PC video cards

I need a PC with 3 display, 1 LCD monitor (DVI/VGA), and 2 LCD TVs (VGA).

The PC will be running on Win7 OS and all 3 displays should be extended. Both LCD TVs will be playing a video and some animations (e.g. scorlling text) made using .NET WPF.

Is it better to have a single video card with support for 3 monitors or 2 separate video cards with support for dual monitor (so I can connect to upto 4 monitors)

I need recommendations on what video card/s to buy.

Thanks
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ThomasianAsked:
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PerarduaadastraCommented:
I would incline to the single adapter approach, as this avoids potential issues with having multiple active display adapters in the same system.

Matrox have a long history of producing multi-display adapters, though they tend to be at the higher end of the price range.

Have a look at this, at least as a starting point:

http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/products/gxm/th2go/

There may be other products in their range that are a better fit, but only you can decide that.
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bcdudleyCommented:
Windows 7 handles video cards pretty well. I run 4 monitors on my desktop using 2 Nvidia 9600 video cards with no problems whatsoever. I got them for about $40 each and they do well for 2d / video purposes.

I found a program I like called multimon that really enhances using multiple monitors. Check it out if you get a chance.
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ThomasianAuthor Commented:
>>I would incline to the single adapter approach, as this avoids potential issues with having multiple active display adapters in the same system.

Can you elaborate on the potential issues you mentioned?


>>Windows 7 handles video cards pretty well. I run 4 monitors on my desktop using 2 Nvidia 9600 video cards with no problems whatsoever. I got them for about $40 each and they do well for 2d / video purposes.

Do I have to do any additional setup to make it work or do I just plug both in cards, install the latest drivers and I'm good to go?
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bcdudleyCommented:
You need to go right click on your desktop and goto screen resolution. Then enable the monitors there. I think there is an option for extend desktop to this monitor, but I am not at my computer now.
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ThomasianAuthor Commented:
>>You need to go right click on your desktop and goto screen resolution. Then enable the monitors there. I think there is an option for extend desktop to this monitor, but I am not at my computer now.

So it is just the same as extending dual monitors on a single video card?
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Rob KnightConsultantCommented:
Hi,

You need either an AMD 'Eyefinity' enabled card that has DisplayPort as well as others - anything from a 5450 upwards suggest something like a 5770 for best value/performance - you'd need to use DVI to HDMI dongles on the DVI outputs and either HDMI to the monitor or use a DisplayPort to VGA/DVI/HDMI using an active DP adapter.

You can also use an Nvidia 400 or 500 series card with 3D Vision to support 3 monitors as well (both 2d and 3d modes are supported).

You could also use an X2 card and disable the cross-fire so that you're running 2 separate cards on the same board - this would give you up to 4 monitors.

Regards.


RobMobility.
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ThomasianAuthor Commented:
Is there a single video card that supports upto 3 monitors with 2 vga + 1 dvi (or all vga) outputs?

Is there a disadvantage in using 2 separate cards?

I read some old threads that says there are issues with multiple video cards on win7. Is that already resolved or is there a way to determine which cards are compatible?
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PerarduaadastraCommented:
Potential issues with multiple display adapters:

1). Slots. You will need two PCI-e slots on your motherboard, one for each card.

2). Power. You will have to ensure that your PSU is adequate for the task of powering two graphics cards, especially if the cards themselves require additional power. Does your PSU have enough free power connectors of the appropriate type, in addition to having the overall capacity?

3). Heat. There's going to be lots of it with two graphics cards, and the cards themselves will impede airflow inside the case. You will almost certainly have to add at least one fan to help move more air through the case.

4). Space. Is there enough in your case for two graphics cards that will very likely have substantial heat sink/fan assemblies on them? The cards can also be quite long, with the attendant risk of fouling other components or drive bays within the case.

5). Compatibility. Not all dual display adapter-ready motherboards support both ATI Crossfire  and nVidia SLi. Does your computer documentation or manufacturer have this information?
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Rob KnightConsultantCommented:
Hi,

The AMD/ATI Netfinity cards typically come with 2 DVI, 1 D-sub/HDMI and 1 DisplayPort - you'd need the following:

1. 1 DVI to D-Sub (usually in the box)
2. Use existing DVI for 1 connection or buy another DVI-Dsub adapter for the 2nd DVI port
3. Buy an active DisplayPort to D-Sub adapter or an ActiveDisplayPort to DVI connector (if using 2 DVI to D-sub connectors)

The alternative would be to buy an ATI 4850x2 or 4870x2 and disable Crossfire - this would give you 4 DVI outputs with which you could use 2 DVI to D-sub adapters.

Regards,


RobMobility.
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Rob KnightConsultantCommented:
Hi,

You can pick up 4870x2s (new) for around $230.00 US - an AMD 5770 with active DP adapter will cost around $170.00 US

Regards,


RobMobility.
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PerarduaadastraCommented:
One other potential problem with dual display adapters - noise! Between them, all those fans can make quite a roar, especially as a bit of wear develops. You don't want to be sitting too close to a box that sounds like it really wants to be a vacuum cleaner...
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jamietonerCommented:
RobMobility, AMD's Eyefinity or Nvidia surround displays are not going to be very effective in this case, what Thomasian is looking to do would be alot easier with independent extended displays rather than 1 large resolution stretched across multiple displays which is what eyefinity and surround does.

Thomasain, I would suggest dual gt 210's($40 each) just make sure the pc has dual 16x pci-e ports. These cards don't produce alot of heat and don't make alot of noise.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814150473
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Rob KnightConsultantCommented:
Jamietoner,

I believe that AMD's Eyefinity cards can be used to provide 3 separate displays - the requirement for EyeFinity capable card is that 3 displays can be simultaneously supported - cards without a DP connector will not support 3 displays. I am not suggesting that EyeFinity is used, just that an EyeFinity card is purchased providing the 3 display controllers needed to run the 3 displays.

Regards,


RobMobility.

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Rob KnightConsultantCommented:
So cheapest would be:

5450 Eyefinity model (DP, HDMI/DVI and d-sub) - http://www.amazon.com/HIS-Silence-Eyefinity-Displayport-H545H1GDL/dp/B00365DY4U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1302011879&sr=8-1

Plus 1 certified DP to D-sub adapter - http://www.amazon.com/Accell-UltraAV-B101B-003B-Display-Adapter/dp/B003HC85D2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1302011945&sr=1-1

Total cost @ $95.00 US

Or about $155.00 US if using a 5770

Regards,


RobMobility.
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jmaggio322Commented:
single video card and the best one that comes to mind is ATI MV-2400
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ThomasianAuthor Commented:
I'm getting confused at the number of choices.

Can someone give me a simple guideline on how to compare the specifications?

e.g.
When is the DDRX important? (e.g. DDR3)
When is the RAM important?

Anything else I need to check  from a video card (other than the number of outputs and max resolution)?
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ThomasianAuthor Commented:
Also when is the number of bits important (128-bit)?
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bcdudleyCommented:
DDR is a type of memory. Most modern video cards will play video with no problem. Where you may run into problems is if you are trying to play 3 hd blu ray videos all at once.

Can you tell us what type of video you are going to be playing, maybe the file size and time of the video will give us a hint.
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Rob KnightConsultantCommented:
Hi,

RAM will determine the size of textures that can be handled (important for gaming) and has an influence on whether Aero can be run on Vista and Windows 7.

Memory is available in a number of formats - DDR3 or GDDR3 should be the lowest you're looking at.

The HD5450 that I have listed above together with the DisplayPort adapter will enable you to run 3 monitors using the separate display controllers on the card. For a more powerful video card, opt for a 5770 instead - but with the DP adapter above, you'd still support 3 monitors.

You can of course have 2 separate video cards if the motherboard had 2 PCIe x16/x6 slots or you could even look at an ATI Eyefinity 6 card which would support 6 monitors - you'd need multiple DP to DVI or DP to D-sub adapters, however.

Regards,


RobMobility.
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ThomasianAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all the suggestions.
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