Could one run 4 monitors off one desktop?
July 7, 2006 6:38 AM   Subscribe

I have a client who wants to be able to run his PC with the desktop extended over 4 monitors...all for the purpose of playing multiple hands of online poker. What is the easiest way to technically accomplish this?
posted by titans13 to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, you need four monitors. Then you need four video cards (and thus four open slots), or a card with four outputs, or two cards with two outputs each. WindowsXP includes the software to do this.

Google is a great place to start. You can see in the first result that Viewsonic makes standless LCDs that can be attached to frames so that you can have 4x1 or 2x2 arrangements.
posted by deadfather at 6:46 AM on July 7, 2006

Lots of people I know do this (for this reason).

Another thing to consider is that you can display 8 poker windows for most sites with 2 monitors as long as they're 1600x1200, because most poker windows are 800x600. A very small number of sites (party poker comes to mind) allow resizing the windows to smaller sizes.

2 monitors works easily, I've never tried more but I think it would work also. You probably want 2 video cards, each with 2 outputs.
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:51 AM on July 7, 2006

Could you not get one very large monitor that has a large enough resolution so you can fit the 4 windows on one screen at once
posted by ajbattrick at 6:51 AM on July 7, 2006

You can even buy 1 video card that supports output to 4 monitors. (searching for multi monitor video cards turned up evidence that you can go as high as 8 but I could not find any specific video card that went that high). I had to buy a few cards similar to this for work, they work well.
posted by contessa at 7:15 AM on July 7, 2006

The first step would be to find out if it's possible to have multiple hands with one connection. I would think that most online sites would allow only one hand per registered user to discourage cheating.
posted by JJ86 at 7:20 AM on July 7, 2006

You can have multiple tables open at once. It varies from site to site but generally 4 is available and often up to 10 or 12. Plus you can play multiple sites at once.

JJB: not more than one hand at a table, more than one table at a time.

ajbattrick: he wants more than 4 tables. Probably at least 8.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:36 AM on July 7, 2006

I've got something like this going on for myself.

I'm running one PCI-E card (the EVGA Nvidia 6800GS) which outputs to two 19" monitors at 1600x1200 and two vanilla PCI video cards cards which output to one 17" monitor each. This is a bit annoying though because of the difficulty of finding cheap and decent PCI video cards. The cards I have now will only support up to 1024x768 (and even then, not at 32bit colour!) so I'm looking to upgrade soon.

I think the route I'm going to go is to get a board that has two PCI-E 16x (or one 16x and 8x) slots such as an SLI capable board. That way I'll be able to install another 6800GS to output to the other two monitors.

Another option, if you have both an AGP card and a PCI-E card sitting around that both support dual display, you could get an ASRock board which supports both cards (at once!) and have him happily running on four monitors.
posted by ODiV at 9:20 AM on July 7, 2006

Matrox Millennium G450 PCI
posted by Rhomboid at 9:33 AM on July 7, 2006

I'm just going to link to the hardware on NCIX because I know their site. I don't have any affiliation with them. Prices are in CAD.

- ASRock 939 board with both AGP and PCI-E
- MSI K8N SLI board (also 939)
Those are the two options for boards I mentionned. I have not fully researched running two PCI-E cards seperately on an SLI board, but I'm told it can be done. I know for a fact that the ASRock board will run both an AGP and PCI-E card at the same time allowing you to run quad monitors.

- MSI ATI Radeon RX300HM
This PCI-E card is cheap and will support dual monitors. I don't know about using it on the SLI board, but you could use it on the ASRock board along with an AGP equivalent.

If your client is into video games like Half Life 2 and not just poker then he might want something a little more beefy like my 6800GS.
posted by ODiV at 9:34 AM on July 7, 2006

Or... Just get the card Rhomboid's suggesting. :P

I seriously thought that cards like that were harder to come by.

I guess it depends on if you're building a system from the ground up or not and what else your client needs.
posted by ODiV at 9:40 AM on July 7, 2006

Speaking from personal experience, feeding two adjacent monitors differently (with DVI and VGA ) is sometimes a bad idea. I don't know if the difference is always obvious, but in my setup it is glaring.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:54 AM on July 7, 2006

Another question here is what kind of monitors your client wants. Does he really want four monitors (presumably 17 inch 1280x1024 LCDs) or would two larger monitors (20 inch 1600x1200 LCDs) suit his purposes better? I'm suspicious that smaller screens would waste more pixels (especially vertical pixels), whereas larger screens would let him fit four tables to a screen with essentially no wasted space.

Alternatively, four 17 inch widescreen monitors (1280x768 or 1280x800, depending on vendor etc.) arranged in a 2x2 grid might also be something to consider.
posted by Ptrin at 10:11 AM on July 7, 2006

Another suggestion would be to use Synergy and multiple cheap PCs/video-cards.
posted by nomisxid at 10:13 AM on July 7, 2006

Matrox also has dual-DVI cards too, if that's what you want. That's kind of their forte (2D oriented graphics cards for professional/creative types) ever since they gave up the 3D race with ATI and nvidia.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:14 AM on July 7, 2006

Even five years ago this was a pretty tall order, but nowadays it is no big deal.

For example, One Gigabyte Motherboard, Four Graphics Cards, where they have ten displays running off one PC.
posted by Chuckles at 10:49 AM on July 7, 2006

Is it necessary to be able to see all the tables simultaneously? Most UNIX-based setups have 'virtual desktops.' For example, on my desktop, if I scroll to the bottom of the screen and keep trying to go down, I wrap down to a 'second' desktop (workspace).

I know there's a way to do this in Windows, possibly the "Power Toys" pack for XP. Once you use virtual desktops for a bit, moving around them becomes second nature. He could potentially save a lot of money this way.
posted by fogster at 11:05 AM on July 7, 2006

He would probably lose a lot more money than he'd save that way. The extra monitors and video card would unquestionably be worth it. You really do need the ability to see how a table is going at a glance.

Hm. Tangently related, does anyone know how I can "warp" my mouse from one monitor to another? I've been restricting my tables to the middle two monitors so that it isn't much of a problem, but sometimes I need to move my mouse from the monitor on one end to the monitor on the other and this takes quite awhile. Any ideas?
posted by ODiV at 11:20 AM on July 7, 2006

I've been restricting my tables to the middle two monitors so that it isn't much of a problem, but sometimes I need to move my mouse from the monitor on one end to the monitor on the other and this takes quite awhile. Any ideas?

Ultramon (which is a necessity for anyone with more than one screen) does this.

Also, turn up your mouse speed.
posted by Jairus at 12:20 PM on July 7, 2006

Multiseat on Wikipedia
Multiterminal with Xephyr on Wikibooks
posted by Sharcho at 12:33 PM on July 7, 2006

Two more approaches:

Maxivista - Allows you to turn one computer's monitors into extra monitors for another.

Matrox DualHead2Go - Allows a single output set to 2560x1024 to be connected to two monitors at 1280x1024
posted by SpookyFish at 4:42 PM on July 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

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