UK Price (as reviewed): £223.25 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $329.00 (ex. Tax)
In recent times, Matrox has carved itself a nice gap in the enthusiast's market with its Graphics Expansion Modules and last year we looked at the first iterations of the product: the DualHead2Go
. In May, just over twelve months after we looked at the analogue version of the TripleHead2Go, we were invited along to Matrox’s UK offices in Middlesex to look at what the company had been working on since the TripleHead2Go Analogue Edition’s launch.
There were a whole host of products on display; some of them were aimed at gamers and IT enthusiasts, while the rest were aimed more at the corporate marketplace. The one that proved most interesting was an updated version of the TripleHead2Go, the TripleHead2Go Digital Edition, which comes complete with DVI connections instead of the VGA connectors on the older version.
The lack of digital connectivity was one of the biggest downfalls of the previous version of the device, but it is not the only improvement Matrox has made. So, while the concept has already proved itself to us, let’s see if Matrox has managed to iron out all of the drawbacks.
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Even before getting down and dirty with the TripleHead2Go Digital Edition, you could spot some distinct differences between the two versions of the device. We’ve already got the obvious one out of the way, but in order to implement the larger DVI connections, Matrox had to redesign the TripleHead2Go’s casing. It’s now quite a bit bigger than the Analogue Edition, sizing up at 140mm x 113mm x 27mm compared to the Analogue Edition’s smaller 107mm x 96mm x 24mm dimensions.
Matrox has also dropped the 5V/3A DC power plug in favour of a B-type USB connector, so there is no longer a need to plug the device into a wall socket. Those familiar with the USB specification will know that a USB socket can provide up to 5V +/- 0.25V of DC power to an otherwise unpowered device while drawing no more than 100mA on startup and 500mA once configured.
We wondered why Matrox hadn’t implemented this in the original TripleHead2Go, but we’re guessing that a more efficient way of delivering power to the device was required. Whatever the case, it’s another welcomed improvement in our eyes – anything to remove cable clutter is A Good Thing.
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Like the original TripleHead2Go, the Digital Edition supports the same 3840x1024 maximum resolution – if we’re honest, it’d be nice if we could get even higher resolutions, but the limitation isn’t Matrox’s. The maximum resolution supported by DirectX 9 is 4096 x 4096 pixels (DX10 quadruples this to 8192x8192) and obviously three lots of 1600 pix. (4800 pixels wide) is more than 4096 pixels.
Another option we’ve mulled over is maybe using three 1600x1200 monitors in portrait mode (i.e. 1200x1600), as that would give a resolution of 3600x1600 and is obviously within the confines of DirectX 9’s specifications. However, having spent some time talking with Matrox’s TripleHead2Go product manager, we learned that although the resolution is theoretically possible via a firmware update for the device’s EDID (Extended display identification data) chip, it cannot be used at the moment because some other limitations to the way the TripleHead2Go works.
You see, the TripleHead2Go doesn’t capture the entire frame in one go; instead, it captures the frame line by line meaning that when you pivot the displays, it would be drawing pixels vertically. This is something that the current hardware cannot do. Of course, the obvious solution would be for the TripleHead2Go to capture the lines “vertically” on the three displays (and thus horizontally when they’re in portrait mode) but unfortunately the device’s EDID chip cannot handle displays in portrait mode at the moment.