Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE External Multi-Display Adapter ReviewWesstron - January 27, 2013
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Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE External Multi-Display Adapter Testing:
Testing the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE was done by plugging the unit into the Mini DisplayPort of the XFX Radeon HD 6950 2GB used as source. Three monitors from different manufacturers and sizes were used, and to spice it up I even threw a DVI to HDMI adapter in the mix just to check if any conflicts or compatibility issues would occur. I used this setup for my daily computing involving gaming, word processing, photo editing, web browsing, and media viewing. I also used it while writing this review. I will share with you my findings and impressions after the test setup details.
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 955 @ 3.8 GHz
- CPU Cooling: Corsair Hydro Series H60
- Motherboard: ASUS Crosshair IV Formula
- Memory: G.Skill RipjawsX 2x4GB 7-8-7-24 1600Mhz
- Video Card: XFX Radeon HD 6950 2GB
- PSU: Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 1000W
- Hard Drive: OCZ Vertex 2 120GB
- Optical Drive: ASUS DVD combo
- OS: Windows 7 Pro 64-Bit SP1
- I-Inc 28” 16:10 Widescreen LCD monitor as stand-alone connected through the HDMI port of the XFX 6950
- IBM ThinkVision 20” 4:3 LCD Monitor connected to DVI port 1 in the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE
- Viewsonic 18” 16:9 LCD Monitor connected to DVI port 2 in the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE
- Samsung 22” 16:9 LCD Monitor connected to DVI port 3 in the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE
I opted not to use charts or number based scales to rate the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter. This product is a pretty unique piece of technology, and it didn't seem right to pit it against full-fledged video cards (i.e.. AMD Eyefinity or Nvidia Surround) or regular display adapters. Instead I will do my best to translate my impressions about the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE.
The Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE is built like a tank! The thick black metal casing and clever, minimalistic design give this device a certain charm of its own. Short of using some power tools there is no way normal usage could risk to damage the unit. The connectors and ports are well positioned and feel very solid with no flimsiness or wobbling. The rubber feet are a welcome touch to counter any sliding on most desk surfaces.
"Flawless" is the simplest way to describe the performance of the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE in terms of image quality. I used the unit to play several games, watch online video streaming and high quality .mkv videos. There was no distortion or tearing in any of the monitors used. The color reproduction was spot-on and video playback did not suffer any lag or lost frames.
The Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE is very easy to connect and set up. Its ease of use makes it the perfect candidate in a corporate setting or for users that are not comfortable upgrading to a dedicated desktop video card. The unit is very well designed and the DVI plugs are well spaced to accommodate the three adjacent cable connectors without any issues. The process of downloading the software from the Matrox website is straightforward, although this mandatory step may represent an issue if no internet connection is available while setting up the device.
Gaming on a multi-terminal setup provides great immersion and an impressive field of view as long as the system can push such high resolutions. It also requires specific prerequisites and tweaking no matter what technology you adopt; be it the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE, AMD Eyefinity or Nvidia Surround. The one major point to keep in mind is that when using the Matrox unit, your video card is basically connected to a "single" mega-monitor with a massive resolution of up to 5760x1080 in a triple display setup. Understand that the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE does not perform any rendering, which means your PC system will have to deal with all that extra-wide image goodness and decide the fate of your frame rate. Before considering the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE strictly for gaming, I would suggest taking a look at this link first. It's the official Matrox Surround Gaming Utility website where you will find a download link for the software and list of supported games.
Gamers will have to go through a few extra steps before enjoying the surround gaming experience offered by the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE. After the initial setup and the personalization of the Matrox PowerDesk, the Surround Gaming Utility software needs to be installed. This will allow games that do not have native support for triple display to run with the proper resolution. But wait, there's more!
Downloading and installing the Surround Gaming Utility is fairly straightforward, and upon starting the program you will notice a list of game titles on the left side, a resolutions panel in the center and a set of buttons with different functions on the right side. The list represents all the games that are officially supported by the surround function of the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE. The games with a blue text title have native support for multi-display and require you to simply select a corresponding resolution from within the graphics settings in the game. The games with a grayed out title are the ones that do not play well with a multi monitor setup and will require some tweaking through the Surround Gaming Utility and/or the game settings. Even certain games that are not on the list will work perfectly after modding certain game files, a concept illustrated beautifully by Diablo III.
The buttons found on the right panel of the Surround Gaming Utility are where all the magic happens to get you up and running with your games in a resolution that is usually matching the settings of the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE. These buttons have the following functions:
- Optimize: apply necessary changes and tweaks to run the game at the desired ultra-wide resolution, primarily through registry entries modification. It will also create certain surround gaming configuration files and a special shortcut in the desktop to start the game from in order to run it across the multiple monitors.
- Restore: remove all changes made by the optimize button and the affected game will run at it's default settings.
- Browse: manually search for the game executable corresponding to the title on the list.
- Search: performs an automated search for the game executable corresponding to the title on the list.
- View Cfg: this function is very interesting as it gives the user a clear view on exactly what the Surround Gaming Utility software will be doing to get the corresponding game running at the desired resolution.
- How to: may or may not be available depending on what game is highlighted in the list. If available, it will provide either a disclaimer that the game does not need any special settings or list them in the order they need to be applied. These settings are presented as "Additional instructions" that detail any extra steps needed to configure the corresponding game.
The first game I tested is The Witcher, an Action/RPG by CD Projekt RED starring Geralt of Rivia. This game have native TripleHead2Go support and did not require any special settings. I started the game as usual, it spanned over the three monitors during the boot animation which looked distorted due to original video resolution. I then checked the video options and the resolution was already set to the same values as the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE. The frame rate did not suffer any noticeable loss and the gameplay was pretty smooth. Although there was some occasional distortion on the two side screens only. I assume that this would not occur if three identical monitors were used.
The next game is a classic in the world of first person shooters, Counter-Strike: Source. It was listed with a grayed out title which meant that it did not have native support for triple monitor display setup. The search option to find the game executable did not yield any results so I used the browse function, selected the corresponding .exe file and then hit the Optimize button. Two dialog boxes later, a new shortcut was created on my desktop that contained the same text as the original game shortcut with the addition of "surround" at the end. The game started as usual by using this new shortcut, and it spanned perfectly across the three monitors. No further settings were modified, and the game ran very smoothly with the added advantage of the now wider field of view. Again no frame rate loss or distortion were visible. The picture was sharp and very clear across the three displays.
The last title I played on this setup was the long-awaited and controversial Diablo III. It was not on the list of supported games so I closed the Surround Gaming Utility and started the game as usual to see what would happen. It was simply duplicated on the connected screens and did not span automatically across them. After playing with the settings for a while and changing some values in the preference file it worked. The hero selection screen will look horrible with blank textures taking almost 50% of the side monitors, although it's a whole different experience once into the game world! It looked fantastic and to be honest it seemed to fit the multi-display setup better than the two officially supported games I tried already. The visible area is expanded across the three available displays, which greatly improved the gameplay. The game ran smoothly, and the textures displayed on the two side monitors were perfectly aligned and proportioned. I did not notice any tearing or distortion through the gaming sessions I performed during this review. For a game that was not on the official list, it was a very nice surprise to see it work so well with the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE.
I did not encounter any compatibility issues with the monitors used during the testing of the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE. The DVI to HDMI adapter used on the connection #1 worked perfectly without affecting the image quality. A tip of the hat to the folks at Matrox is in order for taking into consideration the review of the Matrox DualHead2Go Digital SE, written by our own ajmatson here at OCC, and adding a Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable to the list of accessories. Considering that more and more laptops and dedicated video cards are only equipped with a Mini DisplayPort, it's a nice addition that makes for a more rounded package.
The Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE does what it promises and provides extra screen real estate in an easy to set up package. Being able to see more open programs at a glance is essential for multitasking and cuts down on the otherwise inevitable mouse clicks or Alt-Tab combinations. Writing this review across four monitors was a real pleasure. The Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE renders the need of a dedicated desktop or workstation irrelevant for laptop users that own a system able to push the desired resolutions and equipped with a DisplayPort or Mini DisplayPort.
Its small footprint, USB power source, and solid build quality make the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE a perfectly portable device. Everything you need will fit nicely in one pocket of any regular sized laptop carrying case. The DVI cables that may need to be carried around will be more of a challenge than the device itself!