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Can Matrox's TripleHead2Go Span Fun Across Three Displays?

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May 4, 2006 11:01:10 AM

In the world of high speed, maximum resolution graphics, Matrox has upped the ante with the TripleHead2Go. Providing resolutions of up to 3840x1024 across three monitors, can it triple your vision, and triple your fun?
May 4, 2006 2:25:35 PM

This device looks interesting, but I do have one observation. Why pay the $285 for the Tripplehead2Go, when the DualHead2Go is much cheaper, and then use the cards 2nd output for the third display? The DualHead2Go would appear as a 2560x1024 monitor, and the third monitor as 1280x1024, then place the video card drivers in Horizontal Span, creating the single 3840x1024 display.
May 4, 2006 3:09:25 PM

I truely wish this artical had more photos of the game spanned across 3 monitors so i could get a feel for what it looked like.
Edit: rather than a screen shot.

A note to CraziFuzzy, if all video cards behave like my x800 pro spanning a windowed video game onto my secondary monitor causes a huge preformance hit, but its fine for windows browsing.

This is a hot device! I am starting to reconsider my 24" lcd for this setup.
Mechwarrior...*Drool*
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May 4, 2006 3:36:33 PM

WarMace, try the Matrox site, they have several screenshots of various games next to their list of games.

Edit: http://www.matrox.com/graphics/offhome/th2go/gaming/lis...

As for using multiple outputs on a graphics card, DirectX initializes a monitor as a Device, each device needs it's own copy of the entire scene to render, if you have multiple monitors the program has to explicity support it and has to render the scene to both devices seperately. Matrox's TripleHead2Go allows for a single device to be rendered to and then does the work of splitting up the image. Been a while since I wrote a windowed engine spanning two monitors... I forget if that needs to be explicitly supported in the engine or if Windows does the legwork of creating both devices.
May 4, 2006 3:38:31 PM

Thanks for clarafying that Beerzombie, VERY useful!

PS thanks for the link too.
May 4, 2006 5:05:05 PM

Quote:
As for using multiple outputs on a graphics card, DirectX initializes a monitor as a Device, each device needs it's own copy of the entire scene to render, if you have multiple monitors the program has to explicity support it and has to render the scene to both devices seperately. Matrox's TripleHead2Go allows for a single device to be rendered to and then does the work of splitting up the image. Been a while since I wrote a windowed engine spanning two monitors... I forget if that needs to be explicitly supported in the engine or if Windows does the legwork of creating both devices.


in addition to that, windows only supports directX on the primary monitor. OpenGL works fine on secondary ones, but once you move directX to a secondary display bad things can happen. (slowdowns, freaky glitches or game crashes) I know this b/c I worked on a test platform for games on hybrid computer systems where one system could "theoretically" run up to 3 discrete games. In testing/prototyping we found that nasty issue w/ directX. OpenGL was fluid-smooth though.

I assume there are "fixes" for that (registry hacks?) as Matrox had triple monitor "support" on their parhelia cards... but I am not sure what they did to fix that directX thing unless they only supported openGL games? (e.g. UT has always been capable of both directX and openGL rendering paths) This triplehead box fixes it by only showing up as a single primary monitor.

I noticed that it only supports 60hz refresh at the highest resolution though. To me that is unacceptable unless I am reading the specs wrong... but many ppl (myself included) cannot stomach 60hz w/o a massive headache, and therefore could not use this triplehead.
May 4, 2006 5:39:56 PM

Quote:
I noticed that it only supports 60hz refresh at the highest resolution though. To me that is unacceptable unless I am reading the specs wrong... but many ppl (myself included) cannot stomach 60hz w/o a massive headache, and therefore could not use this triplehead.


The THG arcticle actually mentions that as well... Hopefully they will address that when they address the analog issue. If Matrox is smart they'll continue this line with daisy chain expandability/orientation, as in you buy a triple head and a double head, and have one of the monitors for the triple head be the double head, and then have options to orientate in a 2x2 configuration. Of course this would require supporting a monitor of greater than 1280x1024 resolution.

As for rendering DirectX on the secondary monitor, DirectX has no trouble with this at all, it's a matter of the engine and the capabilities of that second monitor. So your glitches were likely in the test platform code or the hardware/driver you were using. The Matrox device completely obfusicates the DirectX/OpenGL debate by working on the output of the video card, so I'd rather not debate that in this topic (or at all really... to each there own).
May 4, 2006 5:54:18 PM

I wasn't saying the matrox device would have issues with it at all, i was only adding to what you were saying about a true second device hooked to the 2ndary port on the card.

as for directX on the 2ndary (NOT the matrox device) try looking it up... it is known that directX on the 2nd device is problematic at best. I only mentioned my experience b/c it is first hand, if we just ran into our own issues and gave up then it wouldn't be much of a test now would it? we researched it out man, looking up and digging through tons of documents online and off. It is there, and it is not specific hardware issues, it is a m$/windows/directX issue. Vista will eliminate the problem according to m$, but we will have to wait and see if it ever even ships. ;) 

as a side "personal" test... try running a native directX game on your 2ndary monitor (assuming you have one, if you dont then how can you argue w/ me?) and see how hard it really is... not making your 2ndary into a primary, but actually running the game on the 2nd one. easiest way is in windowed mode if the game supports it. it truly sucks. :D 
May 4, 2006 6:04:12 PM

Quote:
A note to CraziFuzzy, if all video cards behave like my x800 pro spanning a windowed video game onto my secondary monitor causes a huge preformance hit, but its fine for windows browsing.


I'm not talking about spanning the window into the second display, I'm talking about Horizontal Span mode in the NVidia Drivers. It makes the multiple outputs of the card appear as one monitor to windows (and DirectX for that matter). I have had a lot of success playing games on two screens in this method, as long as the game allows for the custom resolutions (meaning, it asks the video card what resolutions it supports, vice just allowing the standard 800x600, 1024x768, etc). There is also no decernable performance hit in this mode vice a single screen mode with the similar number of pixels. The problem with using just two monitors is that most the action occurs in the center of the screen, which is right between the two displays. That is why I would like to use the DualHead2Go to split one of them and give me the covetted third monitor.
May 4, 2006 6:18:36 PM

In that case therotically you would have a triple head on one video out, and a single monitor on the other video out, while set in spanning mode. Its hard to perdict how the PC would interperate this but i guess it will split the video 50-50.

That means you would have 50% of the image spanned across 3 monitors, and 50% on one monitor. That should cause serious distortion.

Dont forget to run the native resolution you require some serious hardware to be playable, the article used 2x 500$ videocards in SLI for example.

Also after a quick glance over the Matrox forums, they state they do not support it, but it theoritacally might be possable....

I think Matrox is back in the Gaming Game wih this fine product. =-)
May 4, 2006 10:00:49 PM

I wish they'd run through a flight sim or two, IMHO monitor edges do tend create too much discontinuity for a single spanned image (esp. in RPG's), but this setup works quite well in a simulator (plane, car, tank, mech, etc.) situation where you may be looking out a left or right window thereby segmenting your FOV.
May 5, 2006 12:00:27 AM

Well, the 60hz issue is fully understandable. Just imagine the video bandwidth necessary to display at 100 hz refresh rate with that resolution. The method they use to split the image is pure analogic I assume, so raising the refresh rate would lead to a blury image, not only because the cables could reach their limit but the dac's and everything in the video card too. Maybe its not that bad with games, because the detail level is not that critical, but for text or professional apps the blur is totally unacceptable. Nice product, but it is still analogic. A native digital one makes more sense.

Im curious about something: If they split the scanline in two or 3 monitors, do they store the portions and then play them back at a different scan speed?(digitally stored). At what refresh rate do the monitors run for a given graphics adapter's refresh rate?
May 5, 2006 1:05:32 AM

What about those who don't really care about games but do require a lot of screen space while working..?

I can see myself buying DualHead2Go if it supports wide screen so I can hookup 2 20" Dell 2005FPW or 2007WPF and get 3360 X 1080 :D rool:
May 5, 2006 2:46:34 AM

i remember the older matrox card, with 3 head. I played a couple games that supported it, and it is nice, lots of viewing area, adds imersion to the game. For fps, it is a toss up, rpg, with pvp, i would say no. But like Graw, or splinter cell, it would be sweet, it adds alot of imersion into the game, and as of today, that is something us gamers are demanding.

I myself am gonna try it. i run 4 monitors, off my system, 3 side by side, and a 4th taped ontop of my center screen. IT ROCKS for my work, but opbiously doesnt play games.. I would like some more imersion, 3 screens makes you very concious on your surroundings, and works your perphial system to the max. IE imersion.. (forgive the spellings, just drove 12 hrs, so tired)..
May 5, 2006 5:18:55 PM

Quote:
I truely wish this artical had more photos of the game spanned across 3 monitors so i could get a feel for what it looked like.
Edit: rather than a screen shot.


I second this. I have a hard time picturing how this could be of any benifit. I have noticed in the game I play that increasing resolution does not increase the amount of the game area I see. That is I can get my character's view so that a tree borders one side and a lamp the other at 1280 by 1024 log off change to 1600 by 1200 and not see past that tree or lamp. Then log off and log on at 2048 by 1536 and I still don't see to the side of the tree or side of the lamp. It just gives me more room for pop up windows.

How would spreading that same picture across three monitors help my gaming.
May 5, 2006 5:46:53 PM

Quote:

How would spreading that same picture across three monitors help my gaming.


I believe that is in part the purpose of the Surround Gaming utility. A lot of games offer configuration options in the .INI files, or registry, to adjust field of view, and the utility does that for you. Also, changing a games resolution from 1280x1024 to 1600x1200 keeps the same pixel apsect ratio, while 3840x1024 is a different story, and the game will probably then show more.
May 5, 2006 11:37:36 PM

Perhaps if combined in quad SLI it can use potential of those nuberous GPUs. But it would be rather pricy. 8)
May 7, 2006 5:07:31 AM

Finally I have been waiting for years for this product. Anyone who plays immersive games can see why this product is revolutionary. Hmmm i'm thinking star wars galaxies across 3 x 19" flat panels (O yea). It's not spreading your CURRENT field of view across 3 monitors it give you 300% more field of view than you currently have! TH2Go and 2 more panels on order. Oh and my concern was with the game support Matrox has taken it apon themselves to handle this issue which is a relief.
May 8, 2006 5:11:23 AM

Personally, I think this would be better if somehow you could get a 'rear view' device. I remember some talk about this years ago, but never learned anything about it.

[EDIT]

Seeing how this device works (sort of) It sounds like you would have to have two tied together somehow (if possible) and have in game FOV set to 360 (with 6 monitors) I think it would be MUCH handier to have just two monitors, perhaps one above the other, used for online frag sessions :) 
May 8, 2006 3:22:01 PM

Good article on a very interesting product!

Mentioned briefly was how hard it is to find a 23" CRT Monitor. I recently replaced my old 20" ViewSonic CRT monitor for the Samsung SyncMaster 214T LCD, for the extra screen size, but with the reduced color range I now miss my old CRT monitor.

I have searched heaven and hell for a true(visible area) 21" or larger CRT monitor. Do anyone here know if such exist, besides the Sony 24" Widescreen, in the US preferably?

Thanks!
May 9, 2006 5:24:40 PM

So if you're video card has dual monitor output, can you chain together two TripleHeads to get 6 monitors? That being said, can you chain them, and put three TripleHeads at the end of each port on the TripleHead? All awesome possibilities, but the first some seems a lot more likely than the second one. I'm thinking that even in that scenario, a computer would probably just see them as two seperate 3-monitor spaces.

-Kallenin
May 11, 2006 1:27:22 PM

The first option is a possibility, your OS would think you had two 3840x1024 displays. The second option, chaining TH2G's together, is not an option as of yet due to the restriction of resolutions. Because each of the three monitors in a TH2G are only 1280x1024 max, the chained "triple monitor" could only be 1280x1024... so while it might be possible (I dont' know how the hardware is set up) to chain them and have unlimited monitors, your max resolution will still be 3840x1024 per device your GPU enumerates.
May 15, 2006 4:00:02 PM

The monitor edge issue is obviously going to be annoying to all monitor users in multi-monitor configs... having said that, an ideal application for this would be multiple projectors (debating projector image quality is a whole other topic)....
If someone designed a 3-in-one projector setup that was compact enough to fit on/over a desk, with three screens (potentially even curved), then you could have a virtually seamless immersive environment for gaming.
Yes, this would be a bit pricey and "extreme", but then again, that's who this product is for. Ideally someone would come up with an "underdesk mount" projector that fires 3 images upwards through a hole/past the edge(could fire downwards for ceiling mount)... onto a small mirror array (1"-3" mirrors at close range would be more than enough, so a small "bump" on the desk basically), to redirect the image horizontally onto the screens without interfering with the line of vision (or being blocked by the user).
Or if small enough separately, 3 small projectors just sitting on the desk could do the trick, throw-distance being the main issue there. Sure would be fun to play though.
November 26, 2007 1:41:41 PM

I've been using three monitors for about five years now. They are invaluable for writing code and doing research. I'm not a gamer so I don't need anything fancy in the way of video. When I built my last system, I bought a couple of inexpensive (<40$) video cards and it works like a charm. With this setup, I could add a forth monitor but three is all the space I need

The nice thing about about adding another video card is that each screen acts the way a screen should. In example, I can resize most app windows to go across multiple screens but, when I maximize, app window just fills one screen.
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