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I am in the market for a new laptop, and most of my top choices only have one display output, either a single HDMI, a single mini Displayport, or a single Thunderbolt port (which to my understanding is effectively a single mini Displayport as far as a monitor goes). Now, I would really like to be able to run multiple external displays and have them function as separate work space (i.e. extended desktops, not mirrored desktops). I understand that this will not really be possible over HDMI, but is potentially possible over Displayport. My question is what is the best way to accomplish this, what is the easiest way to accomplish this, and what is the most cost effective way to accomplish this since those three questions will likely have different answers. I'm not real into the idea of buying multiple $1,000 displays to take advantage of daisy chaining.
Most laptops are limited by the GPU they use, for example I know that my HD3000 can only support two outputs, driving the integrated monitor and one external.
I'd love to say go buy an MST Hub, but lets be honest ATI/AMD has promised to deliver this for 4+years now and not a single one is commercially available. Apparently two months or so ago http://www.guru3d.com/articles_pages/club3d_mst_hub_dis... Club3D apparently brought on to the market, but good luck finding one anywhere. I've looked and I can't find them. And as you've probably noticed thunderbolt daisying works, if you got the cash to buy $1000 monitors.
Coming back though there is the option of using a USB extender, I've never used them because, well to say it blunt the performance sucks. Unless it is just spreadsheets, running video of any kind anything 3d intensive will absolutely demolish performance. In essence it's a virtual GPU so all the processing is done by the CPU and the link speed is limited (usually) by USB2, though some USB 3 versions are coming out now. Better have an I7 quad core though when using this.
Matrox does offer the($200 amazon) dualhead2go http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/products/gxm/dh2go/di...
and the ($300 amazon)triplehead2go http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/products/gxm/th2go/di... which might be worth looking into. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8R6jOFP4tY video of it running
Alternatively if you have a spare rig lying around, you can use maxivista to use it as slave and emulate 3 screens for the laptop. I've used it once when I had to create an excel sheet + PP on the double with all my data being on a netbook (yes those crappy 10" that died out).
Lastly also look into docking stations. For me personally they seem like a blast from the past, since I use a laptop AND a desktop. But I know that there are several models out there that allow you to use 2 displays when docked. Obviously you'll need to look at the business solutions from Lenovo, HP and Dell. Not sure if Apple has it, but they do have thunderbolt so I'd assume not. In most cases to use two monitors you will have to keep the lid closed however (as I said above integrated graphics only allow two simultaneous monitors).
Well hope this helps.
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