How $500 in Video Cards Can Power 5 Monitors

While many people think that multiple monitor setups are the holy grail (or the unicorn?) of workstation awesomeness, not everyone can shell out a couple of grand to step up from a single screen to 2, 3, or even 5 monitors. But you might be surprised how reasonable it has become to make the upgrade with a few strategic video card and monitor purchases, as illustrated by this animator's immersive setup...

When we first saw this multi-monitor setup, we immediately thought that it was impressive, but that it had probably required a few thousand dollars worth of computer equipment. But in reality, this multi-monitor workstation was set up at a reasonable price, thanks to some common sense and some tech savvy sourcing, all done to help MajCS4 work on his animation and do some light gaming on this five monitors.

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The heart of this multi-monitor system is a pair of video cards, powering a total of five monitors. The two 1GB Radeon cards cost about $500 in total, offering enough pixel pushing power for the immersive setup; three 23-inch LG Flatron W2361V are driven by the ATI Radeon 5870 and the two 17-inch Dells use the ATI Radeon 5770:

-1GB DDR5 ATI Radeon 5870
-1GB DDR5 Intel ATI Radeon 5770

Another smart decision was to use the 23-inch LG Flatron monitors as a base. While they are still big, they aren't overwhelmingly large or heavy, which makes them good candidates for a multi-monitor setup where screens may need unusual positioning. And at available for around $190 each, these 23 inch displays aren't going to break the bank, even in a set of five!

An alternative: 17-inch Viewsonic monitors can be had for under $100 (the Dells shown above are no longer available), making them an affordable option when the goal is 3+ screens. But for the setup above, the overall budget for a similar 5 screen setup is somewhere in the ballpark of $1,180, excluding the RAM (MajCS4's workstation is equipped with 6GB). Just note, you don't have to put together a 5 monitor setup all at once; MajSC4 built up his workstation over a year, to amortize the cost, starting with 3 screens and then investing in two more over time.

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(Images with permission: Flickr member MajCS4)

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