Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE External Multi-Display Adapter Review

Wesstron - 2012-12-11 08:29:03 in Monitors
Category: Monitors
Reviewed by: Wesstron   
Reviewed on: January 27, 2013
Price: $279

Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE External Multi-Display Adapter Introduction:

Founded in 1976, Matrox is a pioneer in the field of graphics and multi-display solutions. The Montreal-based company offers an impressive line-up of products including Graphics Cards, Display Wall Products, Display Controller Boards, Multi-Display Software and Graphics eXpansion Modules.

The Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter falls into the Graphics eXpansion Modules category. This little device will allow you to “See more. Do more. Be more productive.” by connecting up to three extra monitors or projectors to a laptop or a desktop even if the system can only support one display by default. The connection is done through DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt port. The resolution supported is up to 5760x1080 @50HZ (3x 1920x1080), and the unit comes with some interesting features like HDCP compliance to play protected content, the Matrox Bezel Management and the Clone Mode.

The potential screen real estate increase is a dream come true for professionals looking for productivity and multitasking optimization or gamers looking for sharp image quality and immersive experience; and all of you out there wanting to transform your man-cave into the Bat-cave!

Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE External Multi-Display Adapter Closer Look:

The Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter comes in a small but very sturdy and well-designed box. The front displays the product alongside three monitors to emphasize the TripleHead2Go code name. The top is dedicated to the product name with a little tab on the top right that displays the “Digital SE” version. On the bottom left corner are listed some of the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter features and the Matrox Logo. The back of the box displays the product name across the top with the version tab on the top left this time. Underneath the name is a picture of the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter connected to a laptop and three monitors along with a four-step quick setup instructions list. The rest of the space is taken up by the registration link available in five languages.

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

When I opened the box I was a bit surprised by the absence of any kind of padding. That being said the unit comes sealed inside an antistatic bag and the cables included prevent it from moving around inside the box. In terms of accessories, three cables are provided with the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter: one USB cable to power the unit through a USB connection on a laptop or a desktop, one DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable and one Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable. The cables are of good quality and the display port connectors are protected by plastic caps. Also included are a "getting started" CD and two guides, one for Windows-based systems and one for Mac users. The side by side picture of the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter and a 2.5” SATA HDD is to give you an idea about the actual size of the unit.

 

 

 

The Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter is built to last, which explains the missing padding. The casing is fairly thick metal and the unit is light but feels very solid. In the front of the unit there is a DisplayPort to connect to the output from a laptop or a desktop, a USB port, and a power indicator light. On the back there are three DVI connectors. The top of the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter is perforated for ventilation. The product name is displayed across the top, along with the identification numbers for the DVI connectors, which will come in handy during the installation or when a modification of the setup is needed. On the bottom side of the unit, four rubber feet are present to prevent any sliding. You may also notice the two threaded holes on each side that I presume could be used to mount the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter in a more discreet and cable management-friendly way.

 

 

 

After setting up the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter, its footprint is still minimal so as not to take up too much space on a desk. With all the cables connected, it’s just as big as a CD case. At the time of this review, I connected the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter to three monitors with different sizes; since the unit is oriented towards productivity, some users may want to have a large main monitor with up to three side monitors for multi-tasking purposes. Obviously three matching monitors are mandatory for an optimal gaming experience and to take advantage of what the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter has to offer.

 

 

Next I will give you a tour of the Matrox PowerDesk software that comes bundled with the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter.

Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE External Multi-Display Adapter Closer Look:

The software bundled with the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE is the Matrox PowerDesk. It’s designed to ensure optimum results while using the unit and provides some very unique settings that give the user full control over the display output on the three monitors that can be attached.

Following the installation guidelines from Matrox, the process of setting up the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE is fairly straightforward. The main system needs to be turned off, and then the USB cable for the power is plugged into the unit. After that it’s just a matter of attaching the input cable (in this review, I used the Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable). Then the three monitors are connected to the corresponding DVI connectors that are numbered to make this task easier and further changes to the setup a breeze! Now it’s only a matter of firing up the laptop or desktop and proceeding with the software installation. The provided CD automatically forwarded me to the step-by-step download section in the Matrox website where the proper product version and OS need to be selected in order to obtain the appropriate software version. Unfortunately this step is mandatory, and if an internet connection is not available the software cannot be installed from the CD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next a prompt to connect the USB cable is displayed. If the installation steps were followed properly, only the OK button needs to be pressed. At this point, the Matrox PowerDesk just needs to be started through the desktop shortcut and is all yours to explore and fine-tune the settings. It should be noted that the Matrox quick setup utility did not auto-start for me during the installation process; however, it started working a couple weeks after the fact. No updates were applied to the software in the meanwhile.

 

 

The first option available is the Multi-Display Setup. In this panel, you can set up the Main display and various output settings for each display including rotation, resolution, color palette, and refresh rate. In this screen you can also swap the positions of the active monitors to fit your setup and multitasking needs. By clicking on the diagram on the left side of the panel, the corresponding monitor will be selected and the settings displayed on the right panel. Thus, users should make sure that the right monitor is selected before applying any changes. Next is the Desktop Management screen. A set of options is available here so you can fine-tune the behavior of the open windows of your programs: spanning control, dialog and message boxes positioning control, open program windows preferences, and window maximization control. The third available option is the Keyboard Shortcuts screen, where you can set two keyboard shortcuts: one to locate the mouse pointer and the second to move the active window to the next cell. The About section provides relevant information about the system the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE is connected to, the Matrox PowerDesk software version, and the graphics hardware used.

 

 

 

Finally you can see a wide screenshot showing the monitor identification feature. The standalone display is the big 2 to the left, and the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE output is split into 3 cells marked as 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3. 

Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE External Multi-Display Adapter Specifications:

Part number
T2G-DP3D-IF
Maximum DVI Resolution
5760x1080 (3x 1920x1080) @50Hz
3840x1200 (2x 1920x1200) @60Hz
Input connector
1 x DisplayPort input
Output connectors
3 x DVI-D outputs
Power
USB for power
Dimensions
5.25" x 2.5" x 1.1" (LxWxH)
Clone Mode
Yes
Stretched Desktop Support
Yes
Surround Gaming
Yes
Matrox Monitor Bezel Management
Yes – Available under Windows only
PowerDesk Software
Yes
Hardware included
  • One 3-foot USB cable
  • One DisplayPort-to-DisplayPort input cable
  • One Mini DisplayPort-to-DisplayPort input cable
  • “Getting Started” CD
Multi-unit support
Yes – Available under Windows only
System Requirements
  • Single DisplayPort/Mini DisplayPort video output on a compatible PC or Mac system or Thunderbolt port on a compatible Mac system
  • Powered USB connector
  • Display Driver supporting 3072 x 768 or higher resolution
Supported Operating Systems
Microsoft® Windows® 8 (32/64bit), Windows 7 (32/64bit), Windows Vista® (32/64bit), Windows XP (32/64bit),
Windows Server® 2012 (32/64bit), Windows Server 2003/2008 (32/64bit), Mac® OS X® Lion (10.7), Mac OS X (10.6, 10.5) and Linux®
Optional Accessories (Sold Separately)
Power Supply Kit (Part # GXM-PSKIT-IF)
Warranty
Two (2) years 

 

Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE External Multi-Display Adapter Features:

 

All information courtesy of Matrox @ http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/products/gxm/th2go/digital_se/

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.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Results:

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.

 

Build quality:

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.

 

Image Quality:

"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.

 

Connectivity &Setup:

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:

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:

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.

 

Compatibility:

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.

 

Usefulness:

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.

Portability:

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!

Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE External Multi-Display Adapter Conclusion:

Working and gaming with the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE Multi-Display Adapter was a very pleasant experience. The device just screams quality; no cheap plastic is involved and the finish is almost perfect. Connecting and setting up the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE was straight forward; all you need to do is follow the four steps on the back of the box and then install the Matrox PowerDesk software. The result is up to three extra monitors or projectors connected and looking great (six if you have a second DisplayPort or Mini DisplayPort handy to connect another TripleHead2Go Digital SE device!). The image quality is on the same standard as the great build quality: very clear, vibrant, and without any distortion. The Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE is a small device with huge potential. Laptop users will find it a very convenient - and affordable - way to gain that extra screen real estate without the need to invest in a desktop system. Keep in mind that the performance you will see with the Matrox unit depends on the graphics chip feeding it - the more powerful the chip, the smoother the performance will be.

While Matrox improved the bundled accessories that come with the package by adding a Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable to the list, the mandatory online software download still represents a drawback and could render the installation impossible in certain circumstances. An all-included installation package is especially critical for situations where the system used in tandem with the Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital SE does not connect to the internet by default.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: