Best way to run 3 monitors

Some time this summer, I'm going to be building out a new box based mostly on *Legion*'s $750 build but one of my requirements is to run 3 monitors. I've been trolling http://www.widescreengamingforum.com/ but want to get your collective opinion as well.

Other than the TripleHead2Go (not interested), what's the best way to set up and run a 3-monitor setup? We're not talking about monsters, just something in the 19-22" range.

Edit: Also, if you know this to be a particularly bad idea from say, a cost/benefit perspective, feel free to talk me out of it.

I used to run 3 monitors. All I did was I bought some junkie PCI video card to run the 3rd monitor. Cost me about $30. Note that this was a couple years ago so I have no idea what the market looks like now on PCI video cards. The third monitor worked just fine too. But this was with an AGP motherboard if that makes any difference.

I haven't tried it yet, but my new SLI setup (150 bucks for the second card) will drive four monitors.

Mostly though I use a laptop, which itself can drive a second monitor. I then use Synergy, which lets me run all FOUR screens off of one mouse and keyboard, and share a clipboard between them. That, combined with a shared network hard drive, makes it essentially like having four screens on one computer.

(Disclaimer: I haven't tried it, but this is my current understanding of the problem - correct if necessary)

You didn't say whether you envisioned playing games across 3 monitors. That question changes the topic completely.

If the answer is "no", then you just grab any ol' PCI Express card and throw it in there, to give you a RAMDAC to power a 3rd monitor.

If the answer is "yes, and I only plan on having one 'good' video card", then you do the same as above, and install SoftTH. Your good card's GPU does all the rendering work. Keep in mind, though, that running 3 screens is like taking your game's resolution and setting it ludicrously high, and your performance will reflect that. Also, game support for this solution is far from universal.

If the answer is "yes, and I want my games to run well", then you'll need to suck it up and get the TripleHead2Go, because that's why it exists. SLI does not work with multiple monitors, TripleHead2Go makes your 3 monitors look like one wiiiiiiiiide monitor to your SLI setup, and that allows SLI to function.

I'm driving 3 displays off two PCIe cards. I have an 8600GT for the primary monitor (center) and a 7600GT pushing pixels to the 2nd and 3rd monitors, right and left respectively. Works great for general desktop use. The limited PC gaming I do is only on the center monitor.

LiquidMantis wrote:

I'm driving 3 displays off two PCIe cards. I have an 8600GT for the primary monitor (center) and a 7600GT pushing pixels to the 2nd and 3rd monitors, right and left respectively. Works great for general desktop use. The limited PC gaming I do is only on the center monitor.

Tell me more about this. Do you have two seperate video cards in an SLI motherboard but don't have SLI on? Why have I never thought of this?

Yup, just so. I used to have two 7600GTs in the same 3-display config that'd I'd toggle to SLI on demand, but had unrelated graphic issues the little bit that I tried SLI. I needed a video card for another machine so I bought a relatively cheap 8600GT and swapped it in for the primary 7600 and just gave up on SLI.

Are you going to be running 3 displays off of one computer or 3 displays on more than one computer? Right now I'm running 3 displays off of 3 computers all using just one keyboard/mouse but depending on what I'm doing (gaming vs development) I can run all 3 on one or any number of computers in between.

PAR

Just for the sake of information exchange, here are some links to various multimonitor/multisystem/softKVM utilities:

Synergy
Multiplicity
Win2VNC
MaxiVista
UltraMon
DisplayFusion

That's all I can think of off the top of my head.

Right now, I use Synergy to manage 3 computers on 4 screens. Two of them are CRTs, though, and will probably get recycled with me just accessing them via remote desktop once the new configuration is in place. I was hoping to do some 3-wide gaming but the TH2Go premium just isn't worth it to me so now I think I'll just get a 24" for the middle monitor and run a couple 20s (though for now I'll run my 2005 FPW on one side and the 19" CRT on the other) on the sides in a configuration similar to LiquidMantis. Thanks for the input. Any further commentary is still quite welcome.

Grumpicus wrote:

Any further commentary is still quite welcome.

You smell bad.

I run 3 monitors off of an SLI setup. The middle monitor is plugged into the first card and the outside two are plugged into the second. When SLI is on, the outside two turn off.

Turns out the 2nd PCI-E slot in my motherboard works like a 2nd PCI-E slot. Now I have an 8800GT running one monitor and an 8600GTS running the other monitor. Doesn't seem to increase the FPS for games running on my 8800GT now that it doesn't have to support my internet browsing on the other screen, but I KNOW that it has to work less now. Makes me feel powerful.

Treadmill?

McChuck wrote:

I run 3 monitors off of an SLI setup. The middle monitor is plugged into the first card and the outside two are plugged into the second. When SLI is on, the outside two turn off.

That is pretty sweet. If I keep reading this thread I am going to have to buy an SLI mobo and new GPU

Elliottx wrote:

Doesn't seem to increase the FPS for games running on my 8800GT now that it doesn't have to support my internet browsing on the other screen, but I KNOW that it has to work less now. Makes me feel powerful.

One could search for years, and never find a more pithy quote for the geek lifestyle. My hat is off.

McChuck wrote:

I run 3 monitors off of an SLI setup. The middle monitor is plugged into the first card and the outside two are plugged into the second. When SLI is on, the outside two turn off.

You don't actually have to do that. I have three monitors hooked up to my SLI configuration. When you go SLI you can select which of any of your screens are the ones that get the final image. That said I have the same setup as mcchuck, with the addition of two other screens driven by another computer connected by Synergy. Yes that makes for a total of five screens, but believe it or not I actually use the mall.

One: Main screen where wordprocessing web browsing and the Vista sidebar live.
Two: left-hand screen and vertical mode which holds research, page layout, instant messaging, and e-mail.
Three: lower right-hand screen which has dragon, Skype, and recording software.
Four: upper right-hand screen which has secondary e-mail accounts, and anything I might have streaming, like video, iTunes, tickers, weather, news.
Five: far right-hand screen (laptop) which tends to have another web browser screen up on it, or runs Skype/IM/e-mail when the main system is set up for gaming.

Crazy? Possibly. Useful? Totally.

Rabbit, I have this image of you hunched over, bathed in the glow of multiple, flickering CRTs, typing feverishly, perhaps with the occasional cackle.

Rabbit wrote:

Yes that makes for a total of five screens, but believe it or not I actually use the mall.

I use the mall too, but I prefer Amazon for the most part.

curses! foiled by VR again!