Making the decision to upgrade your monitors to enhance your sim racing experience can be a difficult decision, and not to mention an expensive one! I remember feeling overwhelmed when trying to make this exact decision not too long ago. It’s an expensive investment and you don’t want to make the wrong decision.
Ultrawide and Triple monitors both have advantages and disadvantages. If you are looking for an increase in immersion and field-of-view then triple monitors may be the correct option for you. However, if you are looking for a more generalised monitor, that is easy to set up and start playing, whilst still offering a fantastic field of view from the cockpit of your car, then an ultrawide may be what you are after.
PC Performance & Capabilities
Surprisingly, something that people don’t often take into immediate consideration when making the choice as to what displays to run is the performance of their current PCs. There is little point in spending $1000+ on good quality gaming monitors if your computer components are not able to withstand the workload required to render the games at a framerate that is high enough to take full advantage of the high refresh rates offered by modern-day gaming monitors.
Let’s take two different examples of monitors. A 32:9 144Hz Ultrawide (5120 x 1440p) monitor, and a 16:9 144hz (2560 x 1440p) monitor for our triples.
Quickly, we’ll have a look at how many pixels each monitor will be able to display:
- Ultrawide 144hz 5120 x 1440p = 7,372,800 pixels
- 16:9 144hz 2560 x 1440p = 3,686,400 pixels x 3 monitors = 11,059,200 pixels
We can quickly see that in order to run the triples monitors your computer is going to have to render 60% more pixels compared to the ultrawide. This can add up to quite a bit more stress on your PC, especially if you are looking at running your games at 144 frames-per-second in order to take advantage of the 144Hz refresh rate (which, if you have them, you definitely should be!).
Field of View and Immersion
Field-of-View is one of the most important aspects to get right in sim racing. It is what allows us to have a sense of speed, to determine the distances of fast approaching corners, and allows us to be able to see what is around the car. Less horizontal pixels will mean that you will have a smaller field of view, which in turn will mean that you won’t be able to see what is going on around your car as well as a monitor that has a large horizontal pixel value. For those playing at home, triple monitors will have an aspect ratio in the region of a 48:9 ratio, whilst an ultrawide make only have an aspect ratio of 32:9.
Triple monitors allow for us to have our field of view and immersion greatly increase by having the two side monitors wrap around us, taking up our peripheral vision. This allows us to be able to see cars that will be next to us, as well as allow us to use our side mirrors much more effectively than many ultrawide monitors could.
Running three monitors will also obviously introduce the downside of having to deal with bezels and, depending on what monitor you go with, these can be an important issue for certain people. All I can say is that, from my personal experience with triples, you will notice them when you first start racing, however, as you start getting into the rhythm of running laps, they will soon be overlooked and just blend in with the rest of the car. Try and find monitors with the smallest possible bezels if you can to reduce this issue.
Ultrawide, on the other hand, do not have the advantage of allowing us to angle the monitor in a way that the sides are angled to take up our peripheral vision. It, therefore, lessens the amount of vision that we have around our cars in comparison to what the triples offer. This obviously can decrease our driving performance but also reduces the immersion aspect to a larger extent. Having said that, you don’t have to worry about bezels with an ultrawide so there is less vision loss in those voids.
Ease of Setup
Whilst you would think that both ultrawide and triple monitor setups would be plug and play, that is not always the case. If you are using your computer for sim racing as well as general use, like most of us do, the two biggest issues that I personally ran into was the physical placement of the monitors compared to where my rig was and enabling NVIDIA Surround/AMD Eyefinity each time I wanted to race.
First up, the positioning. The positioning of your monitors is a crucial thing to get right and you want to have them, generally, as close to you as you can when racing in order to take full advantage of the immersion that they offer. For your general computing use, however, you probably don’t want three 32-inch monitors 12-inches away from your face. You also need to take into consideration the angle of both the left and the right monitor in respect to the middle monitor when running triples as they should be at the same angle on both sides and remain at the same angle each time you race so that you aren’t constantly having to recalculate your field-of-view and calibrate your Surround/Eyefinity settings each time.
If you end up getting triple monitors then I heavily suggest that you look into what monitor mounts/stands are available for your rig or desk. This will solve two future headaches for you:
- It will allow you to move the monitors backwards and forwards so you can easily adjust the distance that they are from your face depending on what sort of tasks you are using them for.
- It will allow you to set the left and right monitors to have a fixed angle. This is super handy as you’ll be able to set up your field of view perfectly, and won’t have to worry about objects in the game not aligning correctly, or looking distorted in the side monitors.
The second issue is software. NVIDIA Surround/AMD Eyefinity essentially turn your triple monitors into one giant monitor and is a requirement in order to be able to take full advantage of your triple monitors when you’re racing. This does mean, however, that there is some funny behaviour that may pop-up with some applications.
For instance, normally when I’m working I’ll have a YouTube video or something maximised on my side monitor, however, if I maximise a YouTube video with NVIDIA Surround enabled, all three monitors suddenly are taken up by a full-screened video, defeating the purpose of having multiple monitors outside of sim racing.
This behaviour isn’t just videos though, I found a lot of other programs that I use on a daily basis do this too. This left me having to enable/disable and set up NVIDIA Surround every time I wanted to race and whilst it does not take particularly long to get it set-up and calibrated, the extra five minutes each time to get things going quickly became annoying. Sometimes this was to the point of me not bothering to race because I didn’t want to have to go through the motions of setting everything up each time.
Personally what I appreciate the most in a good sim rig is the ability to just jump in and start racing as quick as I can without having to mess around with a bunch of settings and configuration options beforehand.
In the end, you are going to have to weigh up what is important to you in your display setup, and what you are able to afford and run. If you’re looking for an all-round general-purpose monitor to also use for sim racing I would suggest going for an ultrawide for its ease of use and setup.
If you’re looking at purchasing your displays to just use for sim racing and you can mount them in a way that it maintains a constant positioning/size then I would look into getting triple monitors to take advantage of the extra field of view and immersion that they offer.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, if you’re considering either triples or ultrawides then I have guides on some of the best monitors available in both categories.
If neither of these options sounds like they fit what you’re looking for, then there’s always VR…