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Graphics Software

Multi-Display Graphics Suites Compared 249

Bender writes "There's an interesting comparison at TR between the major graphics players' multi-desktop software/hardware suites, like NVIDIA's nView and Matrox DualHead. These suites provide monitor positioning, application-level window memory, multiple virtual desktops, and the like. This is necessarily a Windows-centric comparison, but it's interesting to consider how Linux, X, and various desktop managers would match up with these solutions in terms of features and abilities."
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Multi-Display Graphics Suites Compared

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  • solved the problem by commandeering two different PCs and sitting them side by side on his desk. Now, we're short one PC in goods-in :o(
  • Macs? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tadheckaman ( 578425 ) <tad&heckaman,com> on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:02PM (#4619578) Homepage
    Macintoshes have supported multimonitors and extended desktops for nearly 10 years... why not compair macs along with them too?
    • Re:Macs? (Score:3, Funny)

      by athakur999 ( 44340 )
      First of all, if you've read previous stories on TR you'll find they're pretty apathetic towards Macs.

      Secondly, this article is comparing the multimonitor abilities of these various graphic cards against each other. It doesn't really make sense to throw a Mac in the mix, since you're changing more than one variable.
      • In addition to that, most video cards lack Mac drivers.

        So pththththththth on your multi-display Mac.
        • I have a picure of my set-up [vampy-alumni.org] online.

          I am running three monitors off my G4/933 - a 17" Studio Display off a Radeon 7500, and a 15" NEC LCD and 14" crap CRT screen both running off a Radeon 7000 card.

          I went with dual displays back when I had two 15" VGAs. They work seamlessly under MacOS (I started with them under 7.6.1, and now run them under 10.2.1) and I find that I am significantly more productive as a result.

          The tird monitor was largely because I had an exta monitor and an extra VGA out to run it off of. Right now I just keep iTunes on that monitor.

          I highly recommend multiple monitors to anyone that can run them. A lot of times, a second monitor can be added for a lot less money than a larger monitor (since the second monitor can be relegated to non-accelerated tasks and can use a cheap video card, especially sicne it will be stuck in a PCI slot).
    • I dont know much about multi-display configs, but i am pretty sure that ATI does a better job of multi displaying things than NVidia, i especially like their hydravision (which NVidea stole from them and put in their GF4 cards, or am i mistaken about that one..toms had a review...somewhere)
  • or rather the apparent lack of it, was one of the reasons that put me off from keeping Redhat on my main box. I have a very nice configuration of two monitors at home, with the secondary monitor mainly for watching videos and checking the email while doing (ahem) serious work, and I could not find an _EASY_ way of doing it. I am sure that a lot of you will give me pointers to where I could have gone to download the relevant software but you would think that a distribution as complete as Redhat would find some space in those five cds to put the drivers / programs needed.
    • X will do this without any extra drivers.

      The Xinerama extention ships with every current distribution that I know of. You just need to configure it.
      • I know for a fact that Matrox does (for G450 at least) even have a utitlity not unlike that for windows. You can do the same things. Also the windowsmanager I used seemed a lot more inclined to not do stupid things, like popup every confirmation window in the center meaning it is cut in half across the monitors. (I use enlightenment.)

        Also what the orginal story seems to forget that it is not neccasary to have special cards to have dual monitors. I had it under 98 with two pci vid cards. Not as nice perhaps but pretty cool for the time. It should still be possible to do this with 1 agp and 1 pci although it may not be possible if the main card is a built in since these tend to presume you either want them or an external card.

        I also seem dimly to recall that I had this config with linux but I might be confusing that with my other matrox.

    • IMHO my monitor support w/ XF4 is better then windows. Not only do you have xinerama that lets you spread your desktop accross multiple displays like windows does. But you can also have it, so that you can use the displays (almost*) as if you had two seperate computers, even have different WM on each
      (*still shares mouse and keyboard, ie which ever screen you got the (core) mouse on has focus)

      an advantage to windows is that you dont loose HW acceleration when ur spreading desktop. While w/ xinerama you do. but not with the multi WM setup. (which is what I use)

      And setting up either aint that difficult, I remember when I was still using mdk (2 years ago) that the CD installer could even do it (I think it was 8.0)
  • This wasn't possible years ago in the 3x xservers, but maybe it happened in 4 and I just don't know.

    Can you change the resolution of X while it is running AND the "virtual resolution"

    You can do the Ctrl-Alt-"+" or "-" to change the res, but you just scroll around on the largest resolution in your XF86Config.

    Example: I am running in 1024x768, want to let me mom use the computer and she likes 640x480 because it is easy to read. What to do?
  • I'd be really interested in finding out how the dual monitor configuration works out.

    Do both screens need to have the same resolutions/refresh rates? What about Quartz acceleration, is it on both displays simultaneously, or just one at the time? Do the popups show up in the middle of one screen or split between the displays like on the Matrox/PC...

    Gimme your rants and raves about that card.
    • by vought ( 160908 ) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:10PM (#4619667)
      Do both screens need to have the same resolutions/refresh rates?


      What about Quartz acceleration, is it on both displays simultaneously, or just one at the time?

      Both displays at once, given sufficient (64MB) VRAM.

      Do the popups show up in the middle of one screen or split between the displays like on the Matrox/PC.

      Dialog boxes and other messages are typically centered on the display containing the menu bar.

      Apple did multiple screens first, and it shows up in the more elegant handling of interface elements across displays and the general flexibility of those multi-monitor options compared to the "divided" dialog boxes and hardware constraints of Windows.

      • Apple did multiple screens first, and it shows up in the more elegant handling of interface elements across displays and the general flexibility of those multi-monitor options compared to the "divided" dialog boxes and hardware constraints of Windows.

        This is just completely untrue. Apple did do multi-display first, but Windows is every bit as good at handling multiple displays. If you put two ore more video cards in a box (which is what I've done since Win'98 originally came out), Windows handles multimon beautifully. Dialog boxes centered on active display, windows maximized to single display, etc.

        The problem is that most dual-head video card makers, up until recently, have provided drivers that tell Windows "Hey, this is one big, wide display!", and Windows has no way of knowing that it's centering a dialog box across 2 monitors. Matrox has fixed this (finally) in their drivers, and ATI has as well with the drivers for the 9000 and 9700 -- the 8500 and earlier still haven't been fixed. (I don't know about nVidia, tho').

        Get a real multimon solution for Windows and you won't be disappointed. I'm running a 3 19" displays at work -- 4800x1200 resolution is great.

      • What about refresh rate? I've got a dual-monitor card in my PC (GeForce4 Ti4400). I use a second video card instead of the second port because the refresh rate drops when I add a second display. Does the same happen with the Radeon 9000 on a Mac? Does it have separate RAMDACs for the two displays?
  • by PissingInTheWind ( 573929 ) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:05PM (#4619610)
    anyone got something similar for Linux?
  • If you are ever in desperate need of something fun to do (as I often am), or maybe self torture, try going to alienware [alienware.com] and building yourself the most crazy pimped out 3 screen DV Machine you can.

    Then look at the price. Over 19000. One can only dream.
  • No (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gowen ( 141411 )
    And the more tasks you have going on at once, the more constrained you'll be by the limited desktop area provided by even a screen capable of resolutions as high as 1600x1200. The next logical step is adding a second monitor, or perhaps a third
    No. The next logical step is virtual desktops. One monitor, many desktops. You need lots of windows, but no-one is smart enough to want to look at them all at the same time. And Alt-F1/Alt-F2/Alt-F3 is much less likely to give you a serious crick in your neck.
    • I dunno, I like the width of having multiple monitors. I have two monitors on both my workstation at the office and on my computer at home. I use a combination of multiple monitors and multiple desktops. I get the amount of room per desktop I want and I get as many desktops as necessary to organize what I'm working on. What I would rather have is one widescreen monitor with multiple desktops so that space wasn't wasted by the CRT's bezels in the middle. I've looked into monitors like that but the cost seems to be a bit too high compared to the price of two high quality standard width monitors.
    • "The next logical step is virtual desktops."

      I absolutely agree. There is a program called VirtuaWin [virtuawin.com] for Windows that does this, too. If you're using a Windows box and miss your virtual desktop goodness, now you can have it.

      I set up VirtuaWin to use Ctrl-Left and Ctrl-Right to cycle around desktops, but it's pretty infinitely flexible -- you can assign key shortcuts to each desktop (like you're mentioning) as well.

      This program is definitely worth checking out. It's even GPL -- how weird is that for a Windows program? ;)
    • So, I should but my network monitoring software on a virtual desktop? What the hell good is that? I need to know when my nodea are down ASAP, regardless of whatever else I'm doing. And I only run dual. The hardcore network guys I work with have six monitors, and want more. They've always got things going on that NEED to be seen the moment there is a problem.

      And let's not even talk about the benefits you get when doing web developement having your editor on one screen and your browser on the other.

      I find multi-monitor setups to be fantastically useful, and virtual desktop setups to be painfully useless.
    • "no-one is smart enough to want to look at them all at the same time."

      A while back I set up dual monitors on my computers. There are tons of things that I do on that setup, that are not possible, or at least not as convenient by far on multiple virtual desktops. A few examples:

      - The most important one: when writing documents, one often uses reference material. What people tend to do on a single monitor machine, even with multiple desktops, is print out the reference material and keep it next to their computer. I bring up all reference material on the second monitor... yes! I have done away with paper.
      - I play games one one screen, and have a browser, Southpark episode or helper program running in the second monitor (for example: Ultima Online on the 1st screen and UO Automap on the second). None of this is very convenient on a multi-desktop configuration, since you need to hide the desktop with game on it to see the other application. While you are looking at the second desktop, something in the game comes along and creams you.
      - When doing web design and web scripting, I like having the editing software on one screen and the browser pointed to the scripts under development in the other. I daresay the productivity increase is notable, and again I seriously doubt that a multi-desktop setup with a single monitor will achieve the same convenience.
      - Video editing is wonderful on dual head. Video output on one screen, script and controls on the other. Multiple desktops? Forget it.

      No... I do not need dual head. But I'll be damned if I ever give it up.
    • by Bishop ( 4500 )
      Er. No.

      When codeing it is great to have the documents on one screen and the IDE on another. When debugging a third monitor is even better. You can put your program and debugging info on the third monitor leaving lots of room on the main monitor to view your code.

      A crick in your neck is nothing compared to carpel tunnel from hitting alt-F1, alt-F2, multiple times just to check if you have the syntax correct. Besides with the second monitor setup just to the left and angled towards me I don't even move my head. I just have to move my eyes.
  • I use Dualhead in X (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous DWord ( 466154 ) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:08PM (#4619638) Homepage
    Two 19" screens on a Matrox G400. Yum! I didn't have any problems getting everything working, and Matrox has decent Linux support, although I wish they'd put out driver updates more than once a year. Kicker dies a lot after I moved to X 4.2, and quite a few people are having similar problems. New drivers are promised Real Soon Now, so we'll see what happens.

    I dread having to use computers with just one screen now; I don't think I could ever go back. I'm thinking about hooking up a third monitor, actually. Need a reinforced desk and a small nuclear generator to power all this crap though.
  • It's good that all these fancy graphics cards are going to better use than trying to achieve a "constant 60 (fps)" in Doom III. No more will people be able to claim that they achieve optimal desktop usage with a 1MB Cirrus Logic 7440 graphics card.

    There's a lot more that could be done for Linux desktops and especially Windows XP, though MacOS leads the way. Everything is like a pdf file, rendered quickly and seamlessly through OpenGL.

    It's a shame, however, that third parties have to hack in extended desktop support externally for Windows, as its GUI integration was a truly pitiful idea. With Linux, the source can be modified, but unfortunately companies have little reason to do so.
    • It's a shame, however, that third parties have to hack in extended desktop support externally for Windows...

      I've run multiple monitors since Win98. In those days the support was pretty poor, but mostly due to applications being unaware of the new situation. Some apps today have issues, but it's becoming rare.

      Under Win2k, the multiple-monitor support is great. I have never used third-party software to do this, nor was I aware that any existed (or was necessary).

      I used to have issues with certain games and full-screen video, but this seems to have worked itself out over a couple service packs/driver updates/whatever.

      I run 3 Voodoo3 cards (all PCI) and an S3 Savage4 (AGP but absolute junk), on 2 17" and two 14" monitors (just because I could... I hate extra unused hardware ;) I run different resolutions and refresh rates.

      I can do full-screen video on any of the screens, and games work great on whichever monitor I designated as my "primary monitor" (no longer bound by what BIOS says as was the case w/Win98).

      I ran xinerama on RedHat 7.2 a while back, and if setup correctly it does work well. You can't change anything (resolution, placement) without editing XF86Config and restarting X, but I rarely felt the need to do that. Still, even more X11 apps have issues than Windows apps...

      I guess I'll go read the article and see what I'm missing with third party software...
    • Actually, MacOS X renders very little through OpenGL. Quartz 2D software renders onto textures, and those textures are drawn using OpenGL. OpenGL is thus relegated to nothing more than supporting fancy window effects like transparency, shadow, and genie. And the PDF thing has major downsides. I'm guessing the fact that Quartz is tied to PDF is one of the major reasons why they couldn't use OpenGL to accelerate actual drawing.
  • by Sodakar ( 205398 ) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:09PM (#4619648)
    ...not because of the desktop space that you lose, but because applications will still remember your desktop space as being double, and will leave some of your apps stranded off-screen. Maybe I was just unlucky, but neither software package fixed this for me.

    Of course, you can still move main windows via keyboard shortcuts, but certain detachable, child windows of applications (eg, Winamp's Playlist) could not be accessed via keyboard shortcut to move, and were stuck off-screen. The only fix was to re-attach the second display, or uninstall/reinstall Winamp so that it would forget all of its screen positions.

    I'm sure there's another way to fix window position memory configs (via registry and what-not), but really -- shouldn't the software take care of this for me? Neither software did much to help me once the second display was removed, and the screen resolution adjusted down to one display. Somewhat thoughtless, IMHO.
  • by dubious9 ( 580994 ) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:09PM (#4619653) Journal
    Needless to say a lot of people here will complain that nobody will use more than a monitor of screen space, or that two would be over kill.

    <rant>Seriously though, developers will take as much space as you can throw at them, and they will be more productive. Really, when will managers and procurement people realize that programmers need bigger screens and faster/better boxen? I'm tired of watching our department clerk get the newest machine simply because she's been here 20 years.</rant>

  • by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:13PM (#4619698) Homepage
    Hell, I remember running a dual head/dual monitor setup back on an old, dusty Mac II with 2 video cards.

    Why has it taken >15 years for the Windows world to finally catch up?
    • Why has it taken >15 years for the Windows world to finally catch up?

      Where do you get 15 years? Dual Displays was available with NT 4.0.

    • Hmm, I supported a homebrew GIS solution developed back in the 1980's that utilized a Hercules graphics card for the text interface and a EGA card for graphics.

      There's been multi-monitor cards and drivers available since at least Windows 3.1.

      I think the point here, is just that now this is not all that rare and it's incredibly easy to setup without buying expensive custom cards.
  • by Vaulter ( 15500 ) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:15PM (#4619709)
    Hpmh. I knew those windows users were freaks...Freaks I say!

  • by ras_b ( 193300 ) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:15PM (#4619710)
    I am currently at work using 4 monitors all run by the Colorgraphic Predator video card. I don't know the technical details of the card (IANAT - i am not a techie) but i must say the setup i have kicks ass. the card is described here [sysopt.com]
    • We tried them. The price can't be beat.

      But You haven't tried a Matrox, have you...

      You wouldn't go back. The powercolor had OK NT drivers, but they were pretty unfriendly and limited cards compared to the Matrox cards.

      And no, I don't work for Matrox.

  • It seems all OS's but Windows allow for positioning storage. OS/2 and eComStation [ecomstation.com] allow it in OS/2's extended attributes, which allows for GUI windows to open in whatever state and/or position as when closed (or in some cases as when the program was instructed to save window positions). From what I understand of some of the virtual desktop implementations of various Linux GUIs and desktop extensions, it is capable of a similar "feat" - and should thus easily be capable of the "massive" jump to storing and reusing desktop/monitor positions.

    OS/2 (and thus eCS) also allow via REXX, for window positions to be monitored, restored, moved, etc when apps are opened or closed... takes a little REXX knowledge (litterally a little) and some competent (but minimal... maybe a couple hundred lines if that much) programming and object positioning and state (which is what it really is under OS/2 & eCS) can be enhanced above it's current capabilities.

    Looks like once again companies had to spend time writing around a MS deficiency.

    Oh well...


  • by Cecil ( 37810 ) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:18PM (#4619745) Homepage
    Why do all the graphics card companies feel a need to come up with their own monitor spanning software, which is without exception, garbage. I mean, Windows sucks, but there is one thing they did *absolutely fucking right*, and that's their multi-monitor support.

    It's beautiful. It works extremely well. It's flexible and well-supported.

    Why must each of the graphics card companies reinvent the wheel, and make their wheel square, and connect in a different way?

    I did IT with my current employer before moving up to my current programming job, and I remember how many types of graphics cards and versions of graphics drivers we went through before we found one that was even remotely acceptable. A particular version of the Matrox drivers for the Millenium G450 have a little checkbox hidden away during the install (and only during the install) that will let you install the "extra" support for Windows' multi-display.

    Note to multi-display driver writers: No one (that I know at least) wants windows that maximize across monitors. No one wants toolbars that span across monitors. No one wants resize-handles on their maximized windows if you are kind enough to provide the option to NOT maximize across monitors. Not everyone wants both their monitors at the same resolution (GRR! that one really frustrates me). Not everyone can run both monitors at the same refresh rate, either. And NOT EVERYONE puts their second monitor to the right of the first one.

    All of these things are handled flawlessly by Windows' multi-monitor support. The same multi-monitor support that's been there since Windows 98SE. (or was it Windows 98?) Let it do what it does best, and focus your energy somewhere less counter-productive, thanks.
    • I did IT with my current employer...

      I hope you used some kind of protection?

    • I mean, Windows sucks...

      The NT line of windows has been great workstations with multimonitor support. I'm not sure why you think it sucks for a desktop, but for a plain desktop (not games) there are hardly any features you want that these new gfx cards dont supply. Plus there are tweaks and registry edits to fix most of the little forgotten problems out.

      And NOT EVERYONE puts their second monitor to the right of the first one.

      All 3 cards show will let you arrange your monitor to the left/right/top, you just need to select the dual monitor and select orientation.
    • NVIDIA didnt reinvent it. They basically threw a few options on top of the built in windows multi-monitor support. What did they add, you ask? How about virtual desktop support. And...err, well, that's all they really added, but they did it well. All of the options to move windows around from virtual dekstop to virtual desktop are there, including moving just a particualr window, or all the windows associated to a particular app. Additionally, there is a task/desktop switcher that one can configure, which gives the user a windows-like alt-tab, with which to scroll through the various virtual desktops AND the individual applications in any given desktop. All of the hotkeys are completely user configurable. You can have at least 32 virtual desktops (highest I tried). Best of all, all of the virtual desktop options work correctly when using multiple monitors.

      Granted, I didnt read the article, but at least have some idea of what you are talking about before you go spouting off about it. BTW, the features I describe apply to the latest non-WHQL drivers from NVIDIA. I have tested all of the above features with both two-headed NVIDIA cards, and one single headed Nvidia in combonation with a single headed non-NVIDIA card.
    • " No one (that I know at least) wants windows that maximize across monitors. "

      Maxtrox G550, ctrl+click on maximize, the entire screen is filled with a window. Why would I want this? Right-click, new vertical tab grouping in VS.net (hopefully Mozilla someday). Suddenly MDI makes serious sense when working within a particular application.

      Yes, you may like SDI and one app per monitor, but MDI is something that mates so well with multiple monitors, you'll swear at every solution provider that doesn't support it. I find it's as useful as grouping application windows (like The Gimp) on a single virtual desktop in terms of productivity).
    • The same multi-monitor support that's been there since Windows 98SE. (or was it Windows 98?)

      It was 98 first edition. I've been running a dual-head on a Win98 box for years -- the primary display is an ATI All-In-Wonder Pro AGP driving a 17" KDS Avitron. The secondary is a cheap ATI Charger PCI card I got for $15, driving an old fixed-frequency 18" HP Workstation display that I found in a dumpster (with the aid of a sync-on-green adaptor and a VGA-to-RGB-coax cable).

      The drawbacks are that 3D acceleration only works on the primary display, as do the TV- and Video-in features. And the PCI video card obviously doesn't perform as well as the AGP, even at lower color depths (the two displays are independently variable, which is nice).

      But having a big secondary desktop to shuffle less complex windows to, like IM Buddy Lists or telnet sessions, is definitely useful. I only wish I could use the larger display as my primary, but given that PCs aren't even supposed to be able to drive this particular piece of hardware, I guess I can't complain.
    • No one (that I know at least) wants windows that maximize across monitors.

      Sure they do, for video walls.

    • All of these things are handled flawlessly by Windows' multi-monitor support. The same multi-monitor support that's been there since Windows 98SE. (or was it Windows 98?) Let it do what it does best, and focus your energy somewhere less counter-productive, thanks.

      OpenGL is not accelerated with Win dual-monitor support. It falls back to software rendering. I'm not sure if it is the same case with D3D. That's what nVidia, ATI, Matrox, etc are trying to provide.

      When debugging games, graphics apps, etc. It is nice to have your game running fullscreen in one monitor, while your debugger spews stuff into the second monitor.

      • Actually, that's entirely untrue. There are a couple tricks you have to do to, but it's OpenGL that does not (by default) support multi-monitor configurations seamlessly, not the other way around.

        It was an important discussion around here before we moved some of our drawing code into OpenGL. Once we solved that little problem though, and wrote a class to get it all initialized properly, all was good, and writing dual-monitor friendly OpenGL apps is easy.

        Don't ask "Well then, explain how?" because I'm not obliged or willing to say. The code is not GPL. But it can be done.

        As for your comment about debugging software using two monitors, I wholeheartedly agree, and couldn't live without it anymore.
  • concludes, that in the future the gene base of an average software developer will combine genes from the predatory spider [pneuro.com]. A representative from a major graphics card vendor stated: "cool".

    On Predatory spider's vision: The predatory spider has eight simple eyes of various sizes that respond to key aspects of the visual field. Tactile sensations derived from the web are more important to spiders than vision is

  • I'm running a nVidia-based dual-headed system and have been greatly disappointed with its performance. I used to run an ATI system which was completely awful; the drivers were so badly kludged they disrupted my system's operation. nVidia's drivers are much more stable, thankfully, but ATI's were able to do so much more...

    When I read the review, however, they showed a snapshot of nVidia's nView Desktop Manager control panel, and it has a LOT more options than mine, including playing with individual application settings... All the features I've been missing. Wow, I figured, I must be using an old driver package. Updated it... And the window hasn't changed.

    Is there a separate upgrade package for the nView drivers?
    • That's probably the beta 40.xx drivers. Look around the web for them. I've installed them on one machine at home with 2 nvidia cards in it and they seems stable enough (no problems so far)
    • The biggest things that ATI doesnt have in its control panel that Nvidia does.

      1. Color Brilliance enhancer, I just turn up the RGB on the ATI, but the NVIDIA control panel makes it easier.

      2. 16bit AA modes, the ATI decided to turn off AntiAliasing in 16 bit modes, bad for some flight sims and multiplayer games. CounterStrike can run in 32 bit mode (+32bpp) so you can get the AA goodness.

      But the TV/monitor selector is very easy to use and is laid out correctly. They beat Nvidia on this point. And with the dual 400mhz RAMDAC's expect some execellent output from the ATIs.
    • Okay, installed the beta drivers, and it STILL doesn't do what I need it to.

      Why can't it save position properly? I want it to start up MIRC and ICQ on monitor 2; why won't it work? I could do it on that stupid ATI card... I assume it's because ATI treated my desktop like one big monitor.
  • by Brother52 ( 181351 ) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:23PM (#4619797)

    I'm writing this from a machine with two displays and TWO cards: Matrox G400 AGP and Matrox Millenium II PCI. This is what I came to after a long quest for a dualhead setup.

    Just a few points:

    1. There're still very few dualhead cards on the marked, thus much less chance to find one with the features you need.
    2. They're generally overpriced, probably because they're percieved as a high-end product.
    3. If you go for one, READ THE FINE PRINT. For example, the dualhead Matrox G450 has a DEGRADED DAC, compared to G400, which isn't noted anywhere but in the raw specs (and NOT in pretty side-by-side comparisons on the Matrox's site)

    And while with the dual card setup one card has to be PCI, you can still build a way more powerful combination, compared to any dualhead card.

    • I run a dual-head setup at work on a Matrox G450 (21" @ 1600x1200) and don't have any gripes about it, and I do like the fact that its one video card, not two.

      There's also the problem these days of *finding* a PCI based video card that doesn't totally suck goat testes.

      I've been looking for a GeForce 4 card that supported dual displays on one card. Most have two connectors (DVI & VGA) but the "experts" in the computer stores have said that they *don't* drive dual monitors, it's multiple connectors/same signal.
    • With all due respect: nonsense! What you said may have been true 1,5 years ago, but it certainly isn't true anymore.

      There are plenty of dual head cards that meet the needs of most users, including good 2d or 3d performance, or both. Gainward made a very decent one based on the Geforce 2 400; I had one and it worked perfectly. When it blew up (don't ask...) I replaced it with a Radeon 8500 dual head card, which is what I am using now. Good performance all round.

      I am looking to build a new box and I'll probably end up using one of the many dual-head Geforce 4 cards. Check them out: you may like what you see. It seems that many of these cards that are built for top performance on a single monitor, will support a second one as well. They are reasonably priced as well.
  • by Neon Spiral Injector ( 21234 ) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:24PM (#4619804)
    I just got my ATI Radeon 7500 working in X. Here are some things I found.

    First my biggest problem was the card will only see monitors that are connected when last reset. I spent 2 days trying to get the card to see a monitor I connected after Linux had booted. It was just dumb luck that we had an extended power outage that drained my UPS. When I powered back up, I still had the monitor turned on, and it got initiliaed by the card.

    Second the DVI port is the primary display, if you have both connected. I guess that makes sense, but I had them backwards in my head cause I have 2 VGA CRTs, and had to use an adaptor on the DVI port to hook up my (second) monitor.

    I like to configure my XFree86 by just typing `X -configure`. That doesn't detect the second monitor (and due to a bug I'll get to in a second configures the primary monitor incorrectly). The configuration file created by X was a good starting point, but I would have to manually add the settings for the second monitor.

    What was odd, is X was being displayed on my primary monitor, but the settings in the file were from my secondary. Looking at the log file created, it seems that the Radeon was reading the DCC information from the second monitor (and after I got both displays initilizing both monitors were being seen with the same DCC info even though they are very different displays).

    What I ended up doing was searching the Internet for some sample XF86Config files that had Xinerama enabled. I found a few some even for the Radeon 7500. To get the correct monitor info. I just plugged one monitor into the real VGA port, started X and looked in the log for the timings. I then hard coded the values for my primay display to override the falsely detected DCC infomation (X gives you big warnings when you manual specify timings higher than the monitor reports, which normally would be a good thing, but in this case I was right, so I'll have to live with the warnings).

    After I plugged in the right values, and added the approate lines to my "-configure" generated file I had X running on two different sized displays with my desktop being stretched across them.

    Also note that DRI is disabled in X on the ATI Radeon 7500 when using Xinerama, which means no hardware accelorated OpenGL (just like in Windows on this card).

    As for my window manager Enlightenment 0.16.5 it is somewhat Xinerama aware. There are a few little bugs. First it likes to put things were I don't have a desktop due to me running two different resolutions on the displays. That probally won't effect most people. The biggest pain is it doesn't maximize windows correctly when they are on the second head. I don't maximize much, so I have just learned to expand the windows to size by hand.

    The virtual desktops and multiple desktops of Enlightenment work just as before, they are just twice as large now. I'm sure I could have as many as I wanted, only limited by memory. The pager display shows everything correctly, include the black hole where there is no desktop.

    Applications tend to pop up menus half on one screen, half on the other, Enlightenment also suffers from this, but not as much as I usually am clicking in the middle of the screen, but around the shared edge things get annonying.

    All in all I can live with it. I don't play games so OpenGL isn't a big deal. I have my webbrower and mail on one screen and an Eterm or two on my other where I'm doing work. What ever I'm focused on most I'll put on the main display. If I'm just compiling something big I it is nice to put it over on the second head so I can keep an eye on it, but focus on /. until the build is finished.
    • Oh yeah, my dream setup is to have a Matrox Parhelia [matrox.com] and a 9X Media [9xmedia.com] 3 pane display.
    • First, do not, under any circumstances, but ATI's Radeon 8500 dualhead. They suck. As the poster mentioned, DRI is disabled when you use Xinerama. Plus the binary-only Radeon 8500 driver doesn't work with Xinerama, in addition to the opensource ATI driver which doesn't work with Xinerama! Only the older opensource Radeon driver in XF 4.2 does Xinerama in any way on the 8500, and it still has drawing issues (the Gnome logout box sure mangles the one display).

      As you mentioned, the "primary" display is the DVI connector. This is horrid because any bus traffic causes that display to show ghosting and other lines everywhere on the 8500. The ATI Radeon 9000 doesn't have this problem, but it's another mark against the card.

      For multihead under Linux, I recommend buying a G550 and skipping ATI, because their cards are not fun to setup and debug (I spent an entire day of my time trying to work with their broken drivers).

      I found a "known-good" Xinerama config on GoogleGroups [google.ca], and used it to debug the 8500.
  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:24PM (#4619807)
    On Linux, and I believe under Windows as well, the window system itself can make any collection of graphics cards appear as a single desktop. You don't need hardware support or special vendor software--just plug in a bunch of PCI graphics cards. If you do have get hardware for multiple screens, you get a few advantages, like being able to have certain hardware features work across split screens.

    On the whole, I found that, as usual, configuring multiple monitors (I use nVidia cards, although I don't recommend you buy them) was a little more work under Linux than under Windows, but that it ended up working better. X11 seems to provide a better abstraction layer, insulating applications from the idiosyncracies of the underlying hardware. Furthermore, on X11, window placement and management has been factored into a separate application, so you aren't tied to vendor-supplied hacks in order to make things work with multiple screens--you just use any window manager that supports Xinerama.

  • Linux compatibility (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tjw ( 27390 )
    I've been using a multimonitor XFree86 setup since the release of XFree86 4.0.

    First I used two 3dfx Voodoo3's to power my 3200x1200 resolution. I was constantly annoyed by the lack of 3D hardware acceleration, so I disabled Xinerama mode, and ran X in DualHead mode. The only differnce in doing this was that I could no longer move windows from one screen to the other. The mouse cursor traveled freely between screens. Granted this was annoying too, but at least I could play quake2 again.

    Then I happened upon a nice tidbit on the Xpert mailing list. That is, you can run Xinerama mode with NVidia cards and get hardware accelerated 3D on one of the heads. I replaced one of the voodoo3's with a TNT2 and I've been happy ever since.

    I'm always thinking about upgrading my video card, and these one card solutions seem like the way to go. With NVidia's nView and Matrox's Powerdesk? you can have both heads appear to XFree86 as one logical screen and therefore run hardware accelerated 3d on BOTH SCREENS. I read that this was suppored by both Matrox and NVidia XFree86 drivers, so I started shopping for my next video card. But the dilema that I've constantly run into, is one that is not even addressed in this article. That is, the Max Resolution of the second monitor is severly limited. I have yet to find a single card solution that will handle 3200x1200 in 24bpp (or even 16 for that matter).

    Perhaps the new Parhelia's will do it, I'm not sure. I've had to do a fair amount of digging just to find out what I do know. It seems like the only place that has reliable information about the issue is the complaining that goes on in mailinglists from people dissatisfied with the products they have purchased.
  • Graphics Cards Tested
    NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4600
    ATI Radeon 9000 Pro 64MB
    Matrox Parhelia-512 128MB

    WTF, why is he testing the 9000? They mention the 9700, but went with the 9000 for benchmarks. This is purely absurd.

    The 9700 is 4x faster than the 9000, and 2x the 4600 in these fps benchmarks. The 9000 isnt even a replacement for the 8500 out. The 9500 is the replacement, and its not even out yet.

    BTW, I run the 9700 dual, playing counterstrike on a 21 inch monitor and a 60inch projection at the same time (mirror mode). The tv output at 1024x768 (svhs) is crystal clear, and is truely amazing.

  • by pergamon ( 4359 ) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:28PM (#4619849) Homepage
    NOTE: With nView, the two displays have to be beside each other under X.

    This caused me to look at using multiple cards instead of multiple headed cards.

    I have one 21" and two 17" monitors, and I wanted the primary display (21", middle, AGP) to be able to be upgraded seperately from the secondaries (PCI, one on either side of the primary), as I have no interest in spanning 3D games across screens. Granted, I could have done three with the Matrox card, but then I'd always have to upgrade to another 3-monitor card. The solution I went with was to have one nVidia AGP card for the primary (currently a TNT2 Ultra, to be upgraded later) and two GForce 2 PCI cards for the secondaries. The GF2s are plenty fast for 2D, and fast enough to run small 3D accelerated toys/apps/screensavers too. The only downsides are the use of more expansion slots than using a dual-headed card and that 3D acceleration won't span. The upsides are that each one is running full speed, they're completely independant so multiple resolutions/frequencies is less of a problem, and the primary display can be upgraded seperately from the secondaries. I believe I could also run seperate X servers on each card if that ever became useful.

    So if you want spanning 3D acceleration or are low on expansion slots, go with a multihead card. Otherwise, think about doing it this way.

    OK, so there isn't a lot of real content in this post, but I thought I'd share a setup success story. When doing multi-card multi-head systems I'd *highly* recommend sticking with the same chip line/maker, and I'd just as highly recommend it be nVidia. Getting these three cards working together couldn't have been simpler...
    • NOTE: With nView, the two displays have to be beside each other under X.

      I really don't like nVidia's X11 driver's support for dual monitors. It does this stupid "TwinView"/"SecondMonitorHorizSync"/"MetaModes"/"T winViewOrientation" thing in the screen section rather than having two Monitor and Screen sections. It means you have to specify the settings for the second monitor in a non-standard way, Xinerama support doesn't work right, and you have fewer options for placement.

      With the multiple card approach, yeah, it works better. You can use XFree86's native support for multiple monitors, which is superior.

    • I also have a triple headed machine at home with a Geforce2 and older matrox cards. I agree with your advice about keeping the cards separate.

      If you want a 3 head machine for cheap, I'd reccommend getting Matrox Millenium II PCI cards ($20 on ebay). You can stick up to 4 of them in one machine. I have an AGP Geforce2 as my center display, and use that for games. The Mellenium IIs are plenty enough for stuff like xterms and web browser windows, and the geforce card runs games well. It was all surprisingly easy to get working.

      I dual boot linux and XP, both OSses support the display set up fine. XP acts kind of bizarre when you start a game on the center display and it changes resolutions though.

      If anyone wants my XF86Config file I'd be happy to post it.

      To confirm your belief about running separate X servers on each display: yes that is possible, I've done it before. Its a good way to get everything debugged as you're getting it all configured. The problem with separate X servers is that they would be conflicting for your input devices. A better way would be to use 1 X server, but configure it for multiple displays. Each display will be separate and will have its own minor display number (:0.0, :0.1, :0.2) and can be at separate resolutions/refresh rates. The mouse can be moved across displays and keyboard input will follow mouse focus. However with separate displays, you can't do things like drag windows across monitors. Its better to use Xinerama, which makes them all into one big display. Enlightenment works well with multi heads.

  • It's called "Xinerama" and it's part of XFree86 4. Your window manager is probably capable of application/windowID/group position memory, etc. I know Gnome/E and Gnome/Sawfish are, and I suspect KDE is also. You can do a helluvalot in xrdb, which is all the windowmanagers do... and you can do that however you wanna.
    • as a side note, you need to compile kdebase and qt both with xinerama support enabled (it's not by default). If you don't compile in xinerama support, KDE will work when you running Xinerama mode, but you'll get windows maximized across all screens, windows in dead areas (if you have different resolutions on each screen) and other annoyances. Fortunately recompiling the above two packages is pretty easy.
  • by eric2hill ( 33085 ) <eric@ijaCOMMAck.net minus punct> on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:55PM (#4620167) Homepage
    I've got a VisionTek GeForce4 440 MX ($120, Insight) running two 19" Trinitron monitors at work. The newest drivers do support running a true dual-monitor mode (not stretched desktop) on Windows 2000. For any multi-monitor system worth its' salt, this is a must.

    Now, about the 3 reboots it took to make it all work...
  • AGP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by _ph1ux_ ( 216706 ) on Thursday November 07, 2002 @05:58PM (#4620217)
    Thats all well and fine... but what I want is a motherboard that has DUAL AGP slots. anyone know of any out there that have this.

    When I worked at intel i wrote some departments requesting this, but didnt get very far...

    here is an interesting concept for multi monitoring:

    It would be interesting to have a single computer setup with different inputs and different monitor output. Each screen would have a privilage level, and all inputs would only be associated with their individual screen.

    This would allow for a Kiosk to be setup in say a mall - with a single computer that has multiple screens, keyboards and mice attached. Each screen would have its own desktop - and could run a browser for example - but they would not interfere with eachother.

    This would allow you to run all this off of one computer - thus saving costs.

    Anything out there like this? Obviously it has many parallels to mainframe computering - network appliances etc... but I am specifically talking about running a standard PC with multiple monitors and mice and keyboards - not some crippled specially designed hardware.
    • I once went looking for this, but never found anything other than dual-monitor single cards, or AGP-PCI combo-cards.

      I even posted it as a question to slashdot (rejected, of course).

      As far as I know, they still haven't got dual-AGP video yet. I've heard rumblings of using the AGP-style port for other peripherals though, so perhaps somebody will get smart and develop a board that supports dual-video too.

      It really sucks when you either have to put all the load on a single AGP card, or mix with slower PCI (not to mention that as PCI becomes obsolete newer models do not get manufactured for the port).
    • This would allow you to run all this off of one computer - thus saving costs. Anything out there like this? Obviously it has many parallels to mainframe computering - network appliances etc... but I am specifically talking about running a standard PC with multiple monitors and mice and keyboards - not some crippled specially designed hardware.

      Maxspeed makes this terminal [maxspeed.com] which extends keyboard, video, mouse and I/O from a base PC. You run CAT5 from the terminal to the PC and plug it into a special card in the PC. There are cards with 4 ports and cards with two ports. It works well for souped-up point of sale applications - one PC at the front of a small store can handle several terminals.

      Just to be clear, this is not TCP/IP. It is keyboard, video and mouse signals multiplexed on cat5. If using a GUI, you run a separate X Server per terminal on the PC. They are very Linux friendly - I used them with Red Hat.
  • What about GAMMA? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Yodalf ( 83088 )
    I am currently using a G550 with two monitors. Neither in windows 2000 or Xfree86 can i adjust independent gamma on the monitors. Actually, it is even worse than that because i can adjust the gamma on only one monitor. The other monitor must be used without gamma correction.

    IMHO, independent gamma correction on both monitors is necessary and i am surprised to see that the reviewer did not even hint about it.

    Anybody with more experience/knowledge in this?
  • x2vnc? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Has anyone tried an app called x2vnc [hubbe.net]? It works very similar to a dual monitor setup, but you can use two different computers. It uses VNCserver so you can even have an X windows server running x2vnc connected to a pc running windows with only one mouse and keyboard.
  • When they were discussing the GF4 they said that no amount of work would get that series to work with independant mutlimonitor (different res, refresh, etc).


    There is a simple registry tweak that will enable a checkbox to "Treat multiple outputs on an nView-capable board as seperate display devices". All that has to be done is disable nView in its control panel and apply this to the registry:


    Reset the system and find the checkbox, I have it under advanced> Desktop utilites.
  • is available from XI Graphics [xig.com]. This is a drop-in replacement for XFree86, and it includes (link points to) multimonitor support versions.

    My pet peeve with the Matrox driver version is that it would not power down the second monitor, so it went to screen saver and never turned off, while the primary monitor did power off. This was indicated on the Matrox site as a known issue. From other comments here I gather there have been no releases lately of the Matrox XFree86 driver, so that's probably still true.

    XI is faster than XFree86 in my subjective testing, and it works nicely. There's a free demo you can download to try it out.
  • I've been using a G400 with two 17" flat panels at work for the last year or two and things were working pretty good. Upgraded to Redhat 8.0 and things are not longer so good. Xinerama still works but characters from the left display get painted on the right randomly. The problem seems only to be related to kde apps mostly. The matrox support guy is aware of the problem (many people have it) but does not seem to be doing a whole lot to help solve it. The last beta release of the drivers was last february so i'm not to happy with Matrox's commitment to Linux. Time to pick up a new card. Suggestions anyone? It's gotta be cheap and it's gotta do dual heads.
  • The article failed to mention Matrox's staple of the stock-trading world, the G200 MMS. It's a quad-head card PCI card with ability to drive 4 DVI panels. I've been using one for about eighteen months now, and after using good DVI panels (I now have IBM 17" LCDs) I will never go back to an MM setup with analog panels. The difference in clarity and response is well worth it.
    http://www.matrox.com/mga/products/g200_mms/home .c fm
  • I run dual 17" monitors (GF4 MX and a GF2 MX) on Windows 2000 Professional and I don't even bother with NVidia's NView app. Haven't found a single use for it other than it being unreasonably slow for features I don't need. For everything Windows 2000 doesn't do out of the box, I just use UltraMon [realtimesoft.com].

    UltraMon still leaves a bit of a memory footprint but it's not nearly as bad or as slow as NView. It's this unobtrusive (and persistent) little system tray icon that gives me all kinds of settings that NView seems to offer as well, except faster. Some of the features I appreciate in particular are:

    Shortcut keys to swap programs between monitors (proportionally or to fit - INCREDIBLY useful if you run different resolutions)

    Shell extensions for switching monitors or maximizing.

    A simple double-click on the systray icon (or a definable keyboard shortcut) to turn off the secondary monitor on demand, such as if you want to run an OpenGL game without the second monitor looking all weird.

    Individual desktop wallpaper settings.

    The program itself creates shortcuts that set a program to start on a certain monitor.

    Saving window sizes and positions.

    You can enable two separate taskbars if you want, and either have each taskbar show all the tasks or have each separate taskbar show the tasks running on that specific monitor.

    That's the bulk of its features. Great little program. Unfortunately, yes, it is $40 to register, and there are discounts for multiple licenses, but for me personally it was well worth the cost for the extreme ease of use it provides me with my monitors.

    I have tried NView, but it kind of seems like it's trying too hard to be useful, where UltraMon just works, and works great. I'd definitely recommend it for anyone with dual monitors.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"