Introduction

A while back we got a chance to look at a little box from Matrox called the DualHead2Go. This was basically a little black box which split a single video signal so that it could be output onto two separate displays. We found it to be an interesting piece of equipment that showed potential in certain areas like gaming and office situations, but was somewhat limited in its use. We would have liked to have seen a dual-link DVI version of the DualHead2Go, and while the wide resolutions were nice, the split down the middle from the sides of the two monitors pressed together made it all but useless for most types of gaming. This is assuming you couldn't afford the awesome yet outrageously expensive dual video projector setup of course.

Recently though, Matrox has released the aptly named TripleHead2Go, which not surprisingly does just what its name suggests: adds support for a third display. Now instead of only having two monitors side by side, three can be used with your system (using this box) to create a much wider display. Like the DualHead2Go, the TripleHead2Go is a stand-alone peripheral whose only purpose is running multiple displays with a laptop or desktop. Most newer graphics cards already had the capability of doing what the DualHead2Go could do, so that particular device was mostly just practical for notebooks or older desktop systems that only have a single analog video output. The TripleHead2Go with its three display capability might prove more desirable to the contemporary PC user.


Of course there are several applications for a device like this including gaming and the additional desktop space for use in office presentations or workstations. With the Parhelia, Matrox was first to bring triple-head support to PCs a few years back, but not until now have they provided an external triple-head device with the kind of 3D gaming capabilities of the TripleHead2Go. It looks as though with the TripleHead2Go, Matrox manages to offer the kind of multi-display gaming experience that the DualHead2Go just couldn't quite provide.

We'll take a look at the TripleHead2Go in the next section, and talk about the hardware and drivers and how they differ, if at all, from the DualHead2Go. As can be expected, the TripleHead2Go has a higher price tag than the DualHead2Go, and at about $270 right now, it's not very cheap, especially considering how much more the average user might have to pay for a decent triple-display gaming setup. For those users who can afford it, however, the extra-widescreen resolutions that become available are quite impressive to behold, as the images below suggest. (Images courtesy of Matrox.)

Click to enlarge

We'll talk more about gaming performance later, but for now, let's look at the Matrox TripleHead2Go.
The TripleHead2Go
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  • Furen - Monday, July 31, 2006 - link

    Most games don't support multiple monitor spanning, though. TripleHead2Go makes the video card think it's working with a single high-res monitor and then does all the splitting itself. Reply
  • Lonyo - Monday, July 31, 2006 - link

    And in nVidia driver properties, if you set 2 displays to "span" the computer makes them look like one display and everything runs spanned across 2 monitors. My point was can you not use the DH2Go to make one 2560x1024 monitor, and then span using a third monitor hooked up to the other output to make 3840x1024 without needing TH2Go. Games like Unreal TOurnament, or anything running on the Unreal Engine can have the FOV altered to it would look correct if it would work. The configuration of the game itself (adjusting resolution/FOV etc) can be done by the user. Reply
  • Furen - Monday, July 31, 2006 - link

    Oh, nVidia's driver supports spanning in 3-D mode? This is the limitation I was talking about, the last time I checked it didn't work (going into 3-d mode blanked a screen). Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, July 31, 2006 - link

    Unless the game specifically support output to two (or more) seperate displays, you cannot run 3d spanned across monitors.

    NVIDIA drivers will run 3d in only one display and leave the other in 2d mode (this is how we used to read temperature from the driver while we ran a benchmark before the neat temp logging feature was added).

    There is no driver setting that can be used to make both outputs of either an ATI or NVIDIA card look like one display to a game.
    Reply
  • Lonyo - Monday, July 31, 2006 - link

    YES YOU CAN. I HAVE DONE IT WITH MORE THAN ONE GAME.

    nView properties -> Display Wizard -> Custom setup -> Span mode.

    Games will then run up to 2560x1024 across 2 LCD's, one plugged into each output of a graphics card. In 3D mode.
    Games I have used with this include UT2004, Rome: Total War and Trackmania: Nations.

    Unless I am misunderstanding you, you can make games see 2 monitors as one.
    http://www.lonyo.co.uk/duals.JPG">http://www.lonyo.co.uk/duals.JPG
    And that's how they look to a game as well.
    Which looks remarkably similar to the TripleHead2Go display properties, only with one less monitor:
    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/video/matrox/t...">http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/vid...x/triple...

    What I'm asking is can you use a DualHead2Go on one ouput, and then span with a single monitor on the outher output to effectively create a TripleHead2Go type thing with a DualHead2Go plus the graphics cards second output. Since you can make nVidia drivers span 3D across monitors connected to both outputs.
    Reply
  • Furen - Monday, July 31, 2006 - link

    I always find Matrox's products... errr.. "Interesting"

    I dont mean to diss them, I actually like Matrox quite a bit, in fact I was going to buy a Matrox Mistique way back but since I didnt see it at the shop I went to I bought a Rendition Verite 2-based video card that had a crappy non-working OpenGL ICD that I had to coax to work... those were the times.

    $270 is dirt cheap if this thing can improve labor efficiency for a business, even if it's something as low as 5% or so. Labor costs are huge for most businesses, which is why they're willing to spend lots of cash to improve efficiency.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, July 31, 2006 - link

    in most cases business apps don't have the limitation games do --

    for games not designed to run on multiple displays (simultaneous rendering in different framebuffers), the matrox part makes multidisplay possible. some games still have problems with resolution or aspect ratio support, but many more games are able to take advantage of this than the two output available on almost all modern graphics add-in cards.

    video does share this limitation in many cases as well. it is difficult to playback part of a video on one screen and part on another when they aren't rendered together and split on output.

    if all you are talking about is improving efficiency for business users, two cheap graphics cards can offer more display and screen space for less money than one fast graphics card and the Matrox TripleHead2Go.

    For instance -- with 2 7600 gs cards, I can run 4 monitors at 1600x1200 getting me a desktop that can either be 6400x1200 or 3200x2400. And the cost of both graphics cards (about $240) is less than the cost of one TripleHead2Go (about $270). Even if you just go with 3 monitors off the two graphics cards you get more screen space.

    I certainly understand the argument, but even if Matrox succeeds at filling this niche, there are better and cheaper ways to do it.
    Reply
  • Guuts - Monday, July 31, 2006 - link

    "As we mentioned before, ATI hardware isn't able to achieve this resolution, so instead we tested one of the most powerful NVIDIA cards we had, the EVGA e-GeForce 9700 GTX (Factory overclocked to 690MHz/1.76GHz) with and without AA."

    Should be "7900 GTX," no?

    Also, it might be nice to have some "real-world" pictures of the setup you used in the lab to test this, showing the games you tested it on, instead of only the PR pictures from Matrox that look either simulated or edited.
    Reply
  • Lifted - Monday, July 31, 2006 - link

    A GeForce 9700 GTX? Where can I get one?! Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, July 31, 2006 - link

    Fixed, thanks. About two more years for the 9700 I guess. ;) Reply

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