Multi Monitor Madness — 3.3 million pixels

2 minute read

Late last month I bought a 20″ Dell LCD Monitor. The native mode of this monitor is 1,680 x 1,050, about 1.7 million pixels.

At the time I bought it I was intending to design, order, and build a fresh new PC for myself, but I haven’t had the time to get to step #1 of that process. I decided to connect the monitor to my existing PC instead. This PC is now a genuine antique, but it didn’t start out that way. I have a Tyan Tiger-133 motherboard, 2 800 Mhz Pentium III’s, 1.5 GB of RAM, 7 devices on the USB bus, about 400 GB of hard drive space, and (until yesterday) two 15″ ViewSonic LCDs driven by a GeForce 440MX video card.

I went to my local CompUSA and bought a $79 PCI video card to power the new monitor. Brought it home, cleared off (as in shoved aside a huge pile of papers) a lot of space on my desktop, and slotted it in between the two ViewSonics. Opened up the PC, vacuumed out a lot of dust, and put in the video card. Powered it up, loaded some drivers, fiddled with the configuration to get it to show up, and I was up and running. The results are stunning:

I now have separate screens for the major things that I focus on when I am working at home: A PuTTY window on the left for code and system administration, a big browsing and working area in the middle, and an email window on the right (running Thunderbird, of course).

The visuals on the new monitor are spectacular. I am running it at 32 bits per pixel and the colors are superb. The screen is bright, crisp, and intensely white. The ViewSonics by comparison now appear dim, unfocused, and somewhat yellow. Scrolling is visibly slow on the new monitor. As far as I can tell I have all relevant video acceleration turned on, but it just doesn’t feel very fast. I’ll have to play with the settings. I have not been able to do a good job of aligning the virtual coordinates of each monitor using the Display preferences in the Control Panel; there has to be a tool that will give me more precise control. That’s ok, I don’t need to span windows and I don’t plan to be dragging from window to window very often.

All in all I am pleased with the results, and I see that the Dell monitor is now even cheaper than it was when I bought it. I paid $599 and it is now down to $559.