Matrox enables dual-display for integrated graphics chipsets

Montreal (Quebec) - Running two displays on one computer requires a fairly capable graphics card, and is still a pricey and uncommon tact in today's budget-conscious computing environments. Believing it can take dual or even triple displays into the mainstream, Matrox is offering a display extension box for notebooks and desktop computers that run on entry level integrated graphics chipsets.

Remember Matrox? Yes, we are talking about the company that led the enthusiast graphics market in the mid-'90s with its Millennium series, and somehow got overrun by the rapid development of mainstream 3D graphics.

Today, Matrox doesn't play the decisive role in the global graphics market that it once enjoyed: Jon Peddie Research estimates the firm's Q3 2005 market share at about 0.3 percent, which translates into about 205,000 shipped products. By comparison, ATI shipped about 17.9 million cards and chipsets in the same timeframe.

While Matrox has carved out a lucrative market segment with loyal, professional customers - for example, in audio and video editing, financial institutions and the healthcare industry - the company's business today remains limited to a niche. So a small black box could bring back the company into the volume market. It's called DualHead2Go. When connected to the graphics port of your PC or notebook - provides an interface for two monitors.

What is particularly interesting about Matrox' plans for DualHead2Go is that it specifically targets notebooks and low-end desktop computers. Matrox has yet to provide a specific list of integrated graphics chipsets (IGCs) supported, but told us that customers interested in the product should download a "try before you buy application" from Matrox' Web site, to determine whether their graphics card supports DualHead2Go. In general, its minimum requirement is an Intel 845 chipset, though it should work with most ATI and Nvidia chipsets. According to Matrox, roughly 50 notebooks are supported at this time, and more are added to their list every week.

So, what exactly does the DualHead2Go do? Simply speaking, it doubles display space. With ATI and Nvidia chipsets, two displays can be run with a combined resolution of 2560 x 1024; Intel chipsets limit the resolution to 2048 x 768 over two screens. The view gets even better with a notebook, where users can choose to use the notebook screen as a third display for a theoretical maximum resolution of 3840 x 1024 pixel (3072 x 768 on Intel IGCs). DualHead2Go may make sense for many cubicle and home office environments, especially considering many space saving 17" LCDs should be breaking the $200 barrier this Christmas.

Dan Wood, vice president of technical marketing at Matrox, told TG Daily that the impact on graphics performance should not be visible to most users. While Wood would not recommend gaming across the screens, he said that using Photoshop on one screen and watching a video on the other would work just fine. Tom's Hardware Guide already is in line for a review unit to test how well an Intel or ATI/Nvidia IGC works with the box.

Compared to other Matrox products, which are only available through Matrox' Web site and selected retailers, the DualHead2Go will be offered through a greater variety of retailers and e-tailers, Wood said. He expects the product to appear on store shelves sometime in November for a suggested retail price of $169.

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An advertisement for 64-bit MGA graphics technology, during Matrox' glory days, from Byte Magazine, Nov. 1993