I've been wrestling with this issue for about two weeks now, and can't seem to find the right hardware to accommodate my goal: to get a 3-monitor setup going.
I currently have a Sapphire Radeon HD 4300/4500 (PCI-E) series video card install with two monitors running off it. I am looking to get a third monitor (which I already have) added.
My original plan was to acquire a newer PCI-E card that could support 3 monitors, but seeing prices around $100 + the cost of active DisplayPort cables wasn't very appetizing (this is a work system that I can modify somewhat, so I'm not looking to dump a lot of my own $$$ on it).
I had picked up an HD 5450 that I read could support 3 monitors, but I ended up with the model that didn't - first frustration. I read a little deeper into it, and found the Sapphire HD 6450 Flex edition that could natively support 3 monitors. Went to install and discovered that because I have a BTX motherboard (cards go in slot "up-side down"), the heat sink that would normally hang down into the next slot, sticks up into my systems' guts (so I can't use a double-height card for this solution).
Some more reading and I happened across a more "low-brow" approach that I had known about, but didn't really hit me - installing a second, PCI video card (my system has a PCI-E and 2 PCI slots - unused). I took in an old 256MB Nvidia GeForce FX5500 PCI card I had laying around, and while it "worked", Windows 7 threw fits when I actually did anything on it (complaining about using too much [paraphrased] "assigned memory") and would eventually shift out of Aero mode into a Basic video config.
I thought this might be due to having ATI- and Nvidia- based cards in the same system, so I ran out and picked up a Diamond Stealth Radeon 9650 PCI version and installed - uninstalling the Nvidia drivers and removing the card). System booted up and I installed the drivers for the 9650 and rebooted.
More issues... With my BIOS' Video set to "Auto" (detect), the PCI card (with monitor) fires up as the default and once in Windows 7, while Device Manager sees the PCI-E card, the monitors connected to that card aren't recognized. The ATI/AMD Catalyst software also complains that it can't deal with the older drivers for the 9650. If I set my BIOS's Video to the other setting (can't remember the actually setting - basically use the PCI-E card and disable the integrated), the PCI-E card and monitors fire up, but Win7 hangs on boot (no BSOD, the Windows logo just eventually freezes, nothing happens, and you can hear the hard drive stop doing anything).
At this point I'm pretty frustrated as this doesn't seem like rocket science, yet I can't seem to get it going. I have removed the second card and am back to 2 monitors. What I need is some solid advice from someone who has done this or has pretty thorough knowledge on getting it going, what a good mix of hardware might be, and/or options.
Some points to note are:
- I have one populated PCI-E slot and two empty PCI slots to work with.
- I have a BTX motherboard and cannot use a double-height card.
- The monitors I have are DVI, DVI and Analog (currently using DVI and an HDMI-DVI adapter on the working card to the 2 DVI monitors).
- Windows 7 Pro 32-bit version.
- Don't want to spend a fortune.
If you've made it this far - thanks very much for hanging in there and reading through. I hope someone out there can help out with this!