Ever since the advent of hardware 3D acceleration, it seems that all other features of video cards have taken a back seat to 3D performance. Looking at the most popular video cards out there now, one will note that essentially all of them feature 3D acceleration of some sort. The core three remaining manufacturers, ATI, NVIDIA, and Matrox, all promote products targeted at the gamer. Focusing on the gaming performance segment has left other markets untapped, specifically the workstation market. Typically, those wanting 2D video capability with limited 3D acceleration have turned to older products, with the sacrifice of not only 3D but 2D image quality and features set as well.

Of the three major consumer based video card manufacturers left in the market, only Matrox has continually attempted to target a larger market than just the hardcore gamer. Starting early on in the Matrox line, the company attempted to support both 3D acceleration as well as provide a powerful and feature filled 2D solution, a quality that has landed Matrox cards in many systems. The problem with Matrox cards have been their relatively poor 3D performance, keeping their cards almost exclusively in workstation systems.

Both NVIDIA and ATI saw the opportunity to mate high end 3D performance with a feature rich 2D environment, realizing that an even broader market share could be attacked with a card suitable for workstation as well as gaming systems. NVIDIA was first to bring out a direct competitor to the long line of Matrox DualHead, or dual display, video cards with their July 2000 release of the GeForce2 MX series cards. Tackling both the budget gaming market as well as the workstation platform, the GeForce2 MX featured both fast 3D acceleration as well as NVIDIA's dual monitor solution known as TwinView.

ATI followed NVIDIA's lead just earlier this week, in February of 2001, with the release of the Radeon VE. Another product not focused on the gaming market but rather the workstation one, the Radeon VE mated a budget version of ATI's Radeon core with their first stab at a dual monitor solution, developed with the help of long time dual display manufacturer Appian.

Now, with 3 very different and very powerful dual display cards out there on the market, the decision which one to get, if any, has just become exponentially more difficult. Today we take a look at ATI's, Matrox's, and NVIDIA's solutions for dual monitor setups and help you decide which one is best for you and what the best way to use the system is.

Why Budget Dual Displays
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