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BenQ Knowledge Center

How to run two gaming monitors at 144Hz

BenQ
2020/06/12

Take a look what it takes to run dual 144Hz gaming monitors. From GPU power to DisplayPort or HDMI and the different ways of setup under Windows, NVIDIA, and AMD interfaces. 

Multiple displays create big desktop space for multitasking and of course gaming. Twice the display size equals many times the joy for lots of people, and with good reason. High speed 144Hz gaming monitors with thin bezels stack up very nicely next to each other, creating a nearly seamless mega-sized window into your favorite games and entertainment, such as streaming apps. As mentioned above, you also get a huge desktop for non-gaming usage. If you’re keen on multitasking, then multiple displays make sense.

But in this article we’ll focus more on the gaming side of things and how to make sure both screens run at their native 144Hz, because it’s that sweet high framerate action on multiple displays that you crave, after all. However, remember that by going the multiple display route you may need to sacrifice pixels for frames. For example, if you opt for two QHD/2K 144Hz screens, your graphics card will be hard pressed to cope, and you may need to drop the resolution to FHD, although even then you’ll need a powerful, top of the line GPU.  

It’s (almost all) in the GPU

Needless to say, the best way to connect dual 144Hz displays to your PC is the direct approach. Any modern GPU will have several video outs, so you should just plug each of your two monitors to your graphics card directly. Important! You’ll need a pretty powerful GPU to run twin 144Hz monitors. Despite efforts to duplicate screens via the OS or GPU drivers without the full computational cost of an independent display, the rule of thumb still remains true: if you have two 144Hz monitors each with a resolution of 2560 x 1440, your GPU needs to be able to drive an actual resolution of 5120 x 2880. That’s considerably more than 4K. In desktop, non-3D modes you should be fine, as the GPU will treat both monitors as one 2560 x 1440 display, but for gaming the GPU will be forced into 3D mode and try to render each monitor separately.

A “fix” for this is to accept the speed over resolution compromise as we said earlier. If you set both monitors to 1920 x 1080 then suddenly your GPU “only” needs to handle a theoretical max of 3840 x 2160, which is 4K. If you want to stick to 144Hz, then 4K at those framerates requires the most powerful GPU currently available. Options such as NVIDIA Surround and AMD Eyefinity technologies try to replicate displays without an exponential rise in demand from the GPU, but those may not always work with every game and in each situation. The best advice is to have a graphics card that can drive two monitors in your chosen resolution and framerate. 

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One monitor, one card

NVIDIA and AMD no longer encourage multi-GPU setups for consumers, but both do support the practice to some extent. The GeForce 20 series offers SLI support to varying degrees, and AMD’s Navi 10 cards (like the 5700XT) also make it possible with some setup work. If you can have dual graphics cards in your PC then your performance issue is essentially solved. QHD at 144Hz is quite doable even for mid-range gaming GPUs, so two 2070’s will do just fine. Sure, you’re looking at extra cost, but that’s what it takes to run dual screens at such high framerates without compromise. 

Which cables do I use?

The best option is DisplayPort. Your graphics card likely has two DisplayPort outs, so simply run a cable from the ports on your graphics card to the in ports on your monitors. DisplayPort tends to have better optimization for PC usage than HDMI overall. Since we’re talking about dual 144Hz screens, HDMI may not be ideal as it’s not designed for such high framerates unless you want to limit your resolution to 1080p. HDMI 2.0b may enable 144Hz at 1440p, but a lot depends on the cable, monitor, and graphics card. Conversely, DisplayPort 1.2 and up almost universally supports 144Hz at 1440p.

With DisplayPort, you have the option of daisy chaining monitors. That means instead of connecting both screens with two cables to your graphics card, you use one cable from the card to the first monitor, and then another cable from the first monitor to the second monitor. We don’t recommend this setup for gaming as it introduces greater latency. Again, the best approach is to plug both monitors directly to the graphics card via DisplayPort. 

How do I set the monitors up?

For desktop use, just go to Start, Settings, and Display. Look at the Multiple Displays section. Both monitors should be there, if not then click Detect to manually find them. You can now choose to duplicate the display (have two identical desktops on the two monitors), or extend (one giant desktop encompassing both monitors).

But that’s for regular, non-gaming, non-3D use. If you just set the dual screens up in Windows, they may work for gaming, as many modern titles detect such a setup and will go into windowed fullscreen mode. This will actually spare your GPU, as it will not be counted as two distinct displays. However, you will almost certainly not get 144Hz but rather 60Hz at most.

To ensure true, fullscreen gaming operation, the most important part of setup is via your graphics card’s control center. For NVIDIA, right click anywhere on your Windows desktop, go to NVIDIA Control Center, then Display, then Set Up Multiple Displays. You can assign a primary display, and detect screens just to make sure the right ones are listed.

With AMD, also right click anywhere on your Windows desktop. Go to AMD Radeon Software, then Display. You should be able to see both monitors listed. You can now create an Eyefinity profile, which may help alleviate some performance and compatibility issues. Go to AMD Eyefinity -> Quick Setup all the way down, and follow the instructions. 

When seeing double is good

Don’t be put off by all of this performance and setup talk. Having dual screens can be great and bring a lot of joy to your life, which is worth it on its own. With ever-increasing GPU power and the realization that resolution isn’t everything, you’re going to be OK. The upcoming generation of GPUs (as of this writing) will have no problem handling QHD 144Hz even in the affordable segment, and so there’s a lot to look forward to. On dual screens, that is. 

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