Let's start this off with a rant that I've had for years now:
Dear motherboard manufacturers: If you have a DVI-I port, STOP WASTING BACKPANEL SPACE ON VGA.
A $2 adapter can take DVI-I and turn it into both VGA or HDMI. You can take that extra backpanel space and use it for USB ports, or keeping PS2, which actually has tangible benefits to touch-typists who can actually type worth a damn.
The following rant was written because I've been waiting for something for years and it's gotten closer and closer but still never happens.
I see multi-monitor as a huge boon to desktop users. There's incredible ergonomic benefits, productivity benefits, and cost benefits to multi-monitor.
A 30" LCD gives you a hair over 4 million pixels, requires a very specific level of video output support, and will set you back at least a grand.
Two 1920x1080 LCDs will give you those same 4 million pixels for 70% of the cost. It's a no-brainer for the 99% who can't afford a $1000 LCD.
And that's not even getting into what happens when you make room for that 3rd LCD. It's magical.
Going to triplehead should be a no-brainer, but the hurdles to get there right now are significant. Most small business and home users are not rolling custom systems, and I know people who roll their own look down on that, but that's a whole other tangent. The point is, the vast majority of systems out there are not custom, and whether you like it or not, that's the reality. These OEM systems are inevitably limited in some way, which is the price you pay for their lower price and ready availability. I see systems without any auxiliary power plugs, limited slot clearance, small formfactors, you name it.
It's possible to put out a product that can work in all of those systems, provide triplehead output, with good performance, and do so at a reasonable price. But that combination of traits continues to be missed.
I'm not gonna pretend that I have all the facts on the OEM side of the equation. I don't have sales figures for different chipsets, I don't have product cost numbers and profitability metrics from the card makers, and I don't work at a high-volume system builder who knows how many discrete video cards they order in a quarter.
What I see is a product that has a greater potential for higher profit, in emerging market segments that require a wee bit more vision than others are apparently willing to have. Small business gets the shaft when it comes to product development, because they don't have a unified voice and often don't know what they needs until someone tells them they need it.
The problem on the product side is that no one seems to be able to identify the stupid ruts that the product is stuck in and should've moved beyond.
The arguments I have heard so far go like this:
1) There is an implicit higher cost to the products which feature Displayport.
1a) Due to the higher cost, adding Displayport fragments the lower-cost segment
2) Displayport and triple monitor support are niche and distraction from broader market segments (see Matrox, according to Brian)
3) If you want something that fits your needs, look to the Firepro segment
First, let's dispel this myth that Displayport costs more in some way. Here are functionally equivalent cards, from the same companies, that are within a few dollars of each other with the primary difference being Displayport integration.
So don't tell me you cannot implement Displayport on a card on the cheap. Clearly it's being done.
So argument 1 is done. Argument 1a, we'll address that at the same time as argument 2.
We've already shown that Displayport, if it costs more, does so negligibly. I'd say it's safe to say that if there is in fact any added cost from Displayport, it's because of those "economy of scale" issues.
I'm going to use the word "You" a lot in the rest of this, and I don't mean to refer to anyone in particular, but the industry as a whole.
So if you can do it cheaply, why not do it consistently? Why not flip the economy of scale to the newer technology, like we do every time DDR iterates?
Why do you continue to offer redundant ouputs (DVI-I, VGA, and HDMI), when DVI-I can be easily converted to both VGA and HDMI? Obviously, there's the size issue of the DVI port, otherwise I'd say stick 3 DVI ports on every card and offer a VGA and HDMI converter. We'd be without Eyefinity support at that point though.
Let's go for the best of all worlds then - Make your reference board have DVI-I, DP, and VGA. You can then support two analog displays with a DVI-VGA adapter. You can support two DVI displays with a DP-DVI adapter. And you can support Eyefinity in several configurations.
We're talking about the greatest flexibility here by making this the default. It's not about doing it this way to hit an economy of scale for this configuration, it's that this configuration is a far more optimal one than the one that is already being produced en masse. The economy of scale is the fucking icing on the delicious cake of an optimized product.
So don't tell me Displayport is the niche product. Supporting HDMI and VGA natively is a waste of backplate now that we're past 2006. DVI to VGA or HDMI adapters are like $2.
As for the Matrox argument, it's irrelevant. We're not talking about entirely differently engineered products targeted at a niche. We're talking about the same chips, slapped with outputs that cost the same, that can serve the masses AND the niche at the same time.
It would be like Matrox was producing products that worked for gamers AND for business.
Which brings us to argument 3, that Firepro is a valid solution for this supposed niche. If you think that's the case, then you don't know anything about small business. They're shoestring operations. The 100% price difference between a Radeon and a Firepro is an absolute deal-breaker when the price disparity need not exist for their needs. They don't need CAD level drivers. They don't need a bunch of mini-displayports. They don't need any of the Firepro level trappings. They need the consumer-grade video card, which will work absolutely fine for their basic desktop multi-monitor usage, and they can afford a slight price premium if it'll get them there.
Keep in mind, 99% of the time, they're not running discrete graphics at all, so it's not like these are customers that are only offering an incremental upgrade. These are people who are not getting systems with video cards at all because onboard graphics are sufficient for their needs. To get them to the next level, to get them onto integrated graphics, there has to be a case to sell them on. Solid multi-monitor support is that carrot, but it has to be at a reasonable price point.
Give me a 65xx series GPU. Single slot heatsink, passive if at all possible. Low profile capable. DVI, DP, VGA, or even DVI and dual-DP. No external power needed. Those are currently selling for $65-$75 without the displayports, and I could easily bundle those if my cost was $90-$100.
I can't bundle a $150 Firepro. There's already a $100 additional cost from going from integrated graphics, the extra $50 is the straw that breaks the camel's back. The Firepro packs features and additional baggage these clients don't need. It's a waste. Don't tell me Firepro when it carries a 100% price premium for the dozen other features that aren't needed for the application.
You have a technology that can bring multi-desktop to the masses, but you've got these gamer blinders on and not realizing the benefit for small business desktop users. Make DP a staple, flip the costs/rarity equation to hinder VGA and HDMI, and start selling the benefits of multi-monitor to the masses.
Fucking pair up with monitor manufacturers to promote multi-monitor use. This isn't rocket surgery, this is the logical conclusion to what AMD started when they came up with Eyefinity. Making every card have Displayport support means EVERY CARD WITH 3 OUTPUTS WILL DO EYEFINITY.
Stop being reactive. AMD became great by seeing a market segment that needed serving (gamers), and targeting reasonably priced, high-performance products at them. Athlon was goddamned groundbreaking.
Two and three display support is the next underserved market, and if AMD doesn't take their existing tech and jump on it, someone else will. It's just a question of whether it'll be in a year or when I'm old and gray.
Ditch DVI+HDMI+VGA. For the love of all that is holy, it is stupid and pointless.