So happy together
Looking to double your desktop's visual real estate? The Matrox G450 ($145), with its two 15-pin analog outputs and its converter cable with S-Video and composite-video jacks, lets you hook up two analog monitors (CRT or analog flat panel) or a single analog monitor and a TV. You can set independent refresh rates and resolutions up to 2,048 by 1,536 at 85Hz on the primary display and up to 1,600 by 1200 at 85Hz on the second. That's a lower maximum resolution on the second display than that offered by ATI's Radeon VE or Asus's AGP-V7100, but the G450 is the only card of the three that supports independent monitor settings under Windows 2000. The G450's MultiDesk software lets users define multiple virtual desktops (so you can run different apps on each monitor), and its eDualHead driver wraps Web pages across monitors and performs other Web-centric tricks.
The G450's excellent 2D image output and full-screen DVD movie playback can make your PC seem like a standalone DVD player and TV. But unfortunately, its control panel doesn't offer the same depth of control over DirectX acceleration and display settings as the ATI Radeon VE and the Asus AGP-V7100 do. The Matrox also lacks the brightness control for the video overlay (a separate screen layer used for video and TV display) that the other cards offer, which means you can't compensate for overly dark AVI, DV, or MPEG movie files.
Are you game?
For those who fight dull-boy syndrome with 3D games, the G450's performance in CNET Labs' tests is mixed. It didn't score as well as competing cards in high-resolution 3D tests, but low-resolution gaming was a different story; the G450's Quake III rate of 57 frames per second (fps) at 800 by 600 resolution was actually better than the Radeon VE's 46.8 fps, though the Matrox still paled in comparison to the GeForce2 MX-based card from Asus. However, 3D gaming performance is of little significance to most professionals and doesn't affect this product's highly competent dual-display abilities.
The G450 carries a three-year warranty. Its generous software bundle includes Micrografx's Simply3D design package and Picture Publisher 8, plus a software DVD player. Tech support is available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, but it's a toll call. Online support includes driver updates, FAQs and some helpful tech-support forums.
A wide range of professionals will enjoy the G450's dual-display support and marvelous 2D performance, and mainstream users who want to output DVD movies from PC to TV will be equally thrilled. The card's lack of a DVI output affects only those with a digital flat-panel display.