Do You Need Two Graphics Cards for Dual Monitors?

Having dual monitors for your PC can make your work experience more efficient and your gaming experience more lively. However, if you are new to setting up a dual monitor display, then you may rightly ask “do you need two graphics cards for dual monitors?”

The simple answer to that question is a no. You do NOT need to have 2 graphics cards for 2 monitors. Almost all graphics cards these days, integrated or dedicated, support three more monitors.

You do, however, need to have two ports on your PC in order to connect the two monitors. This is an issue particularly on laptops since many laptops these days only have a single port for an external monitor.

In addition to that, you need to have the port that is compatible with your monitor and the resolution you seek to achieve. For instance 4K resolution is NOT supported on all ports.

In the following text I will talk in detail about whether you need 2 graphics for connecting 2 monitors to your PC.

All Modern Graphics Cards These Days Support 3-4 Monitors

You have to understand that almost all GPUs these days support three or more displays very easily. Even the weakest GPUs out there have the capacity to support three monitors.

In fact, the latest dedicated and integrated graphics cards can even support as many 4 displays!

In other words, one graphics card can support 2 monitors fairly easily.

Intel HD 3000 released all the way back in 2011 with the 2nd generation Intel Core series supported 2 displays. We are talking about more than a decade old GPU! 

Do You Need Two Graphics Cards for Dual Monitors
Intel HD 3000 released in 2011 supports 2 monitors. Source: Intel

Have a look at the specifications for the Intel HD Graphics 4600 released all the way back in 2013 as found on the Intel 4th Gen CPUs. Despite being a fairly old integrated graphics card, it supports upto 3 monitors:

Intel 4600 graphics card 3 displays
Intel HD 4600, an iGPU alone, can support 2 monitors easily. Source: Intel

The newer iGPUs such as the Intel UHD Graphics 770 supports upto 4 displays! This iGPU is found on the newer 12th Gen CPUs released in 2021:

Intel 770 graphics card 4 displays
Intel UHD as found on Intel Core i7 12th Gen CPUs support 4 displays!

The modern dedicated graphics also support as many as 4 displays. 

A lower-mid range dedicated GTX 1660Ti, for instance, supports a maximum of 4 displays. Hence this too alone can run two monitors easily. 

NVIDIA GTX 1660Ti
A mid range dedicated graphics card supports 4 displays. Source: ASUS

The point I want to hit home here is that almost ALL graphics cards, both integrated and dedicated, support 2 monitors. 

Also Read: Should You Connect Monitor to GPU or Motherboard?

So Do You Need Two Graphics Cards for Dual Monitors?

The answer is a resounding no!

A single graphics card alone can easily support 2-4 monitors. Therefore dual monitors should not be an issue for the modern PCs.

The only caveat are the ports:

Graphics Card Ports are the Biggest Limiting Factor for Dual Monitors 

Having the right ports is a bigger consideration as compared to whether a single graphics card supports 2 monitors or not.

Even if the graphics card’s chipset supports 2 monitors, you need to have the right amount and type of ports in order to connect 2 monitors.

Right Amount of Ports on Dedicated Graphics Card

To plug two monitors to a single graphics card, you not only need to have two ports on the dedicated graphics card itself, but also have the right type.

Take for instance the back I/O panel of one of the weakest and entry level graphics card, the NVIDIA GT 710.

GT 710 Graphics Card
Gigabyte NVIDIA GT 710 Video Output Ports

Now this is a dedicated graphics card that only offers one DVI and one HDMI port.

If in the unfortunate scenario one of your two monitors is missing the input for either of these ports, then you will be in a predicament.

Say you have connected one of your monitors to the DVI port, but your second monitor is missing the HDMI port, and only has a VGA port instead, in that case you will need to get an HDMI-VGA adapter (which in many cases gives unsatisfactory results) and your whole setup can get messy.

As such, when building a dual monitor setup, you must make sure that your monitor and your graphics card have the right amount of ports.  

Amount of Displays are Limited by the Amount of Ports

Even if your GPU’s chipset supports multiple monitors, you need to have as many ports on it as well.

The NVIDIA GT 710 above itself can support upto 3 displays. However, due to the fact that this graphics card only has 2 ports, you are only limited to installing a maximum of 2 monitors with this!

Also Read: Does Dual Monitor Use More GPU?

Right Amount of Ports on MOTHERBOARD with iGPU

If you are relying on the integrated graphics card of your CPU for display, then you need to make sure that the MOTHERBOARD has the right amount of ports to support dual or more monitors.

An integrated graphics card is NOT a standalone device like the dedicated graphics card. It does not have ports of its own. Instead, the motherboard ports rely on the iGPU for connecting to monitors.

Note, if your CPU does not have an iGPU, then the motherboard video output ports will NOT work.

Does My Graphics Card Support 4k
Video output ports on ASUS Prime H510M-E. These are powered by the iGPU.

The motherboard above has 3 ports i.e VGA, HDMI and DP. And hence it can support 3 displays. However, again, your monitor also needs to have the compatible ports otherwise you will need to invest in an adapter. 

Motherboard Video Ports Get Disabled if You Install a Dedicated Graphics Card

If you are wondering whether you can use the video output port on the motherboard for one monitor and the video port on the graphics card for the other, then this arrangement WILL NOT work.

This is because when you install a dedicated graphics card on the motherboard, the integrated graphics card get disabled. 

And as mentioned earlier, the video ports on the motherboard are powered by the integrated graphics card. If that gets disabled than the motherboard’s video ports will NOT work.

On some PCs you CAN enable both but it is not recommended. Here is a guide on how to enable both dedicated GPU and motherboard video output ports at the same time.

For 4K and Higher Resolution, The Port Version Also Matters

If you want to connect 2 x 4K resolution monitors to your graphics card, then you need to have the right version of the ports.

For starters VGA and DVI ports will not carry 4K resolution. For HDMI you will need at least HDMI 2.0 to display 4K at 60Hz or a DP 1.2 or better.

Port4K SupportMax Resolution SupportMax Refresh Rate
VGANo2048 x 153660 Hz
DVINo2560 x 160060 Hz
HDMI 1.4Yes4096 x 2160120 Hz @ FHD Resolution
30 Hz @ 4K (3840 x 2160)
24 Hz @ 4K (4096 x 2160)
HDMI 2.0Yes4096 x 216060 Hz @ 4K Resolution
HDMI 2.1YesUpto 10240 x 4320 (10K)Upto 120 Hz @ 10K resolution
DP 1.2Yes3840 x 2160 pixels60 Hz @ 4k Resolution
DP 1.3Yes7680 x 4320 (8K)120Hz @ 4K
30Hz @ 8K
DP 1.4Yes7680 x 4320 (8K)Upto 60 Hz @ 8K
DP 2.0YesUpto 16K60Hz @ 16K resolution
80Hz @ 10K resolution

Also Read: Does My Graphics Card Support 4K?

Final Words

So do you need two graphics cards for dual monitors? No you do not. One graphics card can easily support 2 monitors these days.

You do, however, need to have the right amount and compatible ports on the graphics card to support 2 monitors.

Categories GPU
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Author:

Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101. He is a digital nomad who loves everything PC. He is a PC builder, tech enthusiast, engineer, and a lover of single player lore-rich RPG games.

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