Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital Edition New Widescreen Modes Review - Performance

Submitted by skipclarke on 10 March, 2009 - 20:38

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Gaming in Wide Surround

The move from "normal" Surround to Widescreen Surround continues to push the boundaries of immersion and peripheral vision. Moving to Wide Surround offers a 50% increase in FOV, versus 4:3, a 40% increase over 16:10, and a 16% increase over "normal" Surround. The increased physical size of the monitors, and the movement of the bezels further into the periphery, allow for an even greater immersive experience.

Edge Distortion is exaggerated more at the edges of the image, but the edges of the image are pushed further into the periphery of your vision. Please note that Edge Distortion is present, even in 4:3 ratios. It does become more exaggerated as the FOV increases, but the screen edges are pushed further from the focal point of your field of vision. If you aren't familiar with Edge Distortion, watch the video from my original review of the DTH2Go. It provides a good visual reference.

Widescreen Surround modes are truly the last major frontier in immersive visuals (aside from IMAX style domes, which would be impractical for home use). While future hardware may expand resolution support (we are maxing out bandwidth on DL-DVI with 5040x1050 @57Hz), it will not increase the Field of Vision. The new Widescreen Surround modes are truly immersive, and allow for both greater FOV and greater physical screen size.

Widescreen Surround is not to be missed, and it is not to be rivaled.

Image Quality & Scaling

As before, image scaling is not handled by the Matrox TripleHead2Go. The DTH2Go offers no scaling support, so any scaling duties are offloaded to your video card and/or monitor. Scaling can be used in one of two circumstances. First, scaling can be used to increase performance. An example of this would be running 4320x900 on three 1680x1050 panels. Secondly, scaling can be used to fill non-native panels. An example of this would be running 5040x1050 on three 1920x1200 panels.

Previously, scaling 1024x768 across 1280x1024 (for performance reasons) resulted in a scaling of approximately 20%. Scaling 1280x1024 across 1600x1200 (in order to use 20" 4:3 panels) also resulted in a 20% scale. This latter option also resulted in an aspect ratio distortion, as 1280x1024 is a 5:4 image being stretched across a 1600x1200 4:3 panel.

Current hardware scenarios and options offer less distortion, when scaling images across larger panels. Scaling 1440x900 across a 1680x1050 panel only results in a 14.3% scale. And stretching 1680x1050 across 1920x1200 results in a 12.5% scale. This means that imagine distortion under the new hardware scenarios is significantly less than that of the original "normal" Surround.

Performance & Benchmarking

By and large, 3840x1024 performs on par with 4320x900. That means you could comfortably upgrade your panels from 1280x1024 to 1680x1050, and experience less image scaling (while running 4320x900 across 5040x1050) than you would have experienced going from 3072x768 to 3840x1024. This allows for a staggered upgrade path. Upgrade your panels to enjoy the new widescreen modes (and the additional functionality they offer), and then upgrade your graphics card if needed. The decision to upgrade graphics card can be made after purchasing the new monitors, while knowing that overall performance won't take a huge hit.

But, make no mistake, 5040x1050 is over 5.3 million pixels. Many MMOs, and other less demanding games will run admirably with the equivalent of a 9800 GX2. But, FPS titles and more demanding games will require a top end current-gen card, or possibly SLI.

While testing out the new Widescreen Surround modes, I updated my original NVIDIA 9800 GX2 benchmarks, and added new ones when I upgraded to an Intel Core i7 920 and an NVIDIA GTX 295. You can see all the iterative steps in the benchmark process by hitting my Core i7 920 & 9800 GX2 and my Core i7 920 & GTX 295 benchmark suites. To see the end-result for Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Far Cry 2, and Crysis: Warhead, check out these charts:

HL2: Episode 2
Benchmark of HOC Benchmark #2 in HL2 Ep 2

Far Cry 2
Benchmark of the Ranch Medium demo from Far Cry 2

Crysis Warhead High

Benchmark of HOC "Frost" Demo in Crysis Warhead: High Settings

Crysis Warhead MedBenchmark of HOC "Frost" Demo in Crysis Warhead: Med Settings w/ 4xAA/16xAF