Creatives from all over the world know, and will tell you how important screen real-estate is when it comes to workstation displays. As they are typically multi-tasking within several applications and or projects at any given time. The best way to get the maximum screen size for your workflow is to employ some sort of multi-monitor (two, or more) displays. This is easy to accomplish with a desktop computer. Simply crack the case and add a 2nd or 3rd GPU, plug in and configure your monitors, and you’re good to go.
But, what do you do if your workstation is a laptop where it’s not possible to add additional GPU’s? Now more than ever, people are switching from PC to Mac, and also moving from big, bulky desktop computers, to portable, and lightweight laptop computers. The answer comes from Matrox. The Matrox DualHead2Go DisplayPort (DP) Edition. The DualHead2Go is also available in digital and analog configurations. And is compatible with Windows and OS X. *Check with Matrox to see minimum hardware and OS requirements.
How it works:
The DualHead2Go DP Edition is powered via USB and connects to your computers DisplayPort (video output system) using your systems existing GPU power to render uncompressed graphics to attached monitors. Supporting a maximum resolution of 3840×1200 (2x1920x1200) under MacOS X. It’s easy to setup and configure, limited only by each monitors resolution, not screen size. Unlike USB display adapters, the Matrox family of GXM’s (Graphics eExpansion Module) are not limited by the bandwidth of USB.
What’s in the box:
Included when you purchase the DualHead2Go DP Edition.
(1) Matrox DualHead2Go DP Edition GXM
(1) Mini-display port to display port adapter
(1) 2’ display port to display port adapter
(1) 3’ USB cable
Installation CD and installation instructions.
Optional accessory used for this review:
(2) Display port to DVI adapters (CAB-DP-DVIF)
Installation of the DualHead2Go is as simple as installing the software and connecting it to your computers display port & USB port, then your monitors. Optionally, you can purchase the Matrox power supply kit GXM-PSKIT-IF if you are short on USB ports.
As stated above, the DualHead2Go supports a maximum resolution of 3840×1200, and is limited only by your monitors supported resolutions. The 3840 is 1920×2. What this means is the two external displays, each set at 1920×1200 connected to the DualHead2Go are treated as one large display on your system. My setup (as tested) consists my MacBook Pro, 15″ Intel 2.2Ghz Intel i7 with AMD Radeon HD 6750M. 8GB DDR3 RAM. And (2) ASUS 23” LED displays, each supporting a maximum resolution of 1920×1080.You can use monitors of different sizes, however, they must support the same resolution and refresh rates. The screen grab below shows how OSX sees the two external displays.
Once installed, the Matrox PowerDesk software gives you a few options on your menu bar, for configuring DualHead2Go.
Matrox GXM Control Panel is where you go to configure. It is easiest of you choose the “configure based on attached displays” option. Select the number of displays and standard or wide. You can also update the GXM’s firmware from this screen.
Matrox PowerDesk Change Display Settings is where you select which of your monitors displays your menu bar and dock. As well as right or left from your laptop display.
Lastly.. Desktop Management Preferences are where you can change dock start position. And the hot-key modifiers. This is one of my favorite features, as it quickly and easily allows you to move open and active applications to any of the displays 1, 2 or 3 and make it full screen. I can’t tell you how awesome, and frequently I use this feature. It’s as easy as command+tab to cycle thru open applications, then command+option and 1, 2, or 3. 1 Being the display of my MacBook Pro, 2 & 3 are the two external ASUS 23” displays.
During my testing for the DualHead2Go, I ran it thru it’s passes with a number of applications, ranging in CPU & GPU demand. Some that I use on occasion. But most that I use almost daily. The DualHead2Go shined in all of my tests. With the main advantage being it’s use of the existing GPU’s and bandwidth. Not being limited to USB’s throughput is the key here. Safari, Google Chrome and FireFox all performed just as any normal monitor setup and connection. 1080p and 4k video plays with zero lag and latency.
FinalCut Pro X is simply a joy to work with, especially when it is spanned the length of the dual 23″ displays (3840×1080). An editors dream, as you can enlarge the view of the clips in the magnetic timeline for optimal viewing and working. Thumbnails in the event library browser are much easier to see and skim thru. And lastly, the size of the viewer is much larger, and easier to view your edits, effects, transitions, color corrections etc. These views in FCPX are simply better and easier to work in the larger they are. And being able to stretch them across two displays is an editing game changer. I doubt I will ever edit complex video projects on a single display ever again.
As many know, I have done live broadcasts / podcasts with Wirecast for a while now. And putting on such a production is always a chore. Complicated to setup and manage as the shows go on, especially when having multiple guests that Skype in for the show. On average, I would have the following applications running during the show: Wirecast 4 to stream the production, who’s interface is much like a video editing suite. Desktop Presenter to capture video sources for the live broadcast. Safari for including website video of products/websites discussed. Collouqy which is the IRC chat client that connects to the chatroom for the live shows. Twitter for gathering questions for the shows. One to four instances of Skype with guests video. Audio Hijack Pro to capture and record the audio from the stream. iTunes for playing viewer questions/comments. As you can see, this is quite the undertaking for one display, and to be honest. This is the bare minimum for any given show. Many podcasters that I know, turn to multiple system solutions for shows similar to mine. Not because they can’t be produced on one computer., but due to the complicated nature of putting on such a production and the amount of applications running that constantly need to be accessed and brought into the broadcast. With the DualHead2Go, I am able to organize windows and applications across the three displays 15″ MacBook Pro, and dual ASUS 23″ LED”s, to import all video sources from Wirecast and Desktop presenter into the shows.
In my search for my multi-monitor solution, I tested less expensive products that connect monitors via USB like the Sabrent USB-DH88 display adapter that died on me while I was testing the product for review. While these less expensive options can work for extending your multi-monitor setup, they can not be used for anything more than simple web surfing. Any application that is CPU and or GPU dependent, will suffer greatly. Playing HD content thru the USB-DH88 wasn’t even possible, whether it was local, or the web on sites like YouTube and Vimeo. Netflix in Safari and Chrome was possible only in SD. And as badly as I wanted to, running applications such as FinalCut, Aperture, Lightroom were simply not possible due to the limitations of USB 2.0, and the need for support for real-time high bandwidth demand, it failed miserably.
It is no secret that I absolutely love my Matrox DualHead2Go DP Edition. To me, it is the single most important peripheral to my MacBook Pro for what I do as a creative professional. Multi-monitor setups instantly add screen real-estate and improve productivity, efficiency and workflow process. All work and no play? Not so fast…
If you are looking to add a multi-monitor setup for your desktop or laptop computer, the easy way. The Matrox DualHead2Go is the answer. Need more than two monitors, that the DualHead2Go, or 3 that the TripleHead2Go support? You can add multiple’s of each GXM to work in tandem for a total of 4 or 6 displays on a single system.
This final image shows my 23″ ASUS LED displays connected to my 15″ MacBook Pro and the DualHead2Go. FinalCut Pro X on the left with a project that I am currently editing, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 on the right. And Safari on my 15″ MacBook Pro display. All running in full screen mode.
Should you have any comments and or questions, feel free to post below. As usual… I will be happy to answer any questions. And feel free to see Matrox’s website for more information on both the DualHead2Go and it’s sister product TripleHead2Go.