Need Multiple Monitors? Solve Your Hardware Problems Switching Monitors
written by: Finn Orfano•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 5/26/2010
There are many reasons to use multiple monitors. Are you trying to use more than one monitor, but are having problems? Here's how to go about configuring a multi monitor setup, along with some tips to make things go smoothly.
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Multi Monitor Setup
You don’t have to use just one monitor with your computer. In fact, with the right hardware you can connect up to a half dozen monitors to just one PC. There are a variety of reasons for going with a multi monitor setup, and they include increased productivity, expanded workspace, multitasking, and extreme gaming.
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Dual Video Cards
At my work, we have a few computers that have dual video cards installed so two monitors can be used on a single computer. A good example is a training room where a PC has a regular monitor and is also connected to a large widescreen HDTV showing whatever is on the monitor. This enables the instructor to see what is on their screen without having to turn around and look at the big TV, and the students can see the big screen without having to strain their eyes.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a video card that supports dual output, as this configuration is quite common these days. All you’re looking for is a video card that has a matching pair of outputs, such as two DSUB or two DVI connectors. I’ve seen them sell for less than $50 on sites like NewEgg.com.
Installation note: One thing I have found with most dual video cards is that you need to hook up both monitors and then reboot the PC before it will recognize both of them at the same time. If you install a dual video card and boot up the PC with just one monitor attached, you may have problems turning on both while the computer is running.
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VGA and DVI Splitters
Another method for a multi monitor setup is to use a cable splitter that takes one VGA or DVI input and converts it into two. This is cheaper than getting a new video card and also very portable, but the output quality isn’t quite the same. It gets worse depending on the length of the video cables used. The explanation is that you are taking a signal meant for one monitor and splitting it between two. Depending on your video card and monitors, you may get a slightly fuzzy picture, or experience some distortion not normally seen when using just one monitor. The most common complaint is a ghosting effect caused by the screen not refreshing the image quickly enough. To help solve this problem, you can buy a powered splitter, but those can cost more than a dual port video card.
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Eyefinity for Wealthy Gamers or Multi-taskers
If you are a hardcore gamer willing to shell out the cash needed to rig up the ultimate multi monitor setup, then you need to look into ATI Eyefinity Technology. It takes the concept of widescreen to a whole new level – more like surround screen. Eyefinity lets you connect up to six different monitors at once. Imagine having three 40+ inch monitors set side by side across your desk so that you could play the latest FPS or car driving simulator. Police departments actually use similar technology to train officers using simulators - video game like driving programs.
Eyefinity isn’t just for gaming; you may have a wide variety of reasons for maintaining multiple displays. You could designate one monitor just for a stock ticker. In another, you could keep up to date news information coming in. On the third, you could be working in Excel while making websites in Dreamweaver on a fourth. Eyefinity takes multitasking to a crazy new level - plus it’s every nerd’s dream to sit behind a console with a huge bank of monitors and pretend that you’re in the Batcave monitoring things in Gotham.
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With either the correct video card, a splitter or Eyefinity technology, hardware problems while switching monitors or setting up multiple monitors is no longer a hassle.