The holy trinity of monitors
January 10, 2017 10:23 PM   Subscribe

Help me improve my 3 monitor rig. I'm a computer novice and I need your expertise.

When the first Core i7's came out I built an expensive graphics rig using a Dell 30" monitor (2560x1600) flanked by two Dell 20 inch monitors in portrait mode (1200x1600). The great thing about this is that the displays match up perfectly, as this picture demonstrates.

I would like to upgrade to a high resolution display for my main monitor, probably something 4K and at least 28". But I would also like to continue using two portrait monitors on either side. And I would like these monitors to match, as much as possible the dimensions and scale of the main monitor. I have only a layman's understanding of computers, and so I'm not sure where to even start looking.

Also, I presently use two graphics cards, a GTS 250 and a GeForce 210. I would liike to use a single graphics card to run all three of the new displays. I am fine with upgrading the motherboard if necessary. I don't do any 3D stuff or gaming, so the video cards I have now are acceptable for the pixels I presently push. But with so many more pixels and one card handling all three screens, I'd need something more powerful. I can spend what I need to spend, but I'd prefer a video card that is quiet, and I don't want to pay for performance I'll never use.

Thanks in advance for your insights.
posted by Crotalus to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm writing this review using a 27 inch Dell monitor mentioned in this Wirecutter review. I mention this not to recommend this monitor in particular (although 3 of the things all in portrait mode would be a potential solution to your issue)- but rather because of their in depth discussion of some of the other alternatives - including ultra-wide( 3440x1440) monitors and 4K monitors.

You don't mention what sort of work you are typically doing - and it would be useful to know. Under Windows 10, I find that the ability to switch between multiple desktops provides an acceptable compromise for work for which I would once have sought to have multiple monitors - it helps me to be able to switch and concentrate on a particular view so that I am not distracted by information on the other screens. Your situation may, of course, be very different.
posted by rongorongo at 12:40 AM on January 11, 2017

A few people in my office have large maybe 40" 4 or 5k curved monitors with what is probably 23" or 24" monitors in portrait mode on either side. But it may be 32" curved with slightly closer to what you have on either side.

Sorry that's not really helpful but maybe it can give you an idea for googling? That the middle is curved is a very nice touch (they work on large/intricate wiring diagrams so need the higher resolution and increased real estate). When I get back I'll try to remember to check the exact models/dimensions
posted by czytm at 8:03 AM on January 11, 2017

I think with your requirements you'll end up needing a somewhat heftier graphics card than you might think, simply because the lower-end ones don't have enough outputs (the third digital out is typically replaced by a VGA out). A quick look at NewEgg yielded this fanless Radeon card at ~$120 which can do 4k and has three digital outputs.

If you're resourceful enough, of course, you could just find some secondhand obsolete gamer card. Your requirements (quiet, 4k) are specific enough that this probably isn't plausible.

(For 4k @ 60 Hz you want at least HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2a. Don't be fooled by HDMI 1.4 -- it can do 4k but not at full refresh rate. It's all a bit confusing.)

Also yeah, curved monitors are totally a thing now.
posted by neckro23 at 8:09 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

The 4K monitor has a ppi greater than 135ppi or so. It's going to be a bitch to find a smaller monitor that can keep up with the ppi. They just don't make them in desktop monitor sized panels.

The best you could get while keeping the geometry in check is going with a 30" 4K monitor flanked by 2x15" Full HD panel like this one and you're still going to be 240 pixels short. If your ppis aren't close you're going to have geometry distortions on the edge with overlapping windows and the cursor is going to come out at different points going between monitors. A 2560x1440 would overlap top and bottom. A theoretical 20" 1440p monitor would overlap the top and bottom of the 30" 4K by 400 pixels.

But even if we find the right panels, we're getting into esoteric stuff and pricing starts becoming ridiculous.

So first you need to ask yourself: do I want my monitor geometry to line up or would I rather have that 4K screen in the center?

If it's the former just go with 3x27" 1440p panels with thin bezels. It's a beautiful setup. If it's the latter? A 30" 4K flanked by those 15" Full HD panels is as close as I can give you geometry wise.
posted by Talez at 7:10 PM on January 12, 2017

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