6 Considerations when choosing between triple monitors and ultrawides for sim racing

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

It's a question that you will have seen countless times on facebook, reddit and online racing forums: which is better, triple monitors or ultrawide? We dive in.




For most enthusiast level racers, a major attraction to sim racing is the immersion offered by realistic feedback in the wheel and pedals through features such as force feedback and load cell brakes. This level of immersion is often betrayed by a poor monitor which is either too small, too far away or simply not configured correctly. What the racer sees whilst sim racing makes up the majority of the racer's cues on the track, so it's vital for them to see properly.


Considerations when choosing a monitor setup


#1 - Space


Neither of these options are particularly ideal if you're building your sim rig under the stairs or in the cupboard of your spare room to keep the significant other happy. If you're struggling for space, the obvious solution is VR if you can withstand the motion sickness that some sim racers complain of. However, if you do have a bit more space, then ultrawide, super ultrawide or triples could be the answer.


A fairly standard triple setup consisting of three 27" monitors would require approximately 55" of desk space depending on the stands the monitors use (assuming you don't mind the screens overhanging the desk on either side). Given the curvature of the layout and the need for a keyboard and mouse, you'll also need at least 35" of depth on your desk.


A super ultrawide or ultrawide however will only require space for one stand rather than three, although given the size of these monitors, the stands can be fairly large. We scoured the spec sheets of some popular super ultrawide monitors and found the average width of the monitor stand to be around 30". Given that all of the ultrawide and super ultrawide monitors we reviews are fitted with a VESA mounting system, mounting your monitor to the wall behind you desk would be a smart way to overcome the large amount of desk space required.


Of course, more serious sim racers will be using a custom rig rather than a desk mounted wheel and pedals. In this case space should not be an issue although the triple monitor set up will often require a more costly stand alone monitor mount or a more expensive of attachments.




#2 - Console vs. PC


As it stands, no consoles support ultrawide or super ultrawide monitors. PS4 and XBOX1 output their games at a 16:9 ratio at either 1080p or 4K. If you use an ultrawide monitor with a 21:9 ratio or a super ultrawide at 32:9 ratio you'll either be faced with an overly stretched and distorted picture or large black bars around the edge of the 16:9 output.


Most PC games on the other hand are designed to work with larger aspect ratios with more options for adjustments. PC versions of racing sims such as iRacing, Assetto Corsa, rFactor & F1 are all developed to work on larger aspect ratios and will all work on both triple monitors and ultrawide & super ultrawide monitors.


#3 - PC Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)


Unlike console gaming, the output quality of your PC gaming depends on a number of factors. Although CPU & RAM will have an effect on your framerate and image quality, the largest contributor to the overall quality of your graphics on-screen is your PC's GPU. Your GPU's ability to output the FPS you require will depend largely on how many pixels your GPU is pushing the image to.


For example:


3X HD monitors = 5760 X 1080 resolution = 6.2 million pixels

3X 2K monitors = 7680 X 1440 resolution = 11 million pixels


1X HD ultrawide = 2560 X 1080 = 2.8 million pixels

1X 2K ultrawide = 3440 X 1440 = 4.9 million pixels


1X HD superultrawide = 3840 X 1080 = 4.1 million pixels

1X 2K super ultrawide = 5120 X 1440 = 7.4 million pixels


From the list above we can see that the most demanding set up for your GPU is 3 triple monitors at 2K resolution, and that's not really surprising considering how much visual real estate you get. In essence, the more pixels your GPU is rendering, the harder it has to work to maintain a given frame rate. Or, to put it another way, at maximum GPU load, the more pixels the GPU renders, the lower the frame rate will be.





#4 - Bezels be devils!


One of the most obvious differences between a triple monitor setup and an ultrawide or super ultrawide is the existence of bezels between the three screens in a triple setup. Now this is purely a personal preference. It wont take much time reading the reddit forums to realise that sim racers running triples swear they don't notice them, whereas sim racers running ultrawides declare they are reborn by their new bezel-less life.


There is no right or wrong answer, although as a lot of sim racers point out, it is hard to argue that bezels reduce the immersion given the number of real life obstructions to a drivers view such as window wipers, car chassis and the like.


# 5 - FOV


As any sworn-in member of the FOV police will tell you, FOV is determined by several factors including the distance between your eyes and your screen, the size of your screen, the curvature of your screen and in the case of triple setups, the width of your bezels.


We ran some numbers in our favourite FOV calculator created by David Sampson or "Sampsoid", (link here) and compared some FOVs between different set ups. All calculations assume the driver's eyes are 30" from the screen.


3 X 24" monitors = 128°

3 X 27" monitors = 143°

1 X 34" ultrawide monitor = 71°

1 X 49" super ultrawide monitor = 78°


There is a runaway winner here in the triple setup. Triple 27" monitors offer double the FOV of an ultrawide and only just less than double the FOV of a super ultrawide.


#6 - Cost

Price ranges as of June 2020


So the big question, you've decided on one or the other option, but how much will it cost. Well, we've done some comparisons. It is hard to make direct comparisons considering the number of variable and the regular occurrence of online sales and discounts. So we've tried to find an HD and a 2K option for all 3 setups with the same specs in terms of input lag, frequency and brand. For the triple set up we have gone with the most popular configuration of 3 X 27" monitors.


Triples

AOC C27 G1 X 3 - Total Price £647.97


  • 1080p

  • 144Hz Refresh Rate

  • 1ms Response Time

  • VA Panel

  • AMD Freesync

  • Curved



Samsung LC27JG50QQNZA X 3 - Total Price £ 806.67


  • 2K

  • 144Hz Refresh Rate

  • 4ms Response Time

  • VA Panel

  • Curved




Ultrawide

LG Ultrawide 34WL50S-B - Total Price £339.99


  • 1080p

  • 144Hz Refresh Rate

  • 5ms Response Time

  • IPS Panel

  • AMD Freesync

  • Curved



AOC CU34G2X/BK - Total Price £670


  • 2K

  • 144Hz Refresh Rate

  • 1ms Response Time

  • VA Panel

  • AMD Freesync

  • Curved



Super Ultrawide

Samsung LC49HG90DMUXEN - Total Price £775.99


  • 1080p

  • 144Hz Refresh Rate

  • 1ms Response Time

  • VA Panel

  • AMD Freesync

  • Curved


Samsung C49RG94SSU - Total Price £1368.52


  • 1440p

  • 120Hz Refresh Rate

  • 4ms response time

  • VA Panel

  • AMD Freesync

  • Curved


Conclusion


There are a few factors you will have to consider before choosing a wider monitor for your sim racing career. Some factors may even rule out certain options such as having insufficient room, wanting to play console games or budget. Whichever option you opt for, you can guarantee an increased field of view which offers a more immersive experience during sim racing.


What would I get?


Personally, I would opt for the super ultrawide option. Ease of setup, reduced draw on the GPU and lack of bezels are my reasons, but that's just me.


Let us know in the comments what your thoughts are on super ultrawide vs triple screen setups.

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