Product Overview: Matrox DualHead2Go

By Hal Reid

8 Matrox Graphics Inc.
1055 St-Regis Blvd
Dorval, Quebec, Canada
Tel (514) 822-6000
FAX (514) 822-6363

The DualHead2Go has a suggested retail price of $169.

Occasionally there is a product that is not only cool in appearance and format, but also fills a niche in a very elegant manner. Modern laptops with their wide screen formats do allow the user to see more on the screen, but as good as they are, nothing beats having several monitors. The ability to see more than one document or spreadsheet at a time has generally been the province of financial or serious GIS users, not the average laptop user. The DualHead2Go add-on solves this challenge in an easy and affordable way and in a very tidy package.

What it Does
The DualHead2Go is a small box that plugs into the external video port of a laptop or desktop computer and drives two external monitors at a combined resolution of up to 2,560 by 1,024 pixels. In my case, each of my external monitors was running at 1,024 X 768 pixels. This can be adjusted to accommodate both your monitors and the capability of your video card. In the case of a laptop, you can run two external monitors along with the built-in monitor or just the two external monitors. The external monitors have the video output stretched across them. Using the shrink feature of Windows you can place one window on one monitor and another on the other, or stretch the entire image across both monitors.

The example on the right shows the three monitor setup. On the left, the external monitors on the laptop are configured the same as if you were using a desktop computer. (Click for larger image)

Setting it up

The DualHead2Go box looks like this. As you can see it is quite small – about 3 5/8” by 3 5/8” by 7/8” (or 9.2 cm by 9.5 cm by 2.5 cm).

The box from Matrox includes a CD with the software and one page of “how to” instructions. After the software is loaded, you go to Control Panel, Display and Settings to configure your displays, as shown below.
(Click for larger image)

The product is simple to install and begin using. The most complex part of the installation is getting the two external monitors plugged in and connected to the DualHead2Go box, but it probably takes less than five minutes, assuming you are like me and have to crawl under your computer desk to plug things in. There is a built-in cable from the box to your computer’s video output, so there is no confusion as to where everything connects.

How it works
Technically, the box appears to Windows as an external monitor with identifiable characteristics. That is why you can see it in the Display properties dialog and it appears as one very wide monitor. The Matrox technical diagram shows it like this.

(Click for larger image)

Note that with the DualHead2GO box, your computer thinks it is driving one very wide monitor. Since the box divides the image in two, it spreads the image across two monitors. You could use just one monitor with the box; however, there would be nothing to be gained, as most laptops will support one external monitor anyway. The advantage of the Matrox box is that it allows for the display to be as wide as 2,560 pixels.

For mapping applications the output can look like this.

(Click for larger image)

Note that you can have several map windows open in most mapping programs today, and not only see the maps, but the data windows, the routing windows and chart windows all at the same time. You can do that with one monitor, but each window is quite small.

If you are creating and modifying documents, you can have more than one document open and “cut and paste” between them.

This image is an example of how I might use it at Directions Media to see all three primary publications at the same time. Note, my laptop is at the lower right, just above it is a CRT monitor and to the left is a LCD monitor. Both external monitors are running at 1,024 X 768 (my limitations, not the Matrox box).

(Click for larger image)

Simultaneous views of, and - all coming from one laptop.

Remember that this box will also support 2D, 3D and video. So if you are attempting complex tasks on your laptop or on a single monitor desktop, this is an easy way to enhance both visibility and productivity.

The DualHead2Go can be sourced directly from Matrox or these retailers. You will want to check the FAQs and the compatibility of your system.

At the price, and considering the fact that you probably have some reasonable monitors sitting out in the garage from your old desktop system, this could be a worthwhile investment and a way to extend your laptop or single monitor desktop. I guarantee that after you use multiple monitors for a very short time, you will feel deprived when you are looking at just one.

Published Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

Written by Hal Reid

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