The 3rd Monitor Syndrome: A Brief Introduction of the Author

Disclaimer

Most people believe that if an individual has more than one monitor then they are clearly overcompensating for something; whether that be a low end video card, a smaller processor that all the other techies laugh at, or perhaps a slow boot time; it’s alright, it happens to everyone, you’re safe here.

I am here to say that, that’s just NOT TRUE! My rig isn’t the best on the block, but Viera is well made dammit (Lord I hope one person gets that reference). And considering she’s just over a year old, she still holds true. Especially since I built the entire rig for just around $1,200 total. And anyone that knows anything about monitors, knows that three 28″ LED/LCD Monitors with a heavy base arm stand isn’t a cheap “accessory”.

Regardless, this little discussion will talk about my experience, nay, adventure of gaming with three monitors. I can tell you right now, the cost was not the biggest downside. Stay tuned.

It all started in Middle School…

Alright I promise this won’t be one of those four hour flashbacks. In fact I’ll try to summarize my entire middle/high school childhood in 2 paragraphs. Ready? And GO!

I lived in a small town in the middle of Michigan, actually it wasn’t a town, they classified it as a village, since it was that small. The “village” itself had a post office, a bank (temporarily), a party store and a small little local restaurant, that’s it. However, my family lived about 5 – 10 minutes from town, way out in the boonies. And this is how you know it was the boonies:

  1. No internet. Cable didn’t run back there, no telephone lines and we lived in the woods were dish/satellite wouldn’t pick up any service.
  2. No phones. As stated above, no nothing, including cellphones.
  3. Amish neighbors. The nicest people I have ever met, didn’t know Mario.
  4. Complete Wood Heating. Chopped lumber all summer long from our woods, my summer breaks were a wild one.
  5. No TV. Well that’s not exactly true, we had a TV and VCR that we would buy movies for; but the nearest department/tech store was Wal-Mart and that was over 45 minutes away, and it was not 24-hour center at the time. We had a hell of a selection of VHS cassettes though, in fact we started a mini-video rental business for my allowance.

Anyways, we were country living. But, don’t let that sound bad. It wasn’t, I was also fortunate to have property where I could build forts and our doors could be left unlocked ( in fact my best friend would often leave his key in his truck in high school with a sign that said please fill it up when you drop it back off, the crazy thing is, teachers/staff would actually borrow it!)  Anyways, the funny thing was, my father was a tech administrator for the government then the school district further down his career path. So needless to say we both shared in nerd’dom (even though he wasn’t a fan of video games, but after almost 30 years, he’s coming around).

But in my room I had about 4-5 desktop PCs all near each other, these would be PCs that I fixed up, or donations from people that have gotten new ones. Mostly Windows 95, etc. but they all worked and gave me something to tinker around with. This is where the thought of having multiple PC screens would place me in league with a James Bond villain… excellent. Okay I guess that was 3 paragraphs and a full list. But you get the point, lack of social life resulted in a surplus of tech gear.

The Internet Come’th

Years passed, jobs started and I went through a couple of gaming phases. One was when I had a double monitor setup for gaming. WARNING: Put your two hands together and imagine it’s one hand, where is the center? That’s right, right in the crevice. That’s where the crosshairs were on every shooter; needless to say that didn’t work so well. Next I thought I should use a 60″ plasma retail display monitor, this was actually awesome. I had Modern Warfare 2 when it was first released and I LOVED plasma TVs for their fluidity; unfortunately you have to be a ways from the screen to truly appreciate it, and sitting at a desk three feet from the screen was MAJOR neck strain.

Finally I decided I wanted to pursue a triple monitor setup. I had the PC that I made (I’ll share my specs in future posts, but I feel this one is long enough as it is), and I had quite a game collection; the only downside was that I couldn’t really afford what I wanted. So I started off with Craigslist (let it be known that I am a HUGE Craiglist’er; yes it’s not always the safest, but come prepared, plus do your research). Anyways, there was a guy who recycled old monitors and he happened to have three 19″ Acer LCD monitors, 2 had 1440 X 900 resolution and the third had a little less for some reason. But, I had gotten them for about $60 cash for all three. They were dirty, one buzzed quite loudly and a couple DVI cables failed, but still decent deal. Well, after a couple weeks of terrible resolution gaming due to the center one being the odd apple I decided I wanted to “attempt” to find three similar monitors.

Once again with Craigslist by my side, I happened to find two LG LED 28″ monitors, the man was a recent graphic design dropout and needless to say he wanted nothing more than to see these screens gone. This meant easier bartering on price for me, I think I walked out with both of them for around $140 total, they go for about $300 a piece on Ebay, used. But once again, I was left with needing a third monitor. I had just sold the three smaller LCD screens to an old gamer friend of mine for around $80, when I had just found an AOC monitor on Craigslist, same specs, screen size, etc. that the seller wanted about $120 for it; there was no way I was going to pay nearly the same price for what I got two way better monitors for, so once again the bartering continued; luckily I got him down to $80, but I had to pick it up (hour away). I didn’t mind since we were already planning on going to that place anyways; so I transferred the $80 I had gotten from the other monitors to purchase this new one. After everything here’s the math of my real life loot.

– $60.00 3 x 19″ Monitors

– $140 x 2″ 28″ LG Monitors

+ $80 Sell Monitors

– $80 28″ AOC Monitor

= Total Spent: $200.00 cash… thanks Craigslist.

Alright, bragging aside. I was pumped, and honestly for anyone who wants to own a triple monitor setup, just research what you want, be prepared and be patient. You can find great deals out there.

The 3rd Time Is The Charm

Gaming was awesome with three monitors, they looked great, Nvidia Surround did an “ok” job at managing it, and overall I would say it’s a pro having the three monitors. However, there are some pretty huge downfalls. Here are my two biggest qualms:

  1. Most games DON’T support the resolution. 5760 x 1080 is massive in terms of resolution and since multiple monitor gamers are the minority, most developers don’t take the time to incorporate it in their programming. I understand that. BUT, there are programs out there to help. I have used Flawless Widescreen in the past… BUT! I have had some bad experiences with it, not the program, but the outcomes. When I was thrift store shopping I had found a great deal of a brand new Call of Duty Ghosts and Black Ops II for the PC. I activated Ghosts with Steam and began playing it. Well, after playing a simple BOT match, offline, I was banned from Activision within five minutes of playing my brand new game. The reason being, I was modding the game to my advantage (according to them). You see, Activision doesn’t have the best tech support (who guessed), well when you play a game like mine on three monitors it takes a 1920 x 1080 image and stretches the 1920 to 5760, but keeps 1080 the same. It looked like death, Flawless Widescreen fixed that death, but Activision didn’t like that. Honestly, I was more pissed with the reported first and only ban on my Steam account, it was embarrassing to say the least and since then I have vowed to never play a Call of Duty game again. Go team Battlefield! (Never regretted it for a day).
  2. Nvidia Surround still doesn’t update really, and they probably won’t anytime soon on the horizon. Maximizing programs can be a pain, they stretch out to useless proportions. I do a lot of Adobe work and I can tell you, it’s the biggest headache trying to get it to maximize without removing bars etc. The start menu jumps around, etc. It’s buggy to say the least, but that might also be a Windows 7 thing.

Overall, those are pretty much my only two issues so far with having three monitors. Apparently they aren’t as bad since I’m still using it happily. So, the question comes down to is it worth it? For $200, absolutely yes. Full price? I don’t think so. With VR headsets on the way, there’s really no reason to need three monitors, and in the long run the VR headset would be less taxing on my system since it’s technically running two high def screens rather than three, and I guarantee those updates will be much better off and updated more frequently.

So when you see us ‘nerds’ with three monitors… we aren’t any different, we’re just like you. The only overcompensation is for the lack of James Bond villain status in our lives… the struggle is real Oddjob… the struggle is real.

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