How $500 in Video Cards Can Power 5 Monitors

How $500 in Video Cards Can Power 5 Monitors

Range Govindan
Jul 19, 2011

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.

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.


(Images with permission: Flickr member MajCS4)

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