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Hardware q: multiple monitor vidcards?

I'm doing a small project for the club where we live.  I need to add a second video card to a low-end HP mini-tower with built-in video so I can drive two monitors.

Each monitor will need to be able to display its own area of the desktop (this is not "clone desktop" mode).

Anyone have any recommendations for a sub-$50 video card for this?

Karl Perry Send private email
Friday, June 16, 2006
Anything that will fit in a spare expansion slot will do the job. Plenty of low-end PCI graphics cards around.
Friday, June 16, 2006
I would assume just about any Nvidia card with 2 outputs on it could do this. Newegg has quite a few that are under $50. I'm promoting Nvidia soley because I believe they have the better driver interface (as in UI) vs say ATI. It's much easier to set the different options (imo) up with the Nvidia drivers. Matrox supposedly rates pretty high for multi-mon performance but I've never used one personally.

I believe a Geforce FX5500 ($29.99 on New Egg) would probably do you fine. Cost would probably go up if you want dual dvi output as opposed to D Sub.
tim Send private email
Friday, June 16, 2006
Yes, I think you'll probably have to disable the on-motherboard video port, and use a dual-ported card.  Which shouldn't cost more than the $50 you expected to spend in the first place.

I don't think there's a non-trivial solution to putting two monitors on a PC without a dual-ported card.
Friday, June 16, 2006
You should be able to use the onboard along with any standard video card under Windows. Windows will consider the onboard car to be the default monitor. I don't think that there is any need to disable the onboard and buy a dual port card.

With all of that said though you probably will have a hard time even finding a card that isn't dual port since that has pretty much become the standard. Single port cards are probably still available but will cost as much as a dual port card. Using a dual port card along with the built in card would technically give you the ability to have three monitors should you choose to go that route.

And another option that I've heard people use is the USB video cards. They aren't fast enough for gaming but do a nice job with basic apps. My brother in law uses one as a third monitor when developing. He develops on the typical dual monitor setup and then moves things like email and Word to the third USB monitor. Just a thought.
Friday, June 16, 2006
I stand corrected.
Friday, June 16, 2006
I did this just a few days with an onboard. The only trick in my case was to change the BIOS default BACK to the onboard (it switched to the PCI card automatically) after installation.

Go to ebay, and you can pick up a lifetime supply of working cards for 20 dollars. Since it isn't your main card, you don't need anything fancy.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Thanks for the replies.

As usual, I didn't think this through enough.  My plan was to have the basic Windows desktop run on the "default" monitor, and my app run on monitor B, a touch-screen LCD.  This would in theory allow people to walk up to the touchscreen and run that app while the other screen ran other Windows apps.

Problem is that when someone touched the screen on monitor B it would steal focus from whatever app is running on monitor A.  Not a good thing.

Since this second app will be very light in terms of requiring computer resources, I'll just have the club find an old P3 or P4 or Celeron and we'll network a couple of boxes together to finish the solution.  That will end up being simpler.
Karl Perry Send private email
Friday, June 16, 2006
Sounds like the best idea.

Consider makign the PCs just dumb terminals running Remotedesktop ( or Linux and a Remotedesktop client ) and run multiple copies of the app on a server, then the PCs are easy to maintain / install.
Martin Send private email
Saturday, June 17, 2006
"Consider makign the PCs just dumb terminals running Remotedesktop ( or Linux and a Remotedesktop client ) and run multiple copies of the app on a server, then the PCs are easy to maintain / install. "

It sounds like there are only going to be two machines. I don't see how a remote desktop client is going to be any easier than just installing Windows or Linux on each box and installing the app locally.

You may also want to look into locking down the desktop for the "kiosk" style application.
Turtle Rustler
Saturday, June 17, 2006

Turtle Rustler: "You may also want to look into locking down the desktop for the "kiosk" style application."

I've been playing with this.  I develop in Delphi, and it allows me to create a form on an individual monitor, maximized, with no borders.  By using a touchscreen display and physically removing the keyboard and mouse from proximity to the monitor I'll be able to reproduce a kiosk without any trouble.  So thanks for this idea.

It's been interesting developing for a touchscreen interface:

- Everything the user might want to do (enter their name rather than pick from a list, etc.) must be displayed as input elements on the screen.

- The cursor is useless.

- It dawned on me last night that the half-hour or so I'd spent coming up with clever tooltips are useless because they only appear if you hover a mouse over something.  With no mouse, there's no hover and hence no need for tooltips.

- Which means I have to come up with very simple step-by-step instructions for everything.  There's no tab order, so I have to either have a very intuitive interface (of COURSE, I do :) or I have to "Step 1 ... Step 2" everything.

- Everything has to be huge.  The human fingertip is not a very precise pointer.  On a 1024x768 display there is only room for about 10 lines in a grid.  This also means ...

- Wizard interfaces rule.  Even with only four datapoints to be captured, there is no room to display everything necessary on one screen.  I've had to break things into three tabs on a tabsheet, and use Back/Next/Finish/Cancel buttons.

This is my first real development project in about three years, and it's amazing how much I've forgotten.  I'm also re-discovering that I actually do enjoy development.
Karl Perry Send private email
Friday, June 23, 2006

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