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!
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:
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:
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.
The point I want to hit home here is that almost ALL graphics cards, both integrated and dedicated, support 2 monitors.
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.
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.
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.
|Port||4K Support||Max Resolution Support||Max Refresh Rate|
|VGA||No||2048 x 1536||60 Hz|
|DVI||No||2560 x 1600||60 Hz|
|HDMI 1.4||Yes||4096 x 2160||120 Hz @ FHD Resolution
30 Hz @ 4K (3840 x 2160)
24 Hz @ 4K (4096 x 2160)
|HDMI 2.0||Yes||4096 x 2160||60 Hz @ 4K Resolution|
|HDMI 2.1||Yes||Upto 10240 x 4320 (10K)||Upto 120 Hz @ 10K resolution|
|DP 1.2||Yes||3840 x 2160 pixels||60 Hz @ 4k Resolution|
|DP 1.3||Yes||7680 x 4320 (8K)||120Hz @ 4K
30Hz @ 8K
|DP 1.4||Yes||7680 x 4320 (8K)||Upto 60 Hz @ 8K|
|DP 2.0||Yes||Upto 16K||60Hz @ 16K resolution
80Hz @ 10K resolution
Also Read: Does My Graphics Card Support 4K?
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.