You want to build a NASA style mission control centre in your study, with monitors everywhere and the ability to control every facet of the Internet from your Surbiton-based lair. But there's a problem: you’ve only got one graphics card, or a laptop with just a measly DisplayPort output. What's a geek to do?
Well worry no more, because the HydraDisplay X3 from Cirago offers a solution, of sorts. The small piece of hardware can turn your single DisplayPort into three DVI sockets. There’s also a version that turns a single DisplayPort into three new DisplayPort outputs, although you can just keep plugging more HydraDisplay X3s into each other to create infinite desktops.
The process is driver-free, which means plugging it into a Mac or Windows PC is all you need to do. Your PC will then see your display as one large canvas, with a resolution of 3840x1024. The HydraDisplay then splits this into outputs for each monitor. It’s incredibly simple to use, and the big advantage is that it’s virtually latency free --unlike some USB-based alternatives. It should also handle video rather well, an area where USB-based DisplayLink falls down.
The problems with the device aren’t massive, but might be a problem for some people. For a start, out Mac test system worked well when we used two identical monitors, at two identical resolutions. We were not, however, able to get a third, different monitor to work. The second flaw is down to how the hardware turns one output into three. Basically, it creates a large, very wide, output signal, which it chops into one, two or three chunks. This means that rather than having three distinct displays, you have one large desktop that spans three monitors. While that may not be a problem, it means that maximising a window will fill all three screens, rather than just one.
Overall, the HydraDisplay is a good idea, but we can’t help but think the USB based DisplayLink systems will be more use for people who want several distinct monitors. Of course, the HydraDisplay is driverless, and DisplayLink isn’t, so that might be an issue for some people, in corporate environments who aren’t able to install software on their computers.
Mission control enthusiasts beware though: you do need a DisplayPort socket for each HydraDisplay. So your problems won’t be solved entirely by the product, but they will be reduced by a third.
Three DVI outputs enable you to connect three monitors to your PC. We noticed, on our test setup, that the system likes the monitors to be the same resolution, and each can only have a reasonably modest resolution of 1280x1024.