Multimonitor graphics shootout

For when one isn't enough

I'M A MULTITASKER. Typically, I'll have at least a dozen windows open at once, all of which I'm interacting with, or at least watching, on a pretty regular basis. To some, it may look like a cluttered mess of application windows, but it works for me. It's sort of like a messy desk; I have a system. I guess I just like doing a lot of things at once, everything from chatting on Trillian to keeping an eye on my inbox, from recording benchmark scores in Excel to surfing TR, and, of course, managing my ever-changing Winamp playlist.

I suppose it's only natural that, with PCs growing ever more powerful and capable of performing multiple tasks at once, we'd put them to use doing just that. And the more tasks you have going on at once, the more constrained you'll be by the limited desktop area provided by even a screen capable of resolutions as high as 1600x1200. The next logical step is adding a second monitor, or perhaps a third, but what's going to drive those extra monitors? You could go with an AGP card plus an additional PCI card to drive that auxiliary display, but PCI graphics cards aren't easy to find, especially if you want something with good video signal quality. Why not just run two or more displays with a single graphics card?

If you're ready to take the multimonitor plunge, you have a few choices. There's ATI's HydraVision, Matrox's Dual and TripleHead, and NVIDIA's nView. Each multimonitor system juggles hardware compatibility with software features in an attempt to make the most of an multimonitor desktop. Which one is right for you? Let's find out.

Update: We've had some clarifications from NVIDIA on nView's capabilities, particularly in Windows 2000 with independent refresh rates and resolutions, which will work with the latest drivers and service pack. The article and conclusion has been updated to reflect these clarifications.

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