What exactly is Multi-monitor gaming, is it just the ability of being able to combine three identical monitors into one large desktop, or is there something more to multi-monitor gaming? What multi-monitor gaming is a culmination of a couple major things, of coarse the first one is being able to combine two or more monitors into one large monitor, but the other side that very few people even look at is just as important that is being able to manipulate the ratio of our games to whatever we see fit. In reality that is what our games truly use to configure on what we see and what we don’t see. I know most of us have heard of 16:9 (standard HDTV, and now standard computer monitor) 16:10 (standard wide screen Computer monitor), to finally the ever ancient 4:3 CRT monitors we all know and love to hate. Even our resolution is tied to ratios, it would not work properly if it did not.
Now before I just jump right into all of how multi-monitor tweaks our ratios/resolutions, we need to have a basic understanding on how ratios and resolutions tie into one another. Lets look at the most common resolutions that are used on the most common ratios. We can treat ratios similar to how we deal with fractions or division, we take the divisor (lower or last number) and divide that into the numerator (upper or first number). Example 7:2 ratio can be used like this 7/2, be dividing 7 by 2 we will get 3.5, this number will now by used to a 1 ratio. So for every 3.5 parts we need 1 part added, or for every 3.5 inches horizontal, we go 1 inch vertically.
Up first is the CRT ratio of 4:3 (for every 4 inches horizontally, we go up 3 inches vertically, it is actually pretty simple to understand) 4/3 we get 1.33 (rounded up).
The common resolutions used for a 4:3 monitor is 1024:768> 1024/768=1.33, for 1280:1024> 1280/1024=1.25 (this is the only resolution that does not follow the monitors actual ratio), then finally 1600:1200> 1600/1200=1.33.
Up next we look at the 16:9 ratio HDTV/Monitor. 16/9=1.78 (again rounded up). Now lets look at some common resolutions for this ratio.
1280:720> 1280/720=1.78, 1920:1080> 1920/1080=1.78
Finally we look at the ratio of 16:10> 16/10=1.6 common resolutions are:
1440:900> 1440/900=1.6, 1680:1050>1680/1050=1.6, 1920:1200> 1920/1200=1.6, 2560:1600> 2560/1600=1.6
As we looked at each “Ratio” monitor or TV supported and then looked at each of the supporting resolutions (with the exception of the 1280:1024) we can say that each resolution giving with in a specific ratio is correct. Keep this in mind because things will get very interesting later on as I seriously tweak the ratios. (insert Evil Dragon Laugh, Bwhahahaha)
Introduction to Multi-Monitor Configurations
Currently there are so many different multi-monitor configurations it is not even funny. So to make things as simple as possible (mostly for myself that is), I will list the most common multi-monitor configurations. Nvidia and AMD/ATI both fully support multi-monitor gaming, each GPU manufacturer has their own specific requirements in order to run a Multi-Monitor configuration, please visit each GPU manufacturers website for more information. For Nvidia please visit this link HERE, for more information on what GPU’s support multi-monitor can be located HERE. For AMD/ATI multi-monitor configurations can be found HERE, almost all of the current HD5xxx-6xxx based GPUs from AMD can support a multi-monitor gaming platform.
the most common multi-monitor configurations that are used more widely are
Please refer to the images for more information.This is how most people play their games on. A single standard everyday monitor.
3×1 landscape mode, where we place our monitors side by side.
1×3 landscape mode, where we can stack our monitors on top of each other.
2×1 landscape mode, similar to a 3×1 configuration but only using two monitors.
1×2 landscape mode, again similar to a 3×1 configuration but only using 2 monitors.
Portrait mode (this is where we can turn the monitors on to their side)
Please refer to each image for more information.
3×1 portrait mode, where we place our monitors side by side.
1×3 portrait mode, where we can stack our monitors on top of each other.
2×1 portrait mode, similar to a 3×1 configuration but only using two monitors.
1×2 portrait mode, again similar to a 3×1 configuration but only using 2 monitors.
By looking at each of the basic styles of multi-monitor configurations we can get a better idea on what multi-monitor looks like. The multi-monitor configuration that gives us the most Field Of View (FOV) or the widest aspect ratio is a 3×1 configuration in a landscape mode. Now again each GPU manufacturer has its own specifications on what is required to run a multi-monitor gaming platform, so I highly recommend that you visit their appropriate (listed above) for more information. It is unfortunately our console brethren cannot and also do not have the hardware capability of running a multi-monitor gaming platform right out of the box. This is only a PC specific capability.
Like everything we own there are certain requirements that need to be met while using a multi-monitor configuration, these requirements are pretty much standard across both GPU manufacturers. First thing we need to ensure of is that each monitor used needs to be the exact same size, ie. 24″, another area the monitors have to match is resolution ie. 1920 x 1080. Refresh rate of the monitors have to match ie. 60Hz (for 3D capabilities look at Nvidia and AMD’s specific monitor(s) requirements for this type of configuration), last but not least the ratio has to be matched ie 16:9. For standard 2D configurations all we need to have each monitor match (listed above) they do not need to be of the same manufacturer. it be best if all matched model # and manufacturer but it is not needed. I have played with both Nvidia’s 3D Vision Surround as well as AMD’s Eyefinity and had anywhere from 2 to three different manufactured monitors (but they all matched to the above listed requirements).
Tweaking the Ratio
This is where multi-monitor gaming starts showing its strengths. It is not just the ability of increasing our overall resolution, but allowing us the ability to configure our ratio on the fly. Since I showed you the most common multi-monitor configurations lets look at how these configuration tweaks the ratio.
To keep things a simple as possible I am going to keep this portion to a minimum. Because the possibilities are endless.
The best way to keep track of your specific ratio or resolution is to use a common standard. this common standard will always be width:height, again remember this. This portion is extremely important to on how can manipulate the ratios while using a multi-monitor configuration.
Common Ratios our monitors use are 4:3, 16:9, and 16:10. The common resolutions used per type of monitor are 1024:768, 1600:1200 for the 4:3 aspect ratio, 1280:720, 1920:1080 for the 16:9 aspect ratio, then we have 1440:900, 1920:1200 for the 16:10 aspect ratio. Lets start the combining.
Landscape mode 3×1 monitor configuration. (better known as spanning)
4:3 aspect ratio
When we use 3 monitors side by side our ratios change, for the 4:3 aspect ratio gets changed to a 12:3 or a 4:1 aspect ratio (keep in mind I am only adding to the sides, I am not adding any monitors going up). 4/1 = 4, lets see if the resolution match the new aspect ratio. Our resolution been changed from 1024:768 to 3072:768 (again I did not add any monitors upwards just to the sides only). 3072/768 = 4 so our first resolution checks out with our new actual combined ratio. lets up the resolution to 1600:1200 to 4800:1200, 4800/1600 = 4 again this reaffirms that our resolution matches our actual combined ratio.
16:9 aspect ratio
moving to a slightly larger aspect ratio of 16:9 and then combine three of these to a spanned configuration our ratio changes to a 48:9 aspect ratio. 48/9 = 5.33 (rounding up) new combined aspect ratio. Lets see if our new resolutions matches the new aspect ratio. We increased from a 1280:720 to a 3840:720 combined resolution (again all I added was monitors to the side and did not add any monitors up) 3840:740 = 5.33. Lets use another standard resolution of 1920:1080 then combine that to a 5760:1080 (my current multi-monitor configuration). 5760/1080 = 5.33. So again our combined resolution matches our new combined aspect ratio for the 16:9 monitors.
16:10 aspect ratio
Moving on to our final aspect ratio of 16:10 now lets combine 3 of these monitors in a spanned configuration. Our new combined aspect ratio is now sitting at a 48:10 or 24:5. 24/5 = 4.8 (48/10 = 4.8). using a 1440:900 and combine that to a 4320:1200 resolution. 4320/1200 = 4.8, so the new combined resolution matches the new combined aspect ratio. Now lets up the resolution from a 1440:900 to 1920:1200. That combined resolution will be at 5760:1200, 5760/1200 = 4.8, reaffirming our combined resolution matches the new combined aspect ratio.
Portrait Mode using a 3×1 configuration
We can also turn our monitor to a portrait mode, in a nut shell, stand the monitors on end.
4:3 aspect ratio, will now become a 3:4 aspect ratio. Because we have now turned the monitor(s) on their side so the ratio will change as well, keep this in mind.
3:4 aspect ratio (again this is a 4:3 monitor tuned on to its side)
Using a spanned mode while our monitors are turned on to their side will tweak our ratios and resolution dramatically. since we flipped the ratio we also have to flip the most common resolutions as well. a 1024:768 is now a 768:1024 resolution. and the 1600:1200 has now been changed to a 1200:1600. By spanning the 3:4 aspect ratio our new combined ratio is now a 9:4. 9/4 = 2.25. Lets plum in some resolutions as well to verify the aspect ratio is correct. Using a 768:1024 resolution and combine that with 3 monitors we now have a combined resolution of 2304:1024, 2304/1024 = 2.25, looks like everything is falling right into place. Upping the resolution from 768:1024 to 1200:1600 and combine that we get a new resolution of 3600:1600. 3600/1600 = 2.25.
9:16 aspect ratio (a 16:9 aspect ratio monitor turned on to its side)
Lets span our 9:16 aspect ratio monitors, the combined aspect ratio we get when doing this is now a 27:16, 27/16 = 1.6875. See how things change drastically with multi-monitor configurations. the most common resolution are 720:1280, combining this resolution in spanned mode we now have a new combined resolution of 2160:1280, 2160/1280 = 1.6875. So far everything is checking our correctly, now upping the resolution from a 720:1280 to a 1080:1920. Combined resolution will now be 3240:1920, 3240/1920 = 1.6875, just reaffirming the resolution matches the combined ratio.
10:16 aspect ratio (16:10 aspect ratio turned over on to its side)
Spanning 3 portrait mode monitors our ratio changes from a 10:16 to a 30:16 (15:8), 15/8 = 1.875 (30/16 = 1.875). Now lets see if the resolution corresponds to our new combined ratio shall we. A 1440:900 resolution monitor gets a new resolution of 900:1440 then combine this with 3 monitors we now have a 2700:1440, 2700/1440 = 1.875. Just to makes sure everything is working properly lets up the resolution from a 900:1440 to a 1200:1920 (again the monitor is standing on its side). Now lets combine this resolution by spanning the 3 monitors we now have a 3600:1920 combined resolution, 3600/1920 = 1.875, this reconfirms that the resolution matches the combined aspect ratio.
This next part is when I stack the monitors on top of each other, in a 1×3 configuration.
Landscape In a 1×3 configuration
4:3 aspect ratio
4:3 gets changed to a 4:9 ratio 4/9 = 0.44 (rounded to the highest number)
1024:2304, 1024/2304 = 0.44
1600:3600, 1600/3600 = 0.44
16:10 aspect ratio
16:10 ratio gets changed to a 16:30 (8:15), 8/15 = .053 (again rounded off) (16/30 = 0.53)
1440:2700, 1440/2700 = 0.53
1920:3600, 1920/3600 = 0.53
Portrait (again each monitor been turned over on to its side) In a 1×3 configuration
3:4 aspect ratio
3:4 ratio gets changed to a 3:12 (1:4) 1/4 = 0.25 (3:12 = 0.25)
768:3072, 768/3072 = 0.25
1200:4800, 1200/4800 = 0.25
9:16 aspect ratio
9:16 ratio gets changed to a 9:48, 9/48 = 0.1875
720:3840, 720/3840 = 0.1875
1080:5760 , 1080/5760 = 0.1875
10:16 aspect ratio
10:16 ratio gets changed to a 10:48 (5:24), 5/24 = 0.2083 (round up again) (10/48 = 0.2083)
900:4320, 900/4320 = 0.2083
1200:5760, 1200/5760 = 0.2083
As we can see with all of these numbers, that with a multi-monitor configuration there is definitely a lot more to it then just grouping up a bunch of monitors. We have complete and total control of how we can manipulate the aspect ratio of our games. this is what our games ultimately see as far as what we can see and hat we cannot see. Even for them games out there that do not properly get viewed when we are spanning our games we can manipulate the monitors to keep within the aspect ratio of what that game can be played with. So the only limitations there are is ourselves when it comes to what we are fully capable of doing when it comes to our games.