Matrox DualHead2Go Digital SE External Multi-Display Adaptor Review

ajmatson - 2012-08-12 18:05:32 in Monitors
Category: Monitors
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: October 23, 2012
Price: $179

Introduction:

With productivity being ever so important these days, who can afford to have only a single screen for their work? We are in a multi-tasking world, unlike the older days when CRT monitors were the standard. What if you are constrained to using a laptop? Of course, most laptops have a VGA output or, if you are lucky, an HDMI output. However, let's say you are in need of more than that. What if you are giving presentations or working on complex architecture designs? If you are like me you might like to watch movies or view stock quotes while working on a project on your portable computer. Matrox has developed products to enable you to be as productive as possible with multiple displays. Today we are taking a look at the Matrox DualHead2Go Digital SE DisplayPort adaptor.

The Matrox DualHead2Go Digital SE is a display multiplier for laptops and desktops designed to extend your viewing space. This particular model has a DisplayPort input and two DVI outputs supporting up to 3840x1200 resolutions, which is equivalent to a screen spanned across two 1920x1200 monitors. The DualHead2Go can also be combined with another adaptor for up to four additional monitors for your system, provided your graphics card or mobile computer supports the connections. The beauty of this unit is that it can work with multiple displays and even projectors for video presentations, movies, and more. This model only support Windows and Linux, however there are several models to choose from including a Mac compatible version as well as models with analog and digital connections. Some of the many uses for the DualHead2Go include presentations on projectors, expanding workspace displays, digital signage, and more.

 

Closer Look:

The packaging of the Matrox DualHead2Go Digital SE is well made and will protect your investment during shipping. On the front of the packaging is a picture of the unit along with a list of some of its features. The back side of the package provides a diagram of the unit along with some setup instructions and additional features of what the unit offers. This diagram shows the adaptor being used with a PC-based laptop, which is what this unit is designed to target for expanding your mobile displays. Keep in mind that this unit can also work for DisplayPort enabled PC desktops. Included in the box is the Matrox DualHead2Go Digital SE unit itself, an installation CD and instruction book, a USB Power cable, and a DisplayPort cable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The unit itself is quite small considering all that it is designed to do. Most single USB to DVI adaptors are almost the same size. The unit measures 3.8 inches wide, 2.5 inches deep and 1.1 inches tall. One side houses the input connections: one USB 2.0 port for powering the unit from the mobile device and one DisplayPort input for the video in connector. There is an optional power supply kit that can be purchased to power the unit from a wall jack if needed. On the reverse side there are two DVI connectors for up to two displays in either a single operation mode or a combined mode of up to 3840x1200 resolutions. Opening the unit allows us to view the internal components that power the DualHead2Go. There is not much going on inside, which is incredible considering what this adaptor can achieve. The adaptor is powered by a single IDT VMM1402 Multi-Monitor controller that is compliant with DisplayPort v1.1a, VESA DDM, HDCP V1.3, and EDID v1.4, has main line rates of 2.7Gbps and 1.62Gbps from the source, and supports up to two displays for output.

 

 

 

With everything hooked up, you can see just how small of a footprint the DualHead2Go leaves. It is not much bigger than the two DVI connectors themselves. The two DVI ports are labeled "1" and "2". These numbers will come into play when you look at the second picture below for identifying the monitors. The monitor on the left in that picture shows 2.1 and the one on the right shows 2.2, meaning the DualHead2Go is the second output, the first port is 2.1, and the second is 2.2. Below you can also see that, when connected to a laptop with a DisplayPort, you can use the DualHead2Go to extend your viewing space to have three monitors working in tandem. This feature is enabled when the 2x1 extension ability of the DualHead2Go is activated, which essentially makes the two external monitors act like a single display.

 

 

Now that we have seen the unit in action, we can take a look at the configuration software.

Closer Look:

Configuring the settings for the Matrox DualHead2Go requires the Matrox PowerDesk for PC software. This software is designed to give you the best setup experience for your displays and presentations to ensure rich content viewing. To verify you are running the latest versions of the drivers and software package, the installer actually takes you directly to the Matrox Website. While this method takes a bit longer to obtain the required components it ensures you are up to date and eliminates any compatibility issues. Once the program is downloaded and installed, the Quick Setup begins automatically to get you up and running in as little time as possible. To complete the initial install, you will be prompted to plug in the unit's USB port that provides power to the Matrox DualHead2Go adaptor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the USB cable is plugged in and the initial drivers are installed to the host machine you are presented with the final part of the Quick Setup. From the two screen shots below you can see that the Matrox DualHead2Go detected the two DVI monitors I used for testing. Even though they were different resolutions the unit correctly identified each make and model along with the supported maximum resolution. No manual configuration was required; it was an easy plug and play setup that allowed me to start using the product just minutes after opening the box. By default the software was set up in a span configuration that extended the desktop across the two monitors, which allowed me to increase my viewing real estate with no effort whatsoever.

 

 

There are several adjustable settings for those like me who want more control and customization options. First is the Multi-Display Setup, which is where you configure your active displays on the system. If the adaptor is connected to a laptop, this setting includes the built-in monitor as well. The second screen shot below shows the default settings; monitor one in the diagram is my laptop's built-in display and number two is the span of the two external DVI monitors hooked up to the DualHead2Go unit. In this section you can swap the order of the displays, change the resolution and screen orientation, and identify them for an easier setup. The next section, shown in the third screen shot below, is the Desktop Management section. Desktop Management allows you to configure the behavior of the screens such as snapping windows and where to minimize open windows. You can also set up how you want the screen to behave by either spanning across multiple monitors or using each as an individual monitor. In this example I had them spanned so that you can still see number one is my laptop display and number two is now broken into 2.1 and 2.2. These numbers represent the second set of displays with the screen spanned across them acting as one large display.

 

 

Next we have the Keyboard Shortcuts menu, which includes a few options to help you configure your setup with the Matrox DualHead2Go adaptor on the fly. You can swap the displays in real time and locate the mouse pointer with a few customizable key combinations. Lastly the System Information menu displays basic information about the machine to which the DualHead2Go is connected as well as the adaptor's technical information and current firmware.

 

 

Now that we have seen the supporting software for the DualHead2Go we can move on to testing the unit.

Specifications:

Matrox Part Number:
D2G-DP2D-IF
Maximum DVI Resolution:
3840x1200 (2x 1920x1200)
Input Connector:
1 x DisplayPort input
Output Connectors:
2 x DVI-D outputs
Power:
USB 
Dimensions:
3.8” x 2.5” x 1.1
Clone Mode:
Yes
Stretched Desktop Support:
Yes
PowerDesk Software:
Yes
Hardware Included:
- One 3' USB cable
- One DisplayPort-to-DisplayPort input cable
- “Getting Started” CD
Multi-unit Support:
Yes – Available under Windows only
System Requirements:
- Single DisplayPort video output on a compatible system
- Powered USB connector
- Display driver supporting 2048x768 or higher resolution
Supported Operating Systems:
Microsoft® Windows® 7 (32/64 bit), Windows Vista® (32/64bit), Windows XP (32/64bit), Windows Server® 2003/2008 (32/64bit) and Linux®
Optional Accessories (Sold Separately):
Power Supply Kit (Part # GXM-PSKIT-IF)
Warranty:
2-year warranty

 

Features:

 

All information courtsey of Matrox @ http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/products/gxm/dh2go/digital_se/

Testing:

Now we move on to the part we have all been waiting to see. To test the Matrox DualHead2Go adaptor, I set it up and used it for a few days as an extension of my main work laptop. What better way to test the adaptor than using it in my daily life since my Lenovo ThinkPad T410i has a built-in DisplayPort. Testing involved bringing it to my work environment and utilizing it not only for personal uses but for business tasks as well. Some of the areas I focused on were the image quality (which is normally number one on everyone’s list), the setup process, what devices it is compatible with, and overall usefulness. I measured each area on a scale of one through ten and also provided my thoughts about each area.

 

 

Testing Setup:

 

 

 

Impressions and Experience:

 

Image Quality:

The image quality of the Matrox DualHead2Go was amazing to say the least. There were no distortions; the color was vibrant and true to life not only on my DVI monitors at home but also using DVI projectors at work. At some times it seemed like the monitors hooked up to the adaptor were out-performing the laptop's built-in high resolution display.

 

Setup:

Setup was quite simple. It was as easy as 1) installing the drivers from the website, 2) plugging everything in, and 3) customizing it to your preferences. While I like having the latest drivers, it would have been nice to see at least an initial set of drivers on the CD for those who may not have an internet connection at the time of setup.

 

Compatibility:

Since this is a digital setup there are no analog connections, but you can still use analog if you prefer. While not supported internally, I was able to use a DVI to HDMI adaptor to connect a second display. I was not able to get too much customization with this method, but it worked nonetheless. The only drawback to using the DisplayPort input is that there are not many laptops or graphics cards with a full size DisplayPort available. For the price of the unit, a Mini DisplayPort-to-DisplayPort adaptor would have been nice to see included in the box, but it is not a game changer.

 

Usefulness:

There are so many reasons to use the DualHead2Go. I used it for personal and business tasks for this review, which allowed me to extend displays at home and use it for business presentations hooked up to two overhead projectors at work. You can also use the adaptor for CAD design, digital signs in a business or shop, and even for gaming if you dare.

 

Portability:

The adaptor is small and the cables, while a little bulky, fit into a laptop bag quite nicely. The idea of not having a separate power adaptor makes traveling with it much easier and makes setup a breeze. I was quite amazed how well this little package presented itself.

Conclusion:

The Matrox DualHead2Go Digital SE is the display adaptor you have been looking for but never found. The image quality for such a small adaptor is superb — it never looked washed out or faded as you can see from the introductory photos for this review. I just cannot say enough about the quality; it is simply one of those things you need to see firsthand to appreciate. I have used a number of external monitor adaptors ranging from VGA to DVI and even HDMI, and this has to be the best looking one I have used to date. The full digital input and output is what drives the adaptor, so I am not surprised that the quality is superior to some of the cheaper brands out there. The setup is very simple and is almost plug and play once the driver is installed. There is very little setup needed to get up and running out of the box. The DualHead2Go adaptor is small and lightweight making it very easy to tote around to different locations or to tuck away for sign use, etc. With the wide number of uses that the Matrox DualHead2Go offers, it is nice to be able to take it with you or mount it out of the way if needed.

There are only two drawbacks I experienced during the review process, with one being the driver installation method. Downloading current drivers to ensure the software is compatible is not an issue for most people, but some computers may not be connected to the internet at the time of setup. Secondly, many laptops and graphics cards do not have full size DisplayPorts, but rather include Mini DisplayPort outputs. For this reason, it would have made sense to include a Mini DisplayPort-to-DisplayPort adaptor in the box to eliminate the need for additional hardware to run the DualHead2Go, which is already expensive enough. As I mentioned, these shortcomings are not deal-breakers but would be nice to see resolved in future revisions. All in all, the DualHead2Go is an amazing display adaptor and makes a great tool for your visual needs.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: