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Using Multi-port Video Graphics and Multi-Monitors

Multi-Monitor Madness

By Nathan Kartchner

In todayís multitasking computing world, itís not unusual to see people constantly switching from window to window trying to transfer data form one program to the other. I myself have gotten fairly adept at the Alt-Tab window-switching hotkey sequence. It is as a result of this that the popularity of multi-monitor computer setups has increased dramatically. Studies have shown a significant increase in employee productivity when a multiple monitor setup is used. There is less mental stress, less time spent on switching programs, and less eye strain. So how can you get multiple monitors? You have several different options.

Your first and probably most common option for a desktop system is to buy a multi-port video card. These cards generally have a DVI and a VGA port, both of which can be hooked to any monitor with the use of adapters. These cards can either be PCI, PCI-Express, or AGP-compatible. Generally speaking, the drivers for multi-monitor support come with the card.

Another desktop option is to buy multiple video cards and put them in your system. As far as we can tell, this only works so long as the chipsets are the same and each card uses a different type of slot (i.e., an ATi PCI card and an ATi AGP card.) Conceivably you could use two two-port cards, giving you a total of four monitors. This is a good way to go if you want to go to the trouble of matching everything up.

These solutions are all well and good for the desktop user, you say, but what about my laptop? Well, donít worry, there are options for notebooks as well. Probably your best option is to spring for the VTBook DVI/VGA Dual Display Video PCMCIA Card. Itís a bit pricey, but itís the only card like it on the market. The VTBook gives you an additional DVI-out port on your computer, which can be plugged into a high-def display. If you crave even more monitor madness, you can buy a VTBook Dualhead Cable, which splits the out port, giving you yet another monitor. With this setup, you could have up to four monitors (your laptop screen, the laptop out port, and the two VTBook ports).

The last, and probably most expensive method to add multiple monitors to your laptop is to buy a PCMCIA to PCI card. Realistically, this $1000-plus item is for more specialty PCI cards that arenít available in PCMCIA version, but if you have an amazing and absolutely necessary PCI or PCI Express video card that you want to use with your laptop, this is the solution for you. As far as I can tell, I have only found one such adapter, made by Magma.

Iím sure that somewhere there is some engineer dreaming up other ways to add multiple monitors to computers, but for now, these are the most common and most feasible options I know of. Now go to, and enjoy the greater productivity of multiple monitors.

About The Author

Nathan Kartchner works in Product Development for Sewell Direct, an online retailer of hard-to-find computer connectivity products like the VTBook DVI/VGA Dual Display Video PCMCIA Card, the Magma PCMCIA to PCI cardbus, and the USB to Serial Adapter.

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