The Joy Of Six: Multi-Monitor Crazy-Gaming

By Alec Meer on September 10th, 2009 at 9:03 pm.

please don't hurt me Alan

I don’t need this. But by God I want it. ATI’s upcoming Eyefinity (ouch) tech allows rich, mad men to run six monitors from one graphics card, all of which combine to display one game. Six monitors! Where in Dolly Parton’s name do I get that many? Still, exciting stuff: ULTRO-SCREEN LIVES. It requires, inevitably, a brand new graphics card – the titular Eyefinity range, ATI’s next generation of 3D chips – but that the one card can share a real-time 3D image across up to six screens is incredimagic. It’s refreshing to have a card upgrade that isn’t simply about nebulous performance boosts, too.

Total resolutions go as high as an improbable 7680×3200 if you have six 30″ panels, but if you’re not a millionaire, you can use less or, word is, mix and match different resolution monitors, or even arrange strange T-shapes and suchlike. Many games will support it out of the box, as essentially all that’s needed is to allow insane resolutions (as a great many games do), but if it works as promised no doubt there’ll be tweaks and patches for stuff that doesn’t play so nice with it. Games such as Crysis and Left 4 Dead have already been demonstrated on it to a few lucky journos. Techradar has eyewitness thoughts, more tech details and – woo! – piccies.

The appeal is not so much the resolution but the immersion factor – being surround by a wall of image rather than the small window that is one monitor. In theory, just three screens (just. Ha!) would be super-splendid, as it gives a windscreen-like ultra-widescreen, but six is going to quite the thing. The problem, I guess, is to what degree the plastic sidings of each monitor foul up the sense of awe and wonder. I’m keen to try it out and see regardless, massive nerd that I am.

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56 Comments »

  1. Toby says:

    Techradar link is fudged :(

    Also I feel I would be uncomfortable having visitors if I possessed such a setup. Some people might read having a wall of monitors as a bad thing. I know I would.

  2. Greg Wild says:

    Frankly, I just don’t care until they can recreate the way a Fly sees the world in monitor form.

    BUZZZZZ!

  3. anotherman7 says:

    Seems like quite the thing. Too bad I don’t have Veidt money. =(

  4. Stense says:

    Do you need six pairs of eyes for it too?

  5. AndrewC says:

    Multiple monitors are the official visual cliche of evil megalomaniacs, having replaced the white cat sometime in the 80′s. People that do this are bad people. Don’t do it.

  6. Greg Wild says:

    I have the ability to use two monitors. Used it perhaps 3 times. And only while working on my dissertation.

    Useless much?

    I guess I could see modders/developers enjoying it mind – the Oblivion/Fallout 3 editor is a leviathan hydra beast of windows in need of more real estate for example.

  7. Ferrous Buller says:

    Matrox’s TripleHead already does this with 3 monitors, albeit on a more limited scale: max supported res per monitor is 1680 x 1050, so 5040 x 1050 is the limit.

  8. CMaster says:

    @Greg – I, in contrast have been using two monitors for years and hate using a PC without a dual setup. Sure, the second monitor sees a lot less use and almost no gaming action, but it’s still nice to have.

  9. Vinraith says:

    I use 2 monitors for work quite often, but I really have no interest in multi-monitor gaming.

  10. Nerd Rage says:

    As long as it allows you to set the width of those plastic edges on the monitors so that the composite image is more like looking through a barred window rather than looking at 6 images that should line up edge to edge but just don’t, it should be alright. Probably won’t want to use any of those old CRT’s though. I’ve got one next to me here with a good six or seven cm of plastic around each side. I’m not sure my desk could support the weight of six of those anyway.

  11. Simon says:

    Matrox TripleHead didn’t have nearly enough horsepower to give you use of three monitors… And did it make Windows believe they actually were just ONE monitor?

  12. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Anandtech has far better word spewage about this tech than techradar.

    http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3635

    7680×3200, yes please.

  13. Christian says:

    Couldn’t live without two monitors at work, I’d even have use for a third one (nothing beats having enough desktop-space to organize your programs on, switching between windows is for beginners :D).

    But with gaming..I think I’d rather have one really large display, if only because the limitation of the plastic borders of the monitors as mentioned in the article would annoy me and break the immersion. Also, you’d need some kind of special mounting-solution to put a row of monitors above the first one.
    Maybe when monitors have become really thin (OLED?) so that you can just tape them to a wall..that would be great..

    And btw: I’ve seen setups like these a few years ago, and also a giant monitor that sort of bent around you (for that peripheral vision) so the real news would be that this is made possible by a single GPU, yes? Hard to believe that a single card will have enough power to allow such resolutions in modern games..

    But looking at the screenshots, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to use such a second or third monitor for things like a map or status-display or questlogs..maybe controllable with a second mouse?

  14. MacBeth says:

    I use double monitors (one widescreen) for ‘work’ all the time (e.g. Hammer open in one screen, popups and browser for reference images in the other), running off separate cards.

    But I always switch to one (the widescreen one) for gaming, to run it Crossfired for best performance. Widescreen ratio on one decent screen is generally quite enough for seeing what’s going on – with six screens you’d have to move your point of focus around so much you’d be seriously slowed down…

  15. Turin Turambar says:

    Most people will use this with three monitors, six is too expensive and you have a black border in the middle of your vision.

    So basically this is Matrox Triplehead for free integrated in your graphic card. Neat, a 150$ accesory for free.

  16. St4ud3 says:

    I couldn’t live without 2 monitors anymore. It’s just too useful, but I wouldn’t play a game on both (besides peeking at a hero setup for LoL :D)

  17. Tei says:

    You can have something better than this with a proyector, a big wall and tons of netbooks.

  18. Wisq says:

    I use three monitors. CRTs, too. Two 19″, one 17″, side by side. And yeah, it looks like some evil lair or security monitoring station or something.

    Granted, I only use two of them on a regular basis. But if my video card supported all three, I’d do it in an instant.

  19. abhishek says:

    Sounds kind of pointless to me :|

  20. Jazmeister says:

    I want multi keyboard and multi mouse support too. That way, with six monitors, keyboards, and mice, and twelve arms, I can pwn entire TF2 clans by myself.

  21. medwards says:

    I just want to be able to display useful metadata on another screen… or even relevant visualisations… so in say Uplink I have a permanently full-screen visualisation of the trace being run on me while I can use the other screen fully.

    Or in Eve… oh god.. how I wish I could pull windows out of Eve. Many of them are jack-shit useless at smaller window sizes, but often you’ll want more than two reasonably sized windows. Overlap wouldn’t be so bad except for transparency, but the real solution is to let me use my other monitor as a desktop just for all the windows I have to manage.

    Any game where you frequently find yourself toggling screens should support moving those off into a second monitor. That’s the reason I have the second monitor, to move the rubbish incidental screens that I still need to have available at the touch of a button, but moved away from the focus of my work (whether it be code, video, or image). Games that expect me to do with less than Eclipse irritate me somewhat (therefore all games irritate me somewhat, but whatever).

  22. Wulf says:

    I have to admit, I was more overjoyed to see a panel from the Watchmen used as a news-post image than I was to hear the actual news.

    That’s when you know you’ve achieved journalistic news, when the method by which you post the news is even more delightful than the news itself.

    Well done, Alec.

  23. Wulf says:

    Errr, how you’ve reached journalistic zen, rather. Whoops. One of these days I’ll learn to proofread instead of relying on a spell-checker for everything.

  24. Bhazor says:

    If it’s to replace a standard single screen display then it’s only worth while if you can totally eliminate the borders of screens. If not you lose any coherence and frankly eye strain would be a given.
    Could be neat for sims mind, one for radar (a la Sup Com), one for each side, two for straight ahead and one to show postcard pictures of all the people who will be sad when you die.
    Or Rpgs with individual screens for maps and inventory. Combine that with Windows 7 touch screen and then you’re talking.

  25. Serph says:

    Talk about a waste of money. Those black bezels make me shudder when I think about centering my crosshair in an FPS. They ruin the immersion. When they come out with seamless screens, then we’ll talk.

  26. Vandelay says:

    Won’t this mean having big black bars in the middle of view? Surely just having one massive display would be much more ideal than having lots of smaller (albeit still big) screens if you were planing on running a single image. I would have thought the whole point of having multiple screens is to have different windows open on each one.

    Are they running the demos of this from a single card? Pretty impressive if the card can handle the massive resolutions and full settings on something like Crysis.

    The thought of a massive screen is certainly appealing. When ever I see adverts for games in the cinema, or always think how awesome it would be to play a game on screen that big. Playing through something really atmospheric, like Thief 3′s The Cradle, would be so epic.

  27. Excalibur101 says:

    Using the right Baldur’s Gate II mods, you can set the resolution to anything you want. Can anyone else imagine the awesomeness/horror at playing through BGII with six monitors?

  28. Carra says:

    Multiboxing WoW with one character a screen!

    I also have two screens at work. Takes a bit of getting used to but once you have them you can’t live without them. No space on my desk at home for more then one though…

    Six screens is just insane though. How many users will have that setup, 0.000001% of all gamers? More dual screen support would be a good start.

  29. Poet says:

    I’ll take a high def 10ft projection any day over that, for most games at least. Why would someone want to play TF2/Fallot 3/Oblivion/L4D ect ect as if you were looking through a storm window?

    And cost, well great projectors can be had for less then that setup and then some.

  30. Alistair says:

    Fairly obviously, one screen the size of n screens costs more than n times a much. Especially as no-one actually makes wrap-around screens. Can’t see the bezels being a huge deal really. Obviously they’ll get smaller or vanish if people want them to, but as long as you’re looking at three rather than two screens, don’t see if as major.

    What’s interesting is that ATI are obviously casting around for things to justify the ridiculous graphical horsepower they now want to sell. In Nvidia’s case, it seems to be dual 60 fps streams for 3d gaming, while ATI are going for images the size of aircraft hangars.

  31. Alistair says:

    That wasn’t a reply to Poet specifically…

  32. robb says:

    awesome picture!

  33. standardman says:

    I have a dual monitor setup and have a hard time finding games that support it. Anyone know of any or a list? I already know about Sup Com.

  34. Rei Onryou says:

    If the monitor borders were 1mm, I’d be happy to try this (assuming I could afford it), but based on typical 1/2″-1″ borders, it’d kill my immersion personally.

  35. pilouuuu says:

    Oh, I would be happy with just two monitors… Or maybe… three.

    And please let them be 120 Hz monitors, so I could use those fancy 3d glasses Nvidia is making now.

    And some head tracking system.

    And an AMBX system.

    And also make that monitors touch screen.

    Oh, damn! PC gaming is so tempting. I would buy all kind of gadgets if I could.

    But right now I’m stuck with my 19″ monitor which is kinda cool anyway.

  36. Starky says:

    I’m another bloke who finds the joining of multiple monitors to make one big screen utterly pointless these days.

    It’s cheaper and more effective to just buy a nice big LCD TV and use that as a large monitor.
    Seriously 1080p (1920×1080) is enough for almost everything even at 50 inches, it looks just as good and as sharp.
    Just like Mega-pixels in camera’s we’ve really hit the point now where anything over 1080p is utterly redundant for day to day use.
    Just as you’ll NEVER notice the difference between 3 mega-pixels and 8, unless you blow it up to cinema screen size – Nerdy aside – Or zoom in really far, but then optical zoom is a much better than digital zoom – and chances are unless you have a very, very good 8MP camera it will look crap anyway due to the noise the camera produces (less photons per pixel).
    /End nerdy aside.

    Anyway, just as you’ll never notice the megapixel difference in most digital camera’s beyond around 3, any TV higher than 1080p is pointless.
    Even on massive screens 100 inch+ unless you stick your face into them you’d not notice the pixels, if you can you’re sitting too close and probably can’t see the whole screen anyway.

    How much High Definition is enough HD?

    I’d wager £100 that if you took 2×100 inch TVs/Monitors one 1920×1080 (2 megapixels) and the other say 7920×4320 (34MP) ran a video at the full resolution, 99 out of 100 people could not tell the difference when sat at a viewing distance that allowed them to view the full screen without moving their head.

    Multi-monitor support I like, I often (almost every day) use my LCD TV monitor (32 inch 1080p, or sometimes a 50″ though that’s usually reserved for xbox and movies) to game on while using my monitor (19″ lcd) for desktop apps (web browsing so on); and it is awesome.
    But using 6 monitors to get some kind of mega-resolution single screen is utterly pointless.

  37. cannon fodder says:

    Interesting idea, I would love to be able to have a setup like this to give me a 270 degree horizontal FOV for FPS.

    That said it would be a big (unfair) advantage in multiplayer as the kind of person who would use this would probably tend towards the obsessive end of the scale: add wider FOV to better than average skills and I could see it being nasty to the players that don’t have it (this is why I want it).

    If I recall it correctly three monitors for 270 degree FOV was actually supported in the original Doom.

  38. Aequidens says:

    I don’t really see a home use other than showing off, but this could totally become a favourite card among the vj-community.
    Those Matrox trip2go things are expensive, and kind of a patch solution.

  39. HexagonalBolts says:

    Watchmen. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah.

  40. jarvoll says:

    What even the anandtech article fails to note is that primary visual reception areas of the brain are capable of discerning frequencies of up to 120Hz. These areas, however, are unconscious; the primary and secondary visual cortices in the occipital lobe, for example, which are much more directly responsible for what we consciously *see*, are only capable of discerning about 80Hz. But even though we can’t *see* the difference between 80Hz and 120Hz, we can *feel* it, because our superior colliculi, thalamus, and even eyes themselves, can feel it. It sounds crazy, but it’s 100% true. Thus, one of the most significant barriers to games’ feeling *real* is not gigantic monitors (we’re pretty good at ignoring whatever’s outside our fovea (focal areas) anyway), but simply frames per second. We all ought to be demanding a hard 120Hz minimum for all games and monitors (and even films and television, if you’re into that kind of thing) before getting a wall of screens.

    Also, bezels = fail. I’ll be waiting for 120Hz OLEDs before purchasing.

  41. Powerhaus says:

    I’ve got two monitors and it’s a whole new level of computing. I got them to record audio (Cubase is a screen hog) and to pwn at Supreme Commander (great 2 monitor support in that game). Having this much screen real estate is amazing.

  42. Alex says:

    Do consumer-grade 3K projectors even exist? As long as the monitors you bought had a small bezel, I’d take them over the projector any day.

  43. DarkNoghri says:

    Dangit, ninja’ed on the Anandtech article. Ah well, reposting link anyway:
    http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3635

    I’d wondered the other day why leaked photos of the new GPUs had 3 or 4 ports on them, and this is why, apparently. What I want to know is what happens if you put 2-4 of these things in Crossfire? 12-24 monitor support?

    Up until this, I don’t think most games supported multiple monitors all that well. This makes it even more tempting to pick up some cheap 22in monitors on Black Friday to compliment my 24. I love coding on my 24, and it would be totally awesome to have even more screen real estate. The problem being, I won’t be upgrading my graphics card for another 2 years or so. Hmmm.

  44. Nemon says:

    Poet says:
    Why would someone want to play TF2/Fallot 3/Oblivion/L4D ect ect as if you were looking through a storm window?

    ——————————-

    Well, it’s kinda like a helmet view :)

  45. pepper says:

    I’m already using 4 monitors for Flightsims on my single HD 4850X2.

  46. Turin Turambar says:

    To the people who says that only a few games support dual monitors: with this system your Windows thinks you only have one big screen.

  47. madhaha says:

    If the maximum default of FoV 90 represents 90 degrees of vision at 4:3 aspect ratio and widescreen actually provides a larger field of view in Source based games, would that mean that a 1 x 8 screen arrangement would let you see behind you?

  48. Ffitz says:

    From what I can see, the eyefinity tech will run monitors in both landscape and portrait mode tihout a problem. So how about having a tasty 24″ monitor in the centre rotated to portrait view, and a landscape-oriented 30″ panel on either side?

    No bezel problems for your crosshairs and lots of lovely peripheral vision.

    What’s that? Yes, I am rich beyond the dreams of avarice.