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3 monitors on one pc

Posted on 2009-07-06
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Last Modified: 2013-11-08
I need to connect 3 (maybe 4th in the future) monitors to one pc. Monitors should display 3 applications, each application on different monitor. Applications are displaying cameras from video surveillance (remotely). These applications have a FullScreen mode, so in this setup each application should go fullscreen on its monitor, not the others. Basically I need 3 separate desktops.

I know of 3 solutions to achieve multi-monitor environment, but I don't know if they will work in my situation. I will sort them per price, from cheapest one:

1) 2 graphic cards
How good solution is this one? Should there be any difficulties during setup (other than usual ones)? Which models would you suggest? Ati or NVidia?

2) USB monitors
I read that models like Asus VW223B can connect up to 6 monitors, using EzLink application, but I am not sure how well this application will handle what I need (mentioned at the beginning of post)?

3) video card with 3/4 monitor outputs, like some Matrox models (hard to find and pretty expensive).

The price between 1st and 2nd option is not big, and if Asus monitors and  EzLink can provide what I need, I would probably go with this solution, because of the easy expansion in the future. I need some acknowledgment that someone has done this, or seen it done.

Thanks,
Goran
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Question by:Priest04
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by:SHagel
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i would go with option 1

and i am a fan of nviddia cards the grforce series

Option 2 you wind up lossing those USB ports

Option 3 is good but expensive when option 1 will work the same and much cheaper

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by:Callandor
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I would go with option 1, but keep in mind that if the surveillance software uses video overlays, you may see nothing on monitors which are not the primary display.  The same limitation applies to applications that show video from tv tuners.
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by:garycase
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Agree with option 1.     As Callandor noted, you will have a problem if the software uses overlays AND you're using XP.      Vista has eliminated this issue;   but it also adds one of its own:   if you use multiple cards they MUST use a single unified driver ... so be SURE that you use cards that use the same driver.     This is simple if you use two of the same card;   but in many cases you have to use one PCI card, as the system may only have one PCIe x16 (or AGP if it's older) slot.     Be sure to check the nVidia or AMD/ATI download site to confirm that the cards you're buying use the same driver version.
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by:Priest04
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Thanks guys for commenting. OS is not chosen yet, so Vista can be a choice (although all PCs in this network have XP on them, and users are used to it).

@SHagel
Only one usb port is used on PC.

I see you all opt for 2 video cards. So far Callandor and garycase have mentioned a overlay problem, and this is very important, and I wasn't aware of it. The possible solution could be Vista, but I am not sure if software will support it, need to check that one. But noone mentioned why would you choose video cards instead of usb monitors. Maybe the overlay problem would not exist with them? If I am stuck with XP, then overlay will be a big problem... The worst option is to buy equipment and then realize it doesn't work.

Thanks,
Goran
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by:garycase
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Assuming you have at least one system with a dual-monitor capable card, just try the software on it.    If it works on two displays, it will work on 3 (or 4).     If the overlay issue impacts you, you'll know immediately from this test [If you have that issue, you'll only get video on one display].
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by:SHagel
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Do you really even want to consider vista at this time as windows &7 comes out in Oct

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by:Callandor
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USB monitors have lower performance than separate cards; they may be ok for static images, but not for movement.
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by:Priest04
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@SHagel
So, what is your recommendation? To put beta version of windows into security center? Or to wait until Windows 7 RTM to come out? I don't see what exactly is your advice?

ok, I will go for the 2 video cards. What would you recommend for motherboard and video cards?
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by:garycase
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Since you're apparently building your own system for this, I'd use a motherboard that has two PCIe x16 slots, so you can use two identical video cards.

This is an excellent choice:  http://www.misco.co.uk/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=316329&CatId=2954
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by:garycase
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... as for the video cards, you can use any reasonable quality card with dual outputs.     These are excellent cards at a modest cost:  http://www.misco.co.uk/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=362980&CatId=0
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by:Priest04
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Thanks, guys, much appreciated. One last question regarding these components:

motherboard - its much more expensive here were I live, so I am thinking o going for GA P43 DS3, what do you think?

video cards - I think I will go with 4550, there are two versions here - with and without fans. I am thinking of going for the ones without fan, since it will be much more quiet. Do you think that I will be having problems with heating, since there are two of them? Other than this, PC will contain only the usual components: 2x1GB DDR2 memory, HDD 320GB, DVD-RW, and nothing else.
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Callandor earned 250 total points
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That's a nice board; I have a GA-EP45-UD3P myself and am happy with it.  The 4550 is not a power hungry card, so you should be able to get by with a fanless version.  Hard drives also contribute a lot of heat, but since you only are using one, it shouldn't be too bad, as long as the case has space for airflow.
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by:garycase
garycase earned 250 total points
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The GA-P43-DS3 is an excellent board, and would work very nicely for this.     As Callandor noted, the 4550 is not a power hungry card ... and as you've noted you're not a gamer so you won't be stressing the cards ... so the fanless version should be fine.     I've used this exact card in two HTPC's and am very happy with its performance.    For a budget card, it does very well  (FWIW, it scores 5.2 on Vista's "experience index").
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by:Priest04
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Thanks for all the help.
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