Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Gigabyte GTX 960 Graphics Adapter

Subtitle: In search of Ports not Games

For several years now, in fact more than 5, Marcus has used a single multi headed Workstation.   By multi headed I mean that a single computer has several, in fact at latest count 4 output screens.

Traditionally I have always done this using 2 Graphics cards and supported them using Microsoft Windows Server.

The Background

- Back in the day I had tried this with Linux and had NOT got it working right.  
- Windows natively supports multiple screens and even graphics adapters
- The limitation was (& presumably is) that the cards must be of the same graphic vendor.  I chose Nvidia
- I actually chose 2, 2 port, fanless, Dual DVI cards
- Each card, though fanless had a huge heatsink and so took up 2 slots on a PCI-E motherboard, thus blocking a total of 4 slots
- Over time I had card failures and ended up with 2 different cards, just both fanless, and both Nvidia, but still working

The Master Plan

- To choose a new Graphics Card
- With multiple Outputs
- To drive 4K screens in the future
- To drive the Dual Link DVI or Displayport screens I have today
- To take up a single Card Slot
- Might give up the Fanless if necessary
- I'm not running any games so presume performance is going to way exceed my requirements

A lot of Research Later

- I decided to stick with Nvidia,  the alternative was a Radeon card but that was a lot more expensive
- I chose a Gigabyte GTX 960 (GM206, 4GB)
- It is dual slot and has 2 big fans.  A compromise.
- I know, 4GB (4194304 KB)  memory on a Graphics card.   I'm crying when I think my first personal computer, in 1976 had 16KB of memory total.

Actually  Gigabyte GV-N960G1 Gaming-4GD   Rev 1.1

- It has 3 Displayports and a HDMI 2.0 screen port.  Any but not sure all of these can drive a 4K display
- One of the DVI's can drive a Dual-Link 2560 x 1600 display

- The card takes up 2 slots and includes 2 fans which apparently will turn off or slow down if it is cool enough

A Nervous Start

My server grade motherboard is Old!   5 years old.  As such it has only PCI-E generation 2 slots, and only x8 slots.

This Gigabyte card should be placed into a PCI-E generation 3 slot, x16

However I can confirm it does work  (but read on)

After replacing the 2 old cards with the new card and Switching on nothing was displayed on any of the 4 connected monitor screens!

The answer is that the Default BIOS does not look at this card  (BIOS scan was turned off), instead the output was going to the onboard VGA output.  Somewhat tricky because I did not initially have any VGA screen, and then no VGA cable.

A long while later (with VGA Screen and Cable) I was able to enter the BIOS and tell it not to use the onboard graphics adapter on the Supermicro motherboard but instead to use the PCI-E graphics adapter.  So then on boot, I got a logon prompt and it was relatively trivial to setup the connected screens.

The Next Step

Funds permitting, I shall try to move to USB 3.1 and 4K displays on all computers in our household.  So for now the displays, the oldest of which is 9 years old :-(  are creaking along.   The plan would be to buy a first 4K display and connect it via HDMI 2.0 or Displayport.

In Real Life
I  have found these things

- The server got noisier because the fans on the 960 card are spinning

- I've had no performance problems whatsoever
- I'm just ecstatic that the card works fine in a PCI-E gen 2, x8 slot only!
- Nvidia installs loads of extra software including Services that I do not want.   I've Googled all of them and stepwise removed everything that was Game related or bloatware

- I needed to power the card with 2, 6 pin connectors directly from the Power Supply.  Mine had those connectors.  Please check your PSU before buying the card.

Overall I am really happy with this Gigabyte GTX 960,  Nvidia Card.   Really recommended.

Gigabyte GTX 960 Digitec
Gigabyte GV-N960G1 Gaming-4GD