4 million pixels
In practice, this works a treat. Matrox has a list of compatible laptops
that it will guarantee to work with the DualHead2Go. If you're laptop's not on the list, Matrox will not guarantee it. However, we tried the DualHead with a number of laptops not on the list - including my PowerBook - and found that it worked perfectly.
We're big fans of the NVIDIA multi-monitor utilities, and we found those far easier to configure than the ATI multi-monitor software. The Apple software was even easier. Matrox bundle software for Windows that is designed to help the process, and to configure Windows to launch certain windows on certain monitors and the like, as well as dealing with dialogue boxes splitting across the screens etc.
When you go into Windows, the Matrox hardware gets recognised as a single, widescreen monitor. You can then configure this as you would any other monitor. The difference is that, in reality, your single widescreen monitor is two standard ones.
This is what you can end up with. These are two 19" Viewsonic monitors, running at a resolution of 2560x1024. The laptop is a third display, running 1440x900 - that's over 4 million pixels of desktop real estate! My every day working setup is with the notebook and a single 1280x1024 display, and adding a second one makes an enormous amount of difference.
We found a couple of issues with this product, in general. The first is, obviously, that the inputs and outputs are VGA, not DVI. We would absolutely love a DVI version of this for the high-end, although a quick calculation suggests that 2560x1024 can't be put out over DVI ports without DualLink technology, which excludes most notebooks (although new PowerBooks and laptops based on the 7800 Go feature the technology). If there was one thing we'd ask Matrox for to improve this product, it would be for it to use DVI. With DualLink, you could potentially get into 3200x1200 territory.
In terms of usage, it's annoying when dialogue boxes open in the middle of the screen, spanning the two displays. With the Matrox Windows software, this shouldn't happen too much, but it was a minor niggle on the Mac.
The DualHead can be used for games, but finding a game that supports a high, widescreen resolution is virtually impossible, unless you're prepared to hack in settings yourself. It would be fantastic if Matrox could come up with some software to enable this somehow.
So, a fairly simple product, and we're amazed that no-one has thought of it before. If you use a laptop as your main system, this is an essential purchase. Buying a single hi-resolution display to hook up can cost more than £500, whereas with this, you can get an uber-resolution dual screen setup for quite possibly half the price.
The Matrox could also be used to get dual-screen output from a desktop system with integrated graphics, which could be useful for some. In fact, if you wanted to get really bling about it, you could hook up two to a standard graphics card and have a four-display output, Matrix-style
. And don't even think
about the possibilities with SLI...
The DualHead2Go is £116 including VAT or around $169, which is possibly a little expensive - but if you need it, it's well worth the money. Combine that with two 17" TFTs and you're looking at an awful lot of resolution for £400, and an experience that could change the way you use your notebook forever.
Desktop space has always been a problem with notebooks, but no longer. Matrox have identified a target market, and a need of that market, and have created an exemplary product for it. How do I know they've done such a good job? Because I'm that target market, and I sure as hell want one.