How to locate your triple monitor (up to 2K) PC 20 feet away for less noise and more joy

Posted by Paul Braren on Jul 23 2015 (updated on Jan 6 2016) in
  • HomeServer
  • Productivity
  • Efficiency
  • Oct 17 2015 Update - I noticed that Amazon has changed the description for the 15' cable, it used to say " - 4K Resolution Ready" at the end, now it does not. It now only claims to be a 2K (2560x144) capable cable. I'm so sorry about this, I've changed the title of this article to reflect this new information. I've admitted all along that I don't have a 4K monitor to test on yet. Original article appears below.


    So, you found yourself a modern PC with 4K outputs, such as this little Supermicro Superserver / Workstation hybrid. Let's say you have 1 mDP (Mini DisplayPort) output, along with 2 full-size HDMI outputs, such as this low-profile and efficient VisionTek 7750 3x4K PCIe graphics card.

    Now let's also suppose your work area is kinda small. And maybe you'd rather not sit right next to the system, with the inevitable heat and noise. Even a tiny and relatively quiet PC like this will pump out some BTUs, especially if you fill it with 3.5" spinny drives. If you work at home part or full time you'll appreciate just how important such comforts are.

    With Supermicro iKVM (or HP iLO), you can use a Web UI to actually power cycle or mount ISO files on this workstation, no sneaker-net required. Who really needs a physical CD/DVD reader anymore?

    Panoramic-image-of-paul-braren-displays-jul-2015

    This theoretical scenario is actually me, although I'm not quite at 4K quite yet. I suspect that soon enough, there will be more double or triple-monitor and/or 4K monitor productivity workers with similar wants and needs. High-bit-rate cables for such displays can get a little iffy at long lengths.

    So I cooked up a nice recipe, testing all the ingredients in my home lab "kitchen." I'm now confident that I can assure you that it all "just works." That's right, no drivers, no clumsy USB-based DisplayLink docking stations that mess with your desktop layouts after suspend/resume. Just plug-and-go.

    This sort of arrangement gives you a lot of flexibility, and some extra slack if you're blessed with a sitting/standing desk.

    How about locating your PC in a whole 'nother room?

    If you want to get even more creative, you could even locate the PC behind a wall in a whole different room. That's what I did. You'll need a way to safely route cables to that adjoining room (holes near radiator?), so you can pump those distant pixels right to where you sit.

    Here's my existing workstation area, tested heavily, for solid week of full-time use:

    1. Qty 1 PC - Supermicro SuperServer 5028D-TN4T
    2. Qty 1 GPU - VisionTek 7750 3x4K low profile graphics card
    3. Qty 2 22" Monitors - Samsung UN22D5000NF (1920x1080 at 60Hz)
    4. Qty 1 27" Monitor - Nixeus VUE27D (WQHD 16:9 2560x1440 at 60Hz)
    5. Qty 1 Keyboard - ThinkPad USB Keyboard with TrackPoint
    6. Qty 1 Mouse - Wireless Logitech M705 Mouse

    And here's my recipe as far as cabling and USB my now-remote SuperServer, an exact list of parts that will all work very nicely together:

    DisplayPort - 21 feet (6.4 meters) (combined total)

    To connect part #2 listed above to part #4, the following two cables will work at 2560x1440 at 60Hz for sure.

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    B0050LPBKI-black-version

    Note: bandwidth concerns can happen beyond the DisplayPort maximum spec of 20', so if I get to 4K or past 60Hz someday, I may run into issues at that time, with this particular cable combination.

    Oct 17 2015 Update - I noticed that Amazon has changed the description for the 15' cable, it used to say " - 4K Resolution Ready" at the end, now it does not. It now only claims to be a 2K (2560x144) capable cable. I have updated the title of this article accordingly.


    HDMI - 25 feet (7.6 meters) - quantity 2

    Monoprice_12611_cropped

    To connect part #2 listed above to #3 listed above, these exact cables are not available on Amazon, instead, they're on well known Monoprice, where they let you pay with your Amazon account.


    USB 3.0 - 20 feet (6 meters)

    You'll want a good USB 3.0 hub near you and your monitors, so you can easily deal with flash drives, and as a place to plug your keyboard and mouse in. Solid feel, and pricey. But wow, look at the Amazon reviews. This Anker is beloved, and I do a lot of USB stuff. I've tried many cheaper models, and learned the hard way that bad USB can affect Windows stability, especially when it comes to passing devices through to VMs. This thing works, and can charge stuff fast too.

    Anker-B00GSLMTQ8-rotated

    Network

    Simply run networking cable(s) from your PC to the Gigabit Ethernet switch you may have near your monitors.

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    Naturally, you may get any length or color you want. I just somehow associate Green with Gigabit, maybe that's just me.


    GRAND TOTAL

    All the cables and the hub above, all added up for you, based on prices on July 23 2015 at Amazon and Monoprice.

    $168 USD (plus shipping)


    Optional - Sound

    If you have monitors that can use the audio channels the VisionTek provides, you're all set.

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    If you need a mic jack and audio outputs for headphones or speakers, or even coax or toslink digital audio outputs, then this affordable device should work out very nicely for you, as it has for me!


    Optional - UPS

    If you really want to be smart about handling thunderstorms and those little summertime power blips, you can go ahead and get an Uninterrupted Power Supply (battery), to situate near your 3 monitors. Works well even with newer Active PFC power supplies. Just plug the UPS USB cable that comes with the UPS into your USB 3.0 hub, and you got yourself power monitoring, and graceful shutdown.

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    To get the PC hooked up to that same UPS safely, be sure to get a decent PC power cord.

    CP1000PFCLCD

    Which UPS? How about the CyberPower CP1000PFCLCD that's affordable, has replaceable batteries, and can easily be permanently muted right from the front-panel buttons. I have 7 of these in my extended family, with a nice LCD display that shows exactly how many watts you're using for all your stuff, at any time.

    Remember, if your UPS is located 20 feet from your server, you'll also need another extra USB long USB cable. to get the signal from your UPS to your server. The same one I listed above:


    See also at TinkerTry