Using 3 or more displays on a single desktop PC is a breeze nowadays, thanks to the efforts of the three main GPU vendors. The situation is different on the mobile side, however, and that’s where Matrox, with its TripleHead2Go series comes into play. For this article, we’re taking a look at one of the company’s latest models, the Digital SE.
A little over eight years ago, I took a look at what I still consider one of the coolest items I’ve had the opportunity to evaluate. First seen at GDC 2006, the Matrox TripleHead2Go provided my first experience with multiple display computing. At the company’s booth, it had a tech demo of Half-Life 2: Lost Coast on the triple-headed PC, and for the first time in my life, I felt fully immersed in a game.
Skipping ahead a few months, we had that very same device on our bench, running our own tests and forming our own conclusions. In those tests, conducted with three Dell 19” monitors, we were left with a strong appreciation for what the TH2Go could offer someone to whom productivity and entertainment were of paramount importance.
Fast forward to today. Our graphics cards by themselves have the ability to power three monitors. With multiple cards, the number of monitors can increase further. Both NVIDIA and AMD have made this capability a priority, so the novelty of the TH2Go is considerably less now than it was back in 2006 when we took our first look at the device. That being said, it still carries with it great significance to those of us with notebooks. Many professionals that I know today no longer have a desktop computer – the mobility of a notebook lends itself so well to a busy professional life. For many, myself included, a home office allows us to remain productive outside of our offices. Part of that productivity is helped along by the adoption of multiple monitor setups.
While working at my desk during the day, I have a MacBook Pro with a pair of monitors, one on either side. One monitor is powered by the Thunderbolt port on my Mac, and the other uses a USB 3.0 Lenovo DisplayLink adapter. With this, there is miniscule yet noticeable lag, and because of this, I use that monitor for static information like Outlook. For use cases like mine, this is acceptable but sometimes a DisplayLink adapter just won’t cut it, and sometimes, a device like the TH2Go is necessary. Because of its relevance for many of us running multiple monitors, we are looking at the Matrox TripleHead2Go, Digital SE edition.
Like the original TH2Go, the Digital SE version we have today is made entirely out of aluminum. Unlike that first version, this one is rounded at the ends and consumes about the same amount of real estate on a desk. While there have been many variations of this product over the years, employing most any display connector available, the version we have today takes video in via a DisplayPort port in the front and internally splits it out among up to three DVI ports. The top of the device is perforated with a pair of cooling holes that run the entire length of the unit.
The front of the TH2Go only has two ports and one LED. In order from left to right, there is a single DisplayPort for the video in, a Type B USB port for auxiliary power and an LED to indicate power. That’s it. The TH2Go is very minimalistic in design and honestly, there isn’t really anything else that it needs.
On the back of the TH2Go are a trio of DVI connectors. Each are labeled at the top and allow the connecting of up to three separate monitors. If you only have a pair of monitors, you can still use them up to resolutions as high as 1920×1200. When employing three monitors, the maximum supported resolution for each screen is 1920×1080, which is convenient as most popular monitors default to this resolution and it allows for the use of television. That is, if you have three, side by side by side. You have that, correct?
The TH2Go ships with all the accessories needed to get your multi-monitor setup configured. Along with the unit itself, a male-to-male DisplayPort cable is included, along with a DisplayPort to Apple Thunderbolt and a Type A to Type B USB cable. While most anything anyone would need in the form of documentation can be found easily on the Web, Matrox has seen it fit to include a “getting started” CD.
That takes care of the look at the hardware, so let’s check out the software next, as well as some real-world examples.