Ubuntu – Best triple head display setup


I'm currently running Ubuntu 12.04 with a darn good triple head display setup. I've got a VisionTek 900530 Radeon HD 5450 512MB DDR3 PCI Express video card that has two DVI outputs and one Mini DisplayPort that I have connected to a HDMI adapter. I'm running three identical Asus 1920×1080 monitors that each have a DVI, VGA, and HDMI input.

I'm using the xorg-edgers ppa, so I'm using the open source radeon driver version 6.99.99. I tried using the ATI binary fglrx driver, but I wasn't able to get the three monitors working properly- the monitor connected via HDMI / DisplayPort wouldn't run at full resolution.

The setup is almost perfect:

  • Compiz runs fine and is quite snappy.
  • I'm not able to use that great compiz feature where you can drag a window to the side of a display and it will half maximize.
  • I occasionally experience display corruption weirdness with Unity and need to restart it.
  • When I use a dropdown menu in LibreOffice it often pops the menu down in another window. For example, if I'm using the center monitor and click the Insert menu, the menu pulls down on the monitor to my right, forcing me to chase it. If I chase down the menu and choose Manual Break, the dialog appears over on my left monitor. This absurdity is mildly entertaining but has lost its novelty.

I've decided to build a new system and have spared no expense- latest i7 processor, SSD, etc. I really like the performance of the Nvidia binary drivers, so I put two ZOTAC ZT-40707-10L GeForce GT 440 in the system, figuring I'd have four DVI outputs and an awesome triple (or even eventually quad) head setup.

Unfortunately it appears that I didn't do sufficient research before my purchase. It seems that Nvidia TwinView only supports two monitors on one card (I guess that's why they call it TwinView…). I messed around with running two X servers, but I really don't want that- being able to drag windows to any monitor is critical. It doesn't sound like Xinerama is an option because from what I understand it simply doesn't support Compiz.

I've seen a BaseMosaic option that can be used with the Nvidia drivers that appears to support an almost unlimited number of heads- unfortunately my cheap little cards don't support it. I'm also not sure whether you'll still have all nice maximizing and snapping that TwinView provides, or whether Ubuntu will only see it as one massive display.

I put my old trusty ATI card into my new system and installed 12.10. I'm using the opensource radeon drivers again because even in 12.10 I can't get the fglrx binary drivers to do triple head. Unfortunately, even with an unbelievably powerful system the experience is extremely sluggish (much more so than my experience in 12.04). The menu scattering problem appears to be fixed, but I get a lot of nasty Unity display corruption.

So finally, my question is this:

What hardware / drivers should I use?

I'm willing to buy (almost) any video card(s). I have two PCI-Express 3.0 slots on my motherboard (which has an integrated Intel HD card). I'm willing to use ATI or Nvidia cards and willing to run Ubuntu 12.04.1 or 12.10.

I'm not a gamer, but do want beautiful and snappy Compiz effects.

Does anyone out there have the perfect triple head setup in 12.04 or 12.10? What hardware / drivers are you using? I have those two Nvidia cards but will probably be returning them unless someone knows a way to use them together for a triple head setup.

Since I'm having pretty good luck with a single ATI card providing three displays, should I just buy a beefier one with the hopes that it will fix the horrible sluggishness I'm experiencing in 12.10?

Best Answer

So I purchased an Nvidia GTX 650 Ti with four video outputs (two DVI, one HDMI, on VGA). The card was about $175. I am running 12.10 with the nvidia-experimental-310 drivers installed.

By playing with the Displays dialog and the NVIDIA X Server Settings program I now have TwinView running three monitors simultaneously. Compiz effects are fantastic.

Think I finally found my perfect triple head display.