several options to position the three monitors for a perfect desktop. I have experimented with two options and I can tell now the advantages and inconveniences for each.

First option

In the picture below I have presented to Here company a custom build PC with three monitors. The primary monitor is a touch screen HP. Other two monitors are 24″ DELL. This setup was used to visualize maps and build touch screen applications. I have used Two Nvidia 650 Video Cards with 1 GB RAM at that time very good cards but a little bit slow.

Inconveniences:

  1. The two monitors above are heavy and I have installed a special stand that can support two monitors.
  2. I have to rise my cheen to be able to see the upper left and right monitors
  3. I can use the touch screen but I have to rise my hand to reach it.

Second option

For this configuration I have moved the touch screen to a different computer and I have used three DELL monitors. The side monitors are in portrait position and can use Display Port or DVI but the one in the middle is a different kind that can use HDMI. So I have connected left and right to DVI and the middle one to HDMI using a single video card.

 

Advantages:

This arangment has some advantages over the first one.

  1. I do not use a special stand supporting two monitors. All three monitors are using the original stand.
  2. I can use the keyboard and mouse and never touch the screen. So it does not have fingerprints on it.
  3. I can rotate my head left and right very easy and see the other two monitors. No effort.

My old video card

This video card from the picture is an example of video card with 2x DVI and 2x HDMI ports. You can find this video card for 100$ and is a good video card for a budget PC but is not very good for games.

So on this Video Card you can install maximum 4 monitors. However pay attention to specification some video cards can have multiple kind of connectors but you can’t install a video monitor on all of them in the same time.

New Video Cards

Most video cards have support for several monitors. In the image below we present one of the most modern video card: Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti. This card has one HDMI port and 3 Display Ports. For a total of 4 monitors. I say that 3 large monitors is the best number.

Motherboard for 2 video cards

Sometimes you can use older video cards that have support for one or two monitors. In this case you can install 2 video cards to install 4 monitors. Sometimes your motherboard do not have 2 slots and you may buy the video-card but you can’t install because the motherboard do not have full support for a secondary video card.

Be aware that PCI Express slot can be configured for multiple standards. It may be PCI Express version 1 or 2 or 2.1 or 3 or 4. Also the shape of the connector can be small or larger and may have or may not have a mechanical lock. Here is PCI Express you can have on your motherboard:

  • PCI Express ×1  (no good for video card)
  • PCI Express ×2 (no good for video card)
  • PCI Express ×4 (no good for video card)
  • PCI Express ×8   (good for video card)
  • PCI Express ×16 (good for video card)

A video card usually require  PCI Express ×16. The secondary PCI-E that you may have on the motherboard may be PCI Express ×4 that is not so good for a video card.

A PCI Express card fits into a slot of its physical size or larger (with ×16 as the largest used), but may not fit into a smaller PCI Express slot; for example, a ×16 card may not fit into a ×4 or ×8 slot.

A video card can occupy 1 slot or 2 slots. When you buy you motherboard make sure it have a space between the PCI Express slots so you can install 2 video card at proper distance.

For example next video-card that has 2 PCI-EX16 and one PCI-EX8. Also has 3x PCI-EX1 slots not usable for video cards. When you install 2 video cards some other slots will become unusable due to videocard over-size.

Cross-Fire and SLI

Some video card can be connected using an internal data communication cable. For NVIDIA cards this cable is called SLI cable and for AMD video cards this cable is called CrossFire cable.

In this image you can see 2 video cards that are very close to each other and are connected with a cross-fire cable. You may use a single monitor and the second video card can be still useful to improve quality of the game.

With this configuration you can use up to 8 monitors but who is greasy to do this. You may need only 3 monitors for good gaming experience. 4 monitors are already two many. So a secondary video card can be used for monitors 2 and 3 while first video card can be used for a single monitor.