Help me buy a video card (three monitors)

I haven’t been following what’s going on with video cards for quite some time and need some advice.

I currently have two 24" displays run off a Radeon 5850. I am adding a 27" Mac display to the (Windows) system; I want to run it as my primary monitor and flank it with the two 24" displays. I only want to play games on the main monitor, as the three monitor setup will be for productivity only. The Mac display can only be used with mini Displayport, which my 5850 doesn’t have.

It is my understanding that NVidia cards only support three monitors in SLI solutions, and I don’t want to use two video cards. Is that right?

Assuming I have to stick with ATI, am I correct that in thinking that I can drive all three displays off pretty much any of their recent cards (with “Eyefinity”?), two with DVI/HDMI and one with mini Displayport? And if so can someone recommend a card which will provide a speed bump over the 5850, includes mini Displayport, and is as quiet as possible given the other requirements?

Finally, is now a good time to buy a video card, or (as usual) are we on the cusp of a new generation and I should wait?

I think everything you said is correct, though there might be an exception when one of the monitors is a 27 inch 2560 by 1440 display. Worth verifying that Eyefinity works with that.

The new generation is here, and if you’re going be gaming at that super high rez, you may as well go with the new hotness:

While doing regular desktop stuff they are very quiet, and the gaming sound is normal. The prices won’t come down until Nvidia drops THEIR next gen though, but that could be quite a long time.

Thanks. The 7970 looks great, but at $600 I’ll try to find something cheaper.

there’s nothing that fits your criteria of ‘provide a speed bump over the 5850.’ the 6xxx series isn’t enough of a speed bump to drop $200-300.

The impetus to get a new card is primarily to drive the Apple monitor, not speed, so I don’t mind spending $2-300 on a card only a little faster than the 5850 (which will be donated to another system).

Any Radeon 6xxx card will do what you want it to do. Connect the 2560x1440 display to a DisplayPort connector or the single DVI dual link connector. You may need adapters (usually supplied in the box) to go from DisplayPort to single link DVI for the lower res displays.

Thanks, yeah it looks like the 6xxx series is the way to go. I think I’ll get this,

MSI R6950 Twin Frozr III 1G/OC Radeon HD 6950 Video Card

for CDN$280 unless anyone has any better ideas.

Case, note Displayport is non-trivially different from HDMI/DVI. There is no cheap adapter to connect a Displayport monitor to DVI/HDMI outputs (e.g., $150 for one which only supports up to 720p), and the expense, quality, and hassle considerations of the available adapters imply that just getting a new video card with a displayport output is the better solution.

This is the card I have and for 168 us it is a great deal IMHO

It should also do what you need.

Marcus, thanks, but (for the benefit of others happening on this thread) note that for reasons known only to Apple engineers, apparently a lot of people have problems connecting video cards with Displayport, as opposed to mini Displayport, outputs to the 27" display. There are cheap displayport->mini displayport adapters, but for some reason the setup nonetheless can cause problems.

I found another 6950 with a fancypants quiet fan but 2gb memory for ten bucks more than the card above, so I’ll get this HIS 6950, again unless anyone has a better suggestion.

Ok well that doesn’t make much sense. So you need a Video card with a Mini Display port on it. That is just odd.

I’d certainly recommend HIS.

The problems with Apple and DP-mDP seems to be, well, Apple and display connectors. They do seem to have ongoing issues in that area.

Dunno about Canada, but here’s a bunch on the US Amazon site, some for less than $10.

These are passive adapters, so if you want to go higher than about 1920x1200, you’ll need an active adapter – and those are pricey.

Case, those are displayport->HDMI adapters, to connect a device with a displayport output to an HDMI display. Going the other way around, as I want to do, is the problem.

Sorry, I misunderstood. Since Radeon HD 6xxx cards ship with two mini-DP connectors, I’m not sure what the issue is.

Case, you said one could “connect the 2560x1440 display to a DisplayPort connector or the single DVI dual link connector.” You can’t do the latter without a relatively expensive adapter.

I don’t suppose switching the 27" Mac display for a 27" RGB LED monitor is viable? One that has sensible display inputs?

I avoid HIS because they’re Christian.

Wait … what?!?

“HIS was established in 1987 with the mission to produce the highest quality PC products in the industry. Besides strong devotion to excellent products and services, HIS has been conducting business with the aim to “Glorifying God”. Honesty and integrity are the two key principals of how HIS are conducted.”

I’m only kidding though. I’ve had 2 HIS cards with the IceQ cooling shroud and both were quieter than other stock solutions. That is, until one of them went tits up and developed a noise.

It’s just like every other mainland China/Taiwan/Asian manufacturer of motherboards and video cards without a North American support presence–obtaining support to replace/repair is a pain in the ass. You couldn’t do advance AMA, have to deal with email exchanges to Asia that took weeks and there was no phone number. Yes, all of that infrastructure costs money and that’s why some of these brands are cheaper. ASUS used to be as much a PITA and I’m not sure if it’s improved these days.

Thanks for the clarification - I was a little startled that someone here would pass up a good product because of the owners’ religion, although I didn’t know hey went so far as to make it part of their mission statement. On the other hand, crappy support is a very good reason to skip their cards :)