If you're a serious computer user who runs multiple applications and programs simultaneously and spend long hours working on your computer 24/7, then you should know you need a good video card. For dual monitor setup of course, you need a dual monitor video card.
EVGA GeForce GT 610 1024MB GDDR3, Dual DVI, mini-HDMI Graphics Card (Image from Amazon)
Getting a good dual monitor video card is something that you should do if you are not satisfied with the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) that is integrated into your motherboard or processor. When it comes to rendering, video and gaming performance, system graphics card are far inferior to most dedicated video cards. Though latest integrated graphics solutions are just enough to rival the entry-level video cards but more applications and technologies are taking advantage of the GPU in order to reduce load on the CPU.
Having two monitors to work on will let you open and split more apps and programs in view simultaneously. This is quite a real time-saver as it spares you from repeatedly pressing Alt+Tab and clicking, opening and minimizing the same windows over and over.
Significance of a Dual Monitor Video Card
Simply plugging in an ordinary video card isn't enough to make dual monitor setups possible. If your motherboard or processor supports integrated graphics and you plug in a video card with one port, you should have two outputs to work with on the back of your system. However, the system automatically disables the integrated graphics if it detects a discrete video card so you really cannot use both ports unless the video card has more ports.
Many of the common dual monitor video cards have dual DVI ports so you should be able to hook up any of the modern LCD and LED monitors without using a special adapter. The monitor or video card should also come with a cable so you won't have to buy anything else to get started.
Entry-level video cards can have a single DVI port, VGA port, and HDMI port to maximize compatibility. You should check the specifications of the card to see if it is really possible to plug in multiple monitors. Just make sure that you have the necessary cables and adapters to hook them up properly.
Some monitors may also have a small port that resembles an HDMI port but won't let you fit the HDMI cable in. These types of ports use the DisplayPort interface and several high-end models use it.
How To Know If Existing Graphics Card Support Dual Monitor Set up
One quick way to know if you have a dual monitor video card is to check the back of the card. If the card comes with more than one screen connector, such as VGA, DVI, HDMI and Display Port, it is capable of supporting dual monitor setup. Many modern laptops also come with connectors that can support more than two external monitors.
A computer without a dual monitor video card support can be upgraded through PCI Express or PCI graphics card, depending on the types of expansion available on the motherboard.
If you are contented with the performance of your integrated graphics, you might as well save a lot of money by going for a card that is very affordable.
As long as the specs claim that you can plug in multiple monitors, you should be happy with the upgrade. Only go for higher-end models if you are looking to play 3D games or work on 3D applications. You should also check the available ports because some cards with the same GPU but different manufacturer have different ports. The same can be said with cooling solutions so that should also be considered if you want a speedy GPU that has lasting power.
Most video cards have support for dual monitors so it should be very easy to find these types of video cards. Also, all modern video cards available in the market today can support at least two monitors at once, some support three or more monitors outputs. The Radeon line from AMD for example, can support three or more monitors from many of its recent models of video cards (starting from Radeon 5000 and up). If you’re planning to add monitors in your computer, then you have to make sure you get the right dual monitor video card that matches your computer’s preferences and support resolutions.
There are many different adapters available that converts one type of plug to another to accommodate multiple monitor set up. Using adapters obviously adds cost and for some people, will increase the complexity or even change the maximum supported resolution as well.
There are four main types of monitor connectors:
A VGA (Video Graphics Array) connector is a three-row 15-pin DE-15 connector. These ports are found in many video cards, computer monitors, and even high definition TVs. Laptops and smaller computing devices also come with a smaller version of this connector called a mini-VGA port.
It was first introduced in 1987 and still used today. This cable carries analog component. Its interface is not made to be ‘hotpluggable’, meaning it can’t be connected or disconnected while its host is up and running. Although it can be done without damaging the hardware or cause any problem.
If your graphics card has a DVI and VGA connectors, check whether your monitors can contain these connectors.
DVI (Digital Visual Interface) connector is the most common connector today, they are often used on desktops and LCD monitors. This connector is a video display interface used to connect video source to display device, such as computer monitors and other electronics like TV, DVD players and video game consoles. It is specially designed to transmit uncompressed digital video and can support and configured in multiple modes such as DVI-D (digital only), DVI-A (analog only), or DVI-I (digital and analog). This connection is compatible with VGA interface.
Some DV I cables and ports come with fewer pins, these types of designed for lower resolution devices. DVI cables and ports that come with all the pins support the maximum resolution of 2560x1600pixel. The biggest challenge of this port is that, it doesn’t come with HDCP encryption support by default, so if your device only has DVI ports, it may not be able to support playback of full HD, Blu-rays and other High-Definition content.
Here are the different version of DVI ports and cables.
HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) connector is a compact interface for video and audio for transferring uncompressed video data and compressed/uncompressed digital audio data in an HDMI-compliant device to compatible displays such as computer monitor, digital television, video projector or digital audio device. It’s the digital replacement of existing analog video standards.
HDMI is a user-friendly cable that replaces the jungle of cables behind home entertainment center as it provides source for audio and video, such as in a set-top box, DTV (digital TV) on a single cable. This cable can support high definition video formats, such as 720p, 1080i and 1080p, can enhance 480p definition format as well as the standard NTSC or PAL.
Today this cable is widely used in many applications, such as HD DVD players and Blu-ray Discs, camcorders and digital cameras, mobile phones, and of course personal computers and tablet computer. As a matter of fact, a single HDMI cable can be used to connect to multiple devices, as it is absolutely the new standard for today’s digital cable.
DisplayPort and Mini DisplayPort
DisplayPort is a new kind of video connector that is being included in new models of computing devices, particularly laptops, especially in Dell, HP, Lenovo and even Mac computers. It is quite similar to HDMI, which means it can stream both audio and HD videos in one cable. Unlike HDMI however, this cable can support HDCP, which allows you to playback HD content from Blu-ray, etc. DisplayPort signal is compatible with DVI and HDMI which means it can be connected DisplayPort cable to DVI and HDMI ports using converters. Thus, if you want to connect your laptop to a larger screen, you just need to have a converter.
Mini DisplayPort also called as MiniDP or mDP, is a miniature version of the DisplayPort, and like the original size, it works for audio-visual interface. As a matter of fact, their functionality and signals are identical.
Mini DisplayPort is capable of supporting display devices for up to 2560x1600p resolution (WQXGA). Using a passive adapter, a Mini DisplayPort can support devices with VGA, DVI and HDMI interfaces.
Apple Thunderbolt Interface
There’s another new interface for display that is gaining popularity in the market – it’s the Apple Thunderbolt interface. This interface is found in Apple and Mac devices. It revolutionizes high-definition display and high-performance data through a single cable and compact port. This new system sets the new standards for flexibility, speed and simplicity.
Thunderbolt connector transmits data in ultra-fast fashion; it can work up to 10Gbps in both directions. The Thunderbolt 2 on the other hand, is the newest addition. It is identical to its predecessor in terms of functionality and interface, except that it transmits up to 2x the speed (up to 20Gbps).
If one video card is not enough in supporting dual or multiple monitors, then you can install two or more video cards. However, to do this, it is strongly recommended that you use the same product line. This doesn’t mean they have to be exact models though, unless you opt to use special set up such as Crossfire or SLI, which are commonly used for heavy gaming purposes.
Also, if you opt for multiple video cards, make sure your motherboard and power supply can are capable of supporting the upgrade, the same goes with keeping the airflow inside your CPU to keep it everything well-ventilated.
For those on a budget, there are motherboards out there with built-in graphics card that can support up to two monitors. This is usually enough for basic use, or can be used alongside with a dedicated video card to support more than three monitors for a trimmed down price. The stumbling block of built-in graphic cards is that, performance tends to be limited. Thus, it may work just well for office and business purposes, but still not good enough for media editing or heavy gaming.
For more dual monitor set up advice, and to get the best hardware and accessories for multiple monitor set ups, check out Dual Monitors Guide today!
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