Three Monitors For Every User

As far as I'm concerned, you can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much screen space. By "screen", I mean not just large monitors, but multiple large monitors. I've been evangelizing multiple monitors since the dark days of Windows Millennium Edition:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

@codinghorror I’ve got 3 external monitors hooked up to my laptop. 2 through USB.

sent you this tween a bit ago. USB monitors are more than good enough for developing on, they stutter on fullscreen 1920x1080 video though :slight_smile:

Mono price has some fantastic prices for cables. ~13 bucks for a DisplayPort to DVI? I"m not sure about resolution, but I doubt I’d need to pay $30 for a cable (

And Eyefinity really means 3-6 (so far) on a single card. Sure 6 is kinda crazy, but if you need it, its available (

I use three monitors across two workstations (using the same keyboard+mouse via a free utility called Synergy). The downside is that you can’t drag windows from one workstation to the next, but the plus is that you have more computing power to work with for heavy multitasking.

I use 3 monitors( If you have a PCIe card with two outputs, you can use the onboard graphics card on your motherboard to power the third monitor. I think that the chipset of both cards must be the same(for me, both are nVidia).

Low level video cards don’t pull that much juice, you know. Entry level, passively cooled cards cost peanuts and still offer dvi + hdmi output support.


  • More quiet working setup
  • It’s easy to fallback to single card in case of hw malfuncion
  • You might want to try 4-display setup, yay
  • Don’t have to put up with a clumsy, $100 costing external block wich has occasional problems


  • Too bad if simplified hardware configuration is intrinsic value value for you
  • 4 monitors take insane amount of actual desktop real estate

I’ve been using triple 24’’ screen setup for a while now, using ati eyefinity. Some problems with initial setup, but everyting working just fine now… Using apple active adapter…

According to, ati has a 6x card that will be out soon. And that will be the defaulyt on a chipset level (their customers want it for notebooks).

I have 3 1600x1200 displays, and I could put a 4th to good use. I have a monitoring app that is normally hiden, but that really should be where I can see it.

I dont think all this hardware or software features that are supposed to increase your productivity matters that much.

At least when I code, I spend much of the time thinking about how to solve the problem, how to augment the class design and so on (not to talk about all other time spent not coding, like attending meetings).

Also, the little time I lose when having to bring up another window or something like that can actually be used to let something I just wrote to “sink in”. I am actually not sure even such highly regarded tools as code completion increases productivity.

An annoyance with these newfangled ports (HDMI and DisplayPort) for me is that to actually get a monitor which has those ports in it, you have to cough up 100-300 USD more.

And what do you get for that kind of money? More ports and maybe some height/tilt adjustments for the monitor.

Sure, the monitor probably has a better image too, but I’m perfectly happy with the cheap ones with “just” DVI and VGA connectors, so why would I bother?

Somehow I never really got the hang of multiple monitors. I had a dual-head setup even back when CRTs were still fashionable, but it seems that switching virtual desktops is easier for me than craning my neck.

Even now, with an external monitor on the macbook I need to make a conscious effort to actually use the internal screen.

I find the user interface (and how used one is to it) much more of a productivity factor. I still feel more at ease with my XWindows setup than with MacOS and the macbook keyboard.

(May I add that having the commenter’s name linking to a profile instead of a proper homepage is somewhat lame? We’ll see where my name will point to. – Why do I have to do with typepad?)

Jeff, this id stuff is seriously stupid or seriously misleading. There isn’t even a simple way to trace to my identity. :frowning:

I just burned the back of the pci-e x1 slot and put in the pci-e x16 card grabbed for $20 off ebay. Worked like a charm. Followed traycerb:

Rocking as multiple monitors are I’ve always found virtual displays to be rocking-er? Same effect without having to have a desk full of monitors/move your head when switching?

FYI, DisplayPort and HDMI are pretty much the same, the only difference is, DisplayPort is royalty free and doesn’t have any encryption ala HDCP. There are even simple little plugs you can buy so they can interconnect.

BTW, HDMI has a better electrical compatibility with DVI than DisplayPort does, it’s just the card cannot power all three :confused: DisplayPort uses lower voltages and that’s why it’s not an issue.

BTW, eyefinity is something else. That has to do with multi monitor setups to display a single image, for instance, using the HD 5870 Eyefinity model (6 mini DisplayPorts out, usually 100 bucks extra) to run a game over six monitors (e.g., fairly pointless, three monitors work better. I’ve actually become so used to working on one and having virtual desktops.
Is it possible to set up three virtual desktops and have them rotate? As in I have one in the centre and then hit a shortcut and it switches it with the one to the right and then I hit something else and it switches it with the left (preferably I would have switch so the main [currently right] goes left, right goes right and left goes centre). Now something like that would be awesome since it would just blend into my current work style. I’d use the monitors as reference but when something needs focus, it needs to be on the main.

BTW, you forgot the HD 5970. It’s a dual GPU (downclocked 5870s) for 700. Oh and I’d always check newegg, it’s got some great prices on the cards. 5850s for sub 300, 5870 sub 400.

Correct me if i’m wrong guys, but isnt hdmi just like dvi, a digital connector but the difference is that it also transfers sound?

If so, why would you invest in an expensive displayport converter?

just buy one of these:

3 monitors on a single desktop is great, but you can go one better and have multiple computers using a software KM. It still feels like a single system in that your using one keyboard/mouse but you’re controlling multiple computers.

Input Director ( ) is great for Windows-only setups. Another option is Synergy (a little buggy but still works okay) for mixed O/S.

Jeff, passive DVI to Displayport adapters will not work with Eyefinity. The reason is that the video card, as far as I understand it, has only two timer units to power two DVI/hdmi outputs, respectively. The DisplayPort gets processed in the DisplayPort capable monitor (or in an active adapter through a powered converter unit that translates the DisplayPort data stream back into a timed DVI signal).

Of course, I only learned and researched this after buying a passive adapter and noticing it didn’t work. So this is here telling people to save those 20 bucks and go for the active adapter or a real DisplayPort capable monitor instead. Personally, I then proceeded to buy a Lenovo L2440x monitor as my new “center piece”, and have been happy using three screens ever since.

Btw. - while Eyefinity requires all screens to have the same resolution when you “span” the screen over all three displays (instead of using them as three individual displays as usual), playing Dragon Age: Origins at 4800x1200 totally rocks. Runs reasonably fast on a 5770, too, so for the financially conscious, you get fair enough 3D speed even across three screens at $150 here.

For those of you who don’t have the hardware skills or are laptop bound, there is a nice multiple display technology called DisplayLink. You add displays by just plugging an adapter into your USB port. It’s fine for day to day use or PowerPoint but the technology is not quite capable of hi-def video.

I use an IOGear device that allows me to connect a shared DVI device (projector or HDTV) to USB or an Ethernet port. A small TSR allows network users to take turns sharing the display device, either duplicating or extending their desktop.

(Mac users are supported too!)

Jeff, are you gonna sell your old card on eBay ?

How do I find you on eBay ? I’d like to be a bidder.