Curved monitors like the Acer Predator Z35p and AOC AG352UCG are all well and good for making you feel more immersed in a game, what with those ultrawide edges supposedly wrapping themselves closer round your eyeballs like some kind of pixelated caress on your peripheral vision, but let’s face it. Curved monitors are hideously expensive and any bend they do possess is often so tiny that you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve actually bought a flat screen by mistake.
No, the only way to get truly suckered into a game is to go multi-monitor. I’m not talking two monitors, either. I’m talking about creating a THREE-sided boxed-in bezel palace that shuts off all notion of the outside world. Here, there are only games stretching, quite literally, as far as the eye can see. And I’m going to tell you how to set it all up in five easy steps.
Step One: Don’t try and fit three 27in monitors on a desk that can barely hold two of them without one hanging dangerously off the edge.
Okay, the real Step One: The first thing you need to do is make sure you’ve got a graphics card with enough outputs on the back to support three monitors. Doesn’t matter what combination of ports you’ve got. As long as you’ve got three or more and your graphics card supports more than two displays, then you’re good to go. My Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070Ti, for example, has three DisplayPorts, one HDMI and one DVI-D, and for the purposes of this experiment I used two DP and one HDMI.
Step Two: Buy/scrounge/cobble together three monitors and connect them up to your PC. It doesn’t matter if they’re all the same screen or a different make – you just need three of them. If you need some help deciding what screen to buy, then have a gander at our best monitor list and buying guide.
Step Three: Once you’ve acquired and arranged your displays, preferably not hanging off the edge of your desk, then it’s time for the fun bit – setting them up. If you’re running Windows 7 or Windows 8, just right click anywhere on your desktop and select Screen Resolution. Windows 10 users, on the other hand, will need to right click and choose Display Settings. Once there, you’ll need to arrange each monitor correctly. Click Identify and a big number will pop up on each screen.
Make sure they match the order that’s shown in the Display Settings menu and drag and drop them into place if not. Windows 10 will save any changes automatically, but Windows 7 and 8 peeps will need to click Apply for anything to take effect.
Next, you’ll want to select ‘Extend these displays’ in the Multiple Displays option. I’d also recommend making your central screen your main display, as this is where your shortcuts will be placed. You can, of course, make a different one your main display if you prefer.
Step Four: So now we’re all set up for using three monitors for everyday use, it’s time to configure them for gaming. This is done through your Nvidia or AMD control panel.
For Nvidia graphics cards, you need to enable Surround. To do this, find the 3D Settings option on the left hand menu and select ‘Configure Surround, PhysX’. Tick the box that says ‘Span displays with Surround’ and hit Configure. You’ll probably need to close some programs before you do so, but once that’s done you’ll be taken to the Surround Setup screen.
A bit like the Windows display settings, you’ll need to make sure the monitors are all in the correct order. Select 1×3 in the Topology box, and then tick the boxes in the Display menu underneath to match the numbers being displayed onscreen. Check the resolution’s as high as it can go in the Resolution box, and make sure your refresh rate is set to 60Hz (or higher if all three of your monitors support higher refresh rates). Then click Apply.
For AMD owners, you’ll need to enable Eyefinity. Open up AMD Radeon Settings and click the Eyefinity tab along the top menu.
Now, Quick Setup is fine if your monitors all have the same resolution, but you’ll need to use the Advanced Setup if your monitors are different. In my case, I had two 2560×1440 monitors and one 3840×2160 one and Quick Setup doesn’t take into account 4K scaling, so I had a giant black bar across my 4K screen from 2560 pixels down. For what it’s worth, Nvidia’s Surround software just gets on with it and handles it all automatically, negating the need for the faff that’s about to ensue.
In Advanced Setup, select 3×1 in the layout option and hit Next. Then it will ask you what orientation you’d like, but unless you want to throw any vertical monitors into the mix, just hit Next. Now it’s arrangement time. Here, you’ll need to click Start Arrangement and select which box corresponds to the location of the monitor that’s currently highlighted in blue. Hit next.
Now you’ve got to align them, which is the fiddly part. The Align All tool is quite handy, as this repositions everything automatically, but you can faff around with it manually if you really want to. Those with different monitor resolutions will have to ignore the numbers, as they simply don’t match up. For sake of argument, I used the tool to have my two smaller outer monitors aligned in the middle of the 4K one. Once that’s done, you’ll need to decide how your desktop’s going to be shown onscreen.
I picked the Fill option here, as it was the only one that brought my 4K monitor in line with my two 1440p ones without cutting anything off. Yes, you lose some of the top and bottom resolution of the 4K monitor (essentially making it a third 1440p monitor), but that’s the price you pay for ultrawide gaming on different monitor resolutions.
Step Five: Once that’s all done, congratulations! You’re ready for some incredi-widescreen gaming, like playing Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age in an aspect ratio no one ever asked for or really needs.
You’ll need to configure the resolution for each game you play (not all games support three-monitor setups, but the WSGF has a pretty extensive list of those that do), but otherwise you’re pretty much good to go. You may also want to fiddle with the field of view setting if you can, as low fields of view can make everything feel a bit too close while higher ones might look too distorted.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that some games will still revert to a single 16:9 screen during cutscenes and pre-rendered video, as these sections were obviously never intended to support this ridiculous kind of aspect ratio.
You may also want to turn off Nvidia Surround or AMD Eyefinity for everyday multi-monitor use as well, as maximizing any given window will see it hogging your entire three-screen setup rather than just a single monitor. Wallpapers and such will also stretch across the entire display area with Surround and Eyefinity turned on, whereas you’ll get three separate desktop backgrounds when they’re disabled.
Otherwise, enjoy your new multi-monitor setup and happy gaming.