Review: Matrox DualHead2Go
Posted Jun 29, 2007

With the increased popularity of Same-Day Edits (SDEs) in the event video industry, more and more of us are getting powerful laptops for our on-site editing needs. A laptop gives you more flexibility in terms of where you can work, and less weight and bulk to lug around at events. But if you are like me, you really miss the dual (or more) monitors that you are used to on your desktop computer back in the edit suite. Even with my 17" widescreen laptop, my timeline just feels cramped. Now there is an easy, lightweight solution from Matrox called the DualHead2Go—a small and portable “magic black box” that makes dual-monitor editing a manageable reality for anyone doing on-site edits.

The DualHead2Go plugs into your VGA port on your laptop and with it in place you can plug up to two external monitors into the other side of the box, giving you as many as three screens. And the beauty is that you don’t have to turn one screw on your laptop to make it work. Install the simple software that comes with the DualHead2Go, change a few settings in your control panel, and suddenly you have tons of real estate.

According to Matrox, you can have up to a 2560x1024 resolution stretched across two displays. That’s 1280x1024 per display, depending of course upon your system and the monitors you are using. You can also determine your window and monitor positioning, which is a great bonus.

Building the Test Set
My test was nothing like what PC Magazine might do with 100 different monitor combinations, but I took a more “real world” approach, in using monitors of different sizes from different manufacturers that are probably more representative of what most videographers would be likely to take on a shoot if they were planning a multi-screen on-site edit. I also used a four-year-old Sony VAIO laptop just to put the DualHead2Go through its paces and make sure it would function under less-than-optimum circumstances.

The first thing I needed to do to begin testing was update the video card drivers on the Sony VAIO. It had probably been at least three years since I’d updated those drivers, especially since the VAIO had spent most of the last two years sitting in a laptop bag not being used. So that was easy enough to do by going to ATI’s website and getting current drivers.

My monitors of choice for this test included two LCDs: a Hyundai 17" LCD and a Samsung 18" model. I set up my Adobe Premiere Pro timeline stretched across the two external monitors and then used the laptop’s monitor as an output screen so I could view my video in a larger format. The DualHead2Go had the configuration up and running quickly and easily. And it works!

Destination Edits: Possibilities and Limitations
The DualHead2Go’s success with these monitors was no fluke; it’s not picky at all about the monitors it supports. For those who travel and use a laptop to edit, you can be confident that it will work even if you don’t bring your own monitors; just make arrangements at your destination to have one or two monitors available for your use. I’ve done this successfully on the road with my Dell M90 laptop and whatever monitors I’m able to get a hold of in my destination city.

The one thing you have to understand, though, is that the monitor whose highest resolution is the lowest common denominator between the two monitors will determine the highest resolution you can use for the other monitor. If Monitor A has a maximum resolution of 1024x768 and Monitor B has a maximum resolution of 1280x1024, the most you will be able to get on Monitor B is 1024x768.

As a result, the larger monitor might seem slightly fuzzy or too big. But again, this is a temporary solution, and the goal is to get maximum real estate so you can edit more easily.

Back in the Edit Bay
The other way the DualHead2Go can be used is for a more permanent solution. Let’s say you want to use your laptop in the office but you’d like to have two more monitors hooked up to it. That’s fine; just make sure you have two of the same monitors so they can use the same maximum resolution.

In general, the DualHead2Go won’t work with a docking station or expansion station since the video card is passed through the docking station.The Matrox DualHead2Go retails for $169, and is an excellent value for videographers and others who use laptops for editing and need to expand their monitor real estate. I was very pleased with my little “magic black box” and look forward to continuing to use it for my mobile productions.

Laura Randall, a 2006 EventDV 25 honoree, was a featured speaker at Video 06/07 and is co-owner of award-winning Tacoma, Washington-based studio Edit 1 Media.