by Kevin O’Brien
The Matrox DualHead2Go Digital Edition is an external adapter that allows mobile users to connect two external displays to their laptop. These displays can either be DVI, or with an adapter, VGA. The real beauty of this product is it requires no drivers to function (platform independent), and unlike other USB display adapters, transmits fully accelerated 3D video to your screens. This allows you to display three HD movies, across three displays, at the same time if you so choose. The DualHead2Go, priced at $229.00, also has a few other tricks up its sleeve that might attract some non-business consumers.
- Add two independent displays to your notebook or desktop system and create a fully symmetrical DualHead setup.
- Run your desktop at up to 3840 x 1200 resolution stretched across two displays (1920×1200 per display).
- Harness the full graphics rendering power of your existing notebook or desktop computer. This includes the full video and 3D capabilities of your embedded graphics solution.
- Upgrade Intel integrated graphics on a desktop to DualHead without opening the chassis of the computer.
- Matrox PowerDesk SE software (for Windows only) seamlessly manages window positioning and message pop-ups and offers the flexibility to select a wider range of resolutions, including support for widescreen and standard aspect ratios.
- Compact device that may easily be taken on the road with you.
- Can be used with either analog or digital panels.
- Compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems.
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Right out of the box, the Matrox DualHead2Go Digital Edition works without a single driver installed. It transmits a standard monitor signal to your computer showing its maximum resolution and refresh rate, then handles almost any signal you can throw at it. While you can install the Matrox software for added window management, and some video adjustment, it is not required to operate. The only true limitation this device has is resolution and refresh rate, which is 3840×1200@58Hz at the maximum.
The only downside I found with the Matrox DualHead2Go Digital Edition is that when having DVI monitors connected to it, you are not able to make phase adjustments on the individual displays. Normally when hooking up a monitor to a VGA source, it will need to auto correct for alignment, and phase corrections. When most monitors work with a DVI source, these adjustments are locked out, since it thinks the signal coming in is going to be perfect. With the DualHead2Go getting its video source from a VGA connection and converting it into DVI, the interference comes in, but your monitor thinks it is supposed to look like that. Without the phase corrections you will end up with blurry text. On my two external LCD displays that I used to test the DualHead2Go, the amount of blur varied depending on the system used. However, if you use a DVI to VGA adapter for each monitor, running them through their VGA input, these options are allowed on the monitor and it completely corrects for this problem. Although the included Matrox software has an adjustment feature, it did not seem to change anything in relation to phase correction. With Matrox regularly updating their software and device firmware, I hope that internal phase corrections will be an included feature in the near future with their software package.
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For Business Users
The DualHead2Go gives business users the affordable capability to hookup more than just one display through their mobile device’s VGA port. With desktop computers, to add more displays you can usually just add an additional video card, but with a laptop expansion is not as easy. With this adapter, business users can increase their screen real estate by 50% with the addition of a third display (including the laptops own LCD). In the past you may have been limited to Word documents and web browsing, but not any longer … now you have one more screen on which to watch your favorite movie!
Business users with limited software installation privileges (company restricted access) will enjoy the lack of required drivers. Since the adapter can function almost fully without any of the included software, you don’t have to worry about running it past your over-worked IT manager to get approval for more screen space.
For Non-Business/HDTV Users
The special thing about the DualHead2Go Digital Edition is that it converts a VGA signal to DVI-D signal. Now as some of you might know, this is one step away from working with most new HDTVs. All that is required is a simple DVI to HDMI adapter, and you can connect your laptop directly to your new HDTV. As many new TV manufacturers phase out VGA connectors in place of the new HDMI standard, your ability to hookup to your laptop to a new TV is shrinking every day. The DualHead2Go can help with this transition, giving your laptop a new use in your home theater.
I experienced mixed success while testing out this capability with two HDTVs. One display that I had success with was a Hitachi 40” Plasma with a DVI connection. I had to tweak some of the resolutions to get them to work with the display’s limited capabilities, but eventually found a few sizes that would work. The TV that I did not have much success with was a Sony 40” LCD (KDL40-S2010). No matter what external display refresh rate or resolution seting I used for my laptop, the TV would not even acknowledge the connection. Sony equipment has always been a bit picky for me in the past, so it could have stricter standards of what it would display through its HDMI connection. If you purchase the DualHead2Go for this purpose, I would first verify that your TV worked with a very broad range of resolutions and refresh rates. Some TV’s will accept anything thrown at them, and happily convert it to work, but others like my Sony HDTV won’t give it the time of day.
The DualHead2Go Digital Edition has a wide range of uses for many different types of mobile users. Most people interested in this adapter will purchase it for its dual display capabilities, while others might like it for connecting an older laptop to a newer television. Both of these consumers will enjoy the great support Matrox has to offer, as well as the affordable price. While it does have some flaws to work out with video adjustments, being a new product I hope the problems could be honed out as updates are released.