For most of us, one monitor is all we need to keep all our tabs open, gaming and anything else, but there are those out there who feel the need for more space, or to watch a movie while playing a game or browsing the web or even playing a game across 4 monitors. I must admit, the feeling when playing a racing game on 4 or 6 monitors is awesome, the experience is immersive, making you feel like you are actually behind the wheel. Also, shooter games and strategies look great on multiple monitors, although it needs quite a lot of concentration to look at all those pixels at the same time.
But the use of multiple monitor setups is not limited to gaming. Video and picture editors also use multiple monitor setups for editing multiple files at the same time and for using more programs at the same time. Overall, it’s a good idea to use more than 1 monitor because it offers you more space to work with.
Working With More Monitors
Well, the installation of the monitors is not the issue here, but what monitor to install. It would be ideal to have the same size on all the monitors. This will help you keep a nice aspect ratio and even resolution. Also, check your video card’s outputs. You will need more outputs (1/monitor), ideally the same type of connector (digital – DVI / HDMI / DisplayPort – or analog – VGA). It will work with 1 digital and one analog connection, but for the analog, the video quality will be reduced, and when put side by side, the difference will be noticeable.
Depending on what you want to use your multiple monitor setup for, you can mount different size screens, but for gaming, you will need a minimum of 3 screens, at the exactly same size. For programming, video or audio editing and anything else, the difference in size is not that important, so you can go for what ever suits you more.
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After you have decided on what type of setup to use, the next step is to see if your video card supports it. There are video cards that can hold up to 6 monitors, if yours does not, you can upgrade your video card with something under $150. Most video cards nowadays can hold up to 4 monitors, so it won’t be a problem.
How to Arrange the Monitors?
After swapping the old video card with the new one, plug in all your monitors and power up your computer. You will notice that after installing the new driver, it will show you the same image on all the monitors. All you have to do is navigate to the video settings and setup from there (Right Click -> Personalize-> Display -> Change Display Settings) or, if you own an nVidia Graphics card, go to nVidia Control Panel (Right Click on desktop) and then go to Set up multiple Displays. From here, all you have to do is input how you want your displays to react (mirror or extended).
After doing so, the process is complete and you can enjoy your multiple display array. Keep in mind that new digital connections, such as DVI or HDMI automatically detect the resolution of the new screen and adjust accordingly. Older VGA ports might give you some trouble and you will have to input the resolution manually. Also, you should know that multiple monitor option will be supported in Windows 8.
Also, when going over 3 monitors in your setup, you will need to arrange them in matrix (2×3 monitors). This means that 3 monitors will stand on top of another 3 (the same is true for 2×2 setups). For this to work, you will need a monitor stand. They can keep the monitors in place and allow you to adjust the tilt and position of each monitor. Furthermore, an important aspect to keep in mind when browsing for monitors: look for a monitor with the slimmest margin. Keep in mind that in your setup, the margin will be twice as thick. There are options from the control panel on how the margins should be viewed (either ignore them or keep them).
Both nVidia and ATI now offer solutions for multiple display setups, and the graphics cards that have support for Surround Viewing and 3D viewing have lots of horsepower and can handle multiple monitors in full HD or even 3D. For 3D Viewing, of course, you will need a 3D monitor (for multiple monitor setups, all the monitors must be 3D ready).
How much will it cost?
The cost depends on what you want your setup for. For gaming, you will need one or more video cards that can handle the amount of workload you need. Such cards start from $200 and go all the way up to $2000. In the case of monitors, the price depends on whether it is an LED of a LCD screen, and of course, the screen size. You can pick up a monitor with $150, that has HDMI input and a nice wide screen of 21”. So an entire setup can go from $500 (a video card and 2 monitors) to as much as you are willing to spend.
Mac users can also benefit from the benefits presented by multiple monitor setups. Nowadays, most Macs support multiple monitor setup, and because of the big resolution and the cool screens, you can make a really nice workstation. the process is very similar to the Windows setup. I myself do not own a Mac (thank God!) and I cannot tell you too much on the tweeks and points of interest here.
These are the most important aspects you need to factor in when buying a multiple monitor setup. They offer great advantages over single monitor setups and can make your gaming much more realistic or your work more productive. Give them a try and tell us what you think!
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