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Enjoying the Matrox DualHead2Go
Once everything is setup you can truly enjoy the use of multiple monitors. Stretching out on two to three large external displays–whether Apple Cinema units or units by others–while working is truly enjoyable. One must remember too that your laptop display also adds to the real-estate, beyond the supported maximum resolutions supported and shared across multiple GXM units.
Because the Mac operating system places its application menu bars at the top of your display space–unlike Windows–one must decide where to put it: on the laptop display or spread across the attached external units?
In the image above we have two Display preference panels. One says Color LCD and controls the MacBook display. The way the Mac OS handles displays each display gets its own control panel. So the second Display preference panel is for the Matrox GXM. From here you power and control the displays attached through the Matrox GXM. (see image 07). There is an important button on the MacBook’s display preference pane called Gather Windows. Hitting this brings the GXM’s display preferences window to the same display controlling the Color LCD preferences.
On the MacBook’s display preference pane you can select the Arrangement button and set your location for the menu bar (by dragging it from one blue box to the other). (see image 08) Blue boxes represent the built-in LCD display and a larger one for the whole of the attached display space. You can also drag the smaller blue box around the larger one to determine how the large display expands from the laptop display space.
The benefits of using multiple large displays becomes obvious within a few days of working with them. At first one must become accustomed to the vast canvass of screen real estate and get used to some nuances of such a configuration. As in the example above a user should ideally place the Mac menu bar on the attached GXM unit side where your main large applications will exist. The MacBook’s display then gains a bit more headroom and makes a nice place to use web browsers and email–programs that typically contain all their necessary controls within the interface anyway.
With two or three attached displays a Mac user can run two CAD or 3D programs side by side as in the image above. We loaded the new Autodesk AutoCAD for Mac on the left and the venerable Nemetschek Vectorworks on the right. (see image 10) In such an arrangement however the Mac menu bar does cluster itself to the left attached monitor only. It would be a really neat trick if the menu bar could move between the displays based on the active application but it doesn’t. It doesn’t take too much effort to lay out palettes and application windows to work this way and the benefits can be many.
If on the other hand what you really want your extra monitor space for is non-CAD or non-3D applications then that too is very productive. Having calendar, email, database or other business applications open while working on CAD/3D applications is very useful. And this setup isn’t just useful for CAD or 3D professionals, it is darn useful to anybody who needs to “look and read” from one window while working in another. That would include web and graphic designers and even journalist professionals like us writing this review!
Closing Comments and Recomendations
Before we write our recommendations we want to summarize some key points. The Matrox GXM unit we tested was for dual monitor setup expansion beyond the main laptop’s LCD display. You can also use these products to expand off of an iMac or even a Mac tower. Though in the case of the latter there is no build-in display.
Apple Displays act differently than non-Apple displays and you will have more control options with the Matrox GXM software when you have non-Apple gear plugged in, as we noted above. The unit is designed to be easy to use but it is strongly recommended that users shut-down and restart between hooking up the Matrox GXM. When the unit is working properly a green light glows from it. If an orange light glows and stays on there may be an initialization issue or not enough power going to the unit from the USB port.
We think this hardware is excellent and Matrox has good tech support. We would, however, like to see better setup materials that explain some key items we talked about here in the review, such as the fact that Apple displays act slightly differently than non-Apple displays. These are minor items that the company can improve on in the future. Matrox has done an excellent job with this unit and its sister triple head unit works identically. If expanded screen real estate has been on your wish list the Matrox DualHead2Go DP Edition or its sister TripleHead unit are excellent choices to make this happen.
Pros: Good looking and space efficient hardware is built very well and comes with high-quality cables; Matrox PowerDesk for Mac installs with native Apple installer and the software is simple to work once learned. Unit is smart and can work automatically between Apple and non-Apple displays, configures itself to highest available resolution supported by displays.
Cons: Many of the nuances of the software discussed in this review should be brought to the attention of the new user in its setup guides; Matrox can do better with included setup materals.
Advice: For CAD or 3D professionals the Matrox GXM units offer an excellent choice for expanding your screen real estate; the GXM supports build in (4 rows, recall) resolutions so you can move your laptop between two locations with differing resolution capacities (home versus office, etc). We experienced no issues with the unit but we do recommend our own review to help with setup.
Cost: The unit tested goes for 229.USD and its triple-head sister goes for 329.USD. The Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort adaptor cable is not included. Refer to the Matrox website for detailed system requirements and the latest compatibility information.