By Neil Bennett | on March 02, 2006
Pros: Innovative concept. Works as described. Low cost.
Cons: Limited resolution. VGA use drops picture quality.
While ATI and NVidia have the 3D graphics market sewn up, old rival Matrox has focused on equally innovative but more specialized products for multi-display set-ups for the likes of video editors and stockbrokers.
The DualHead2Go adds multi-display output to laptops – allowing you to connect two monitors to the laptop’s VGA output port. You can then either close the laptop, plug in a keyboard and mouse and use as if the screens were connected to a desktop – or leave it open and have three screens, with video editors able to use one as a preview display.
The bundled software essentially tricks the laptop into thinking that it’s connected to a single display with a resolution of 2,560-x-1,024 or 2,048-x-768 – and the small hardware box (left) splits the picture and delivers each part to the relevant monitor.
This is a neat trick, but there are some major limitations. It only works with monitors with 1,280-x-1,024 or 1,024-x-768 resolutions, so widescreen displays are out. With 1,600-x-1,200-resolution 20-inch displays available for a little as £350, pro-editors may find this too small.
The DualHead2Go doesn’t provide acceleration to your laptop’s graphics, so you’ll need a laptop that’s capable of running each resolution without impeding your application’s performance. All of the Windows-based laptops we’ve looked at in our group test on page 108 would be powerful enough to do this – though not all models can work with the DualHead2Go. Matrox helpfully includes both a list of confirmed working models and a downloadable application to check your laptop on its Web site.
We tested the DualHead2Go using Dell’s XPS M170 and two NEC MultiSync LCD1970NX monitors. It worked perfectly, though the difference in picture quality between the unit’s VGA-based output and direct connection using the M170’s DVI port was noticable. We ran Premiere Pro and used the 170’s hi-def screen as a preview monitor – again without a hitch.
The DualHead2Go works exactly as described, but it may not offer enough.