Multiscreen Madness: We Test Four Incredible Display Setups

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Thamuza

I would really like to see you guys do things like this with real world mid level and budget setups..

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easyeddy

 

Amazing this kind of mainstream analysis has waited until 2011... credit to maximumpc I guess but the bar's not that high -  the article mostly gives just the obvious points though:

  • you don't want the crosshairs in a shooter to be on the bezel
  • you want thin bezels
  • if you put widescreen monitors in 3 x landscape mode you end up with a very wide thin display space which messes up the 3D projection in most games which is too wide-angle for their game engines to display properly.

Here's a few more advanced points:

  1. * experiment tucking the centre monitor behind the other two so the bezels overlap - then it's important monitors are thin front-to-back to minimise the depth difference. Overlapping the bezels halves the size of the join.
  2. * most monitors are now widescreen, in a 3x config they should be rotated portrait and it's the typically thicker bezel along the bottom edge of the landscape screen that turns out to be critical as that is now where the screens join. This was tried in the article with the 30" monitors but not 23" - no surprise portrait 3x widescreen is better...
  3. * 4:3 ratio screens deserve a bit of a comeback for 3x multi-screen gaming as they then give probably the best combined layout in portrait mode. And they are cheap e.g. 3 x 20" 1600x1200 for a good combined resolution that is drivable by a single ATI card.
  4. * the 3xHDTV (and 3x23") trial was a bust because they didn't try portrait mode although of course that would have needed a custom mount. Even in landscape mode the HDTV's would have been better overlapped but in portrait mode the thick bezel on the bottom of the HDTV would be a killer. Also in portrait mode you don't really want LED's on the 'bottom' bezel because these then glow in the middle of the display...
  5. * Nvidia and ATI are very different in the way they support multiple screens at the moment because ATI 'eyefinity' basically amounts to a multi-monitor frame buffer built into the card so Direct3D upwards can treat the multi-monitor hardware as a single display area (i.e. built-in TripleHead2go) while Nvidia provides multi-monitor support via Windows (ATI can do this too if you want by turning off the frame buffer). This means games with Nvidia have to have multi-monitor support and in my experience this is shite - much easier to tell the game there's a single monitor with higher resolution which they rarely have a problem with except for extreme widescreen ratios. The fact that a single Nvidia card can only support 2 monitors and the game has to manage them separately means Nvidia is effectively a non-starter for mainstream multi-monitor gaming.
  6. Cheap monitors won't have a DisplayPort which limited ATI realistically to two DVI/HDMI screens until the $25 DisplayPort-to-DVI adapter (e.g. Sapphire) came along (they used to be $100+) about a year ago, so now cheap 3-screen gaming is fairly easy. This *was* a big issue but now you can ignore all the web threads from a year ago.

I run 3x20" dell 4:3 1600x1200 monitors in portrait mode on an ATI 5870 with a combined resolution of 3600x1600 and haven't yet found a game that doesn't run well at that resolution on the card (BFBC2, FSX, silent hunter, L4D2). Counter-strike runs at 250 fps in some maps but hey, the game is 100 years old. BF3 is out this fall and I'm fairly confident that will run fine too because I can always ease off the AA/AF if I need to as the resolution is high enough that jaggies are *not* the same issue as if you run a large screen with only 1920x1080. Ultimately I may end up putting in a second 5870 - that's always an option but hasn't come close to being necessary yet. This is *not* a low-end config but it's not the 2 x dual-gpu cards suggested in the article...

edit - by the way, in case you have any misunderstanding, in a game like Battlefield Bad Company 2 when you have three screens, the center screen shows exactly the same as a player with a single screen would be seeing, while the left and right screens give you an *additional* field-of-view to the left and right. As a three-screen gamer it's hard to understand how a player with one screen thinks they can compete in a close-up firefight with that narrow view. But if you're going to camp 10 miles away with a sniper rifle there's no difference.

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shjt4brains

It is interesting that there was no mention of panel matching.  When configuring dual screen or multi-monitor; brightness, contrast, and even color settings need to match to complete the feeling of a seamless display and enhance the gaming experience.  Mismatch of brightness or color can severely compromise the visual enhancement of games in a multi-monitor configuration.  This is just one more step that has to be completed in the setup of multi-monitor displays that can take considerable time based on viewing angle (especially in portrait mode) or size of displays (30” or above).

Otherwise great article.

 

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easyeddy

yeah shjt I agree with the issue - one of my monitors was noticeably dimmer than the other two (even though all are 20" dell 4:3 1600x1200) - however it really wasn't a big deal to setup with an image across all 3 screens and manually up the brightness on the dimmest screen until they looked ok. Maybe my reds, greens or blues are slightly off but I've never noticed. It's not the biggest issue though - in a 3D game you really need to minimise the effect of the bezels and bezel management would mean you lose that portion of the image and you could get shot from there... (although diagonal lines now line up perfectly across the screens) - my preferred approach is to *not* use bezel management but minimize the bezel width by overlapping the screens slightly - now you have to futz with the vertical mounts to get the images mostly aligned where you most look (e.g. the horizon in FSX) but accept a slight offset elsewhere. From sitting centrally in front of the screens there's no focus issue with the slightly recessed center screen, but there is a slight parallax issue vertically. In a firefight you don't think about it at all though.

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Logun

I just wanted to verify this:

"...PA301Ws offer the unique ability among 30-inch monitors to pivot into portrait mode"

No other 30 inch monitors allow a pivot into portrait mode?? Not even your best of the best ZR30W?

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trgz

Three of the more hardcore gamers on staff were photoshopped poorly into the images. Why bother if it a) looks so poor, and b) looks so cheesy?

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thetechchild

This is great if we have loads of cash lying around, but correct me if I'm wrong in saying that most of us don't. A better article would be testing a number of sub-$300 monitors of various sizes and aspect ratios in pairs. While these dream setups are nice to fantasize about, I'd like to know about a dual-monitor setup that doesn't force me to sell my home.

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spRICE

I'm pretty sure that you can't use a dual monitor setup for gaming. This article was specifically about using triple monitor setups in gaming. And besides, this is MaximumPC, not MinimumPC. I like reading about things that I can only fantasize about and I can't afford because it's entertaining.

 

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easyeddy

if 2 x $300 monitors means you have a budget of $600 without selling your house, then you're still better off with 3 x $200 monitors. It needn't be expensive though. Cheapest solution is 3x19" monitors which also allows cheaper graphics card as each screen is 1440x900 for total 2700x1440 across a 55" display space. Move up a notch and you can have 3x1920x1080 with maybe 23" monitors at $160 a piece (newegg), but also assume a good graphics card, and add $25 for a displayport->DVI adapter (or buy a Saphire ATI card including the adapter).

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al360ex

Nice reference to Buffy !

For those of you who didn't get it, read the subtitle of Configuration 3...

And get a life ! :)

BUFFY FOREVER !!!!!

 

Lol, I'm just joking.

But seriously, if you haven't watch this TV show, or heard of it, I have one question for you :

Where have you been in the last decade ?

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triclops41

Great article, but I 2nd the idea of 1080x3 in portrait mode. 

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crazitrain02

With almost any game that natively supports triple-head gaming, there is some type of a HUD fix for it.  Once you get the HUD fix in place, you shouldn't have to look to the left or right monitors to get the vital information that you need in a game.

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WashTub

Call of duty has horrible aspect ratio to start Widescreen fixer works great for COD:MW2 not sure if theres a version for black ops.

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sepiid

What about a 23" setup all in portait mode?

or the tvs mounted and in portait mode?

 

we need way more maximum here

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Big Hoss

I remember watching the video with a bunch of different multiple-monitor configs.  There were lots of complaints, but I felt proud that MaximumPC posted an article that is MAXIMUM.  This is the type of stuff I love.

Although, you become less maximum when you play racing games on a 360 controller instead of a wheel.  Seriously.

Thanks for the article.

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