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Tuning Display Computers for Multiple Outputs


JG
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Having used rented Watchout Systems on occasion for a couple of seasons now, my company is looking to purchase a system of our own. We are looking for a production computer and one display computer to drive three 1024x768 outputs. I've combed through the forum for some information on succsessful display computer configurations with multiple outputs, but still have a few questions.

I'm definitely looking for a quad-core processor, but haven't seen any mention of a minimum clock speed. Would 2.0 GHz be sufficient for SD video, or should we be looking at 3.0 Ghz or more?

I think we're going to invest in an AMD FirePro card, and I would love to hear any feedback from users who are using that family and which models they're using. There's a note in the Users Guide that mixing different kinds of graphics cards is not recommended. Those this mean that if we select a four output card like the v7900 for the display computer we would also need one for the production machine, or could we use a less beefy card for the production machine as long as it is still in the FirePro family?

Lastly, have people had good success with active DisplayPort to VGA adapters? I see a lot of discussion on the forum and in web searches about active DisplayPort to DVI, but we would like to utilize our existing stock of VGA cable, if possible, especially for longer runs.

Thank you for your help.

 

Jim

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I am not going to try and answer all of those, but one I could clarify is ...

 

... There's a note in the Users Guide that mixing different kinds of graphics cards is not recommended. Those this mean that if we select a four output card like the v7900 for the display computer we would also need one for the production machine, or could we use a less beefy card for the production machine as long as it is still in the FirePro family?

That note refers to synchronization between display computers only.

Production computer could be anything really, even a different vendors graphics card.

 

The note typically means that all the cards within a group of displays should be from the same manufacturer.

Have not tried mixing the FirePro and Radeon families among displays,

but have mixed various generations and processors within the Radeon family and no synch issues arose.

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For what it is worth, here are the results of my own tests with 1 Prodn PC and 1 Display PC using relatively old CPUs and PCs upgraded to one high end graphics card on the Display PC. The 3-output video files I ran in a loop for hours on end are -

1x Canopus HQ AVI file of 1920x1080 with a data-rate of 13,971kpbs at a frame-rate of 29fps

1x MPEG-2 file of 720x480 with a data-rate of 19,379kpbs at a frame-rate of 59.94fps

1x WMV file of 1280x720 with a data-rate of 6,000kpbs at a frame-rate of 23fps (downloaded from Microsoft's web-site for WMV HD - titled "Speed_720")

1x 48KHz Audio WAV file extracted from the above MPEG-2 with a bitrate of 384 kb/s

 

All are running smooth as silk with all 3 video files off ONE x 7200rpm SATA mechanical drive. Also tried off a RAID 0 2-disk set, and off a OCZ Agility 3 SSD connected to SATA-2 instead of SATA-3.

Initially had some jerkiness with the WMV file, but found that I had been using a MPEG-2 version which I had converted previously either with Canopus Procoder 2 or a shareware converter I have. So lesson learned here is that the file and/or conversion matters.

 

Production PC

old Shuttle PC - FB61, a P4 2.8GHz Intel CPU with 2GB RAM and VisionTek HD2600XT AGP graphics card - note AGP not PCIe...told you they were old!! No problems as a Production PC though - Watchout v5.1

OS: windows XP 32-bit

 

Display PC

OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

CPU: Intel Q6600 at 2.4GHz (have over-clocked up to 3.2GHz with little to no problems except for heat)...but the test video files run smooth at default 2.4GHz anyway (monitored visually and with FRAPS)

RAM: 6-GB DDR2 mixed but running in Dual-channel mode - 2 x 2GB Corsair DDR2 Gaming Memory + 2 x 1GB Corsair XMS2 (reason for mix: 1 of 4 pieces of 2GB Gaming memory is faulty and is being RMA'ed)

Motherboard: ASUS P5Q Deluxe - capable of 3 PCIe cards, but won't work with Watchout; besides a 2nd gfx card will not work with the HD6950 - different driver from my other old gfx cards which require the ATI Legacy drivers; these older Legacy cards work together in the mobo when installed together all using the Legacy drivers only, though Watchout will only work with one; my other apps will work with all 3 - not Crossfired.

 

Graphics Card: ASUS HD6950 2GB version, unlocked to HD6970 specs...hehe!!

Display output to all 3 monitors are at 1280x1024 - 1xVGA (off the Single-link DVI), 2xDVI-D (1 off the Dual-link DVI and 1 off a mini-Display Port -> DVI Active adaptor).

Bought off the web, an AMD-approved mini-DP to VGA adapter, but proved not to be Active, so not workable; still shopping for one; the sites that sell do not ship to my country, so may have to get it shipped to my brother or sister in the U.S. and have them bring it in when they visit in February 2012).

 

Tuning and Tweaking of Display PC

Only disabled Media Centre, Windows Security Centre & Auto Updates, Remote Assistance, etc. Performance Options at default (Windows decide, i.e. am using Aero)

Windows Experience Index: 5.3 (owing to Primary hd being a 7200rpm 80-GB SATA unit); Processor and Memory at 7.3, Graphics at 7.9)

 

 

A mix of mainly old stuff with the Graphics card being the only new component, but it works outputting to 3 displays each at 1280x1024 with Watchout 5.1

So I dare say that if you intend only 3 displays each at 1024x768 you do not need high end specs except for the gfx card. However, since you are starting anew, it is always best to have a buffer and cater for the unplanned - I dare say the Intel 2600K CPU will more than suffice. The Firepro? Sorry, no experience with it, but I don't think it is necessary since a lower cost unit such as the HD6950 or 6970 will do - only caveat here is that, depending on the manufacturer and the card, using the HDMI output may disable the DVI-D (dual-link) output.

 

Thomas Leong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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