Now, I always see it as a bit of a shame when you have to run a digital flat panel monitor with an analogue signal – basically you’re taking a digital signal, running it through a DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter), sending it down a cable, then running it through an ADC (Analogue to Digital Converter) to turn it back into a digital signal that an LCD monitor will understand. Obviously keeping the signal digital from start to finish makes the whole process far simpler and results in a far better image.
Knowing that I would have to run one of the screens over an analogue connection, I decided to configure a setup comprising a 17in TFT monitor connected via DVI, a 19in CRT monitor connected via analogue D-SUB and an HD video monitor connected via a progressive scan component video connection. Both the monitors were setup to run at a resolution of 1,280 x 1,024 and to operate independently rather than in a stretched desktop environment.
Getting this type of configuration going wasn’t too difficult, but I soon ran into an issue. It seemed that the CRT monitor was being forced to operate at the same refresh rate as the LCD screen. Now, an LCD monitor running at 60Hz isn’t a problem, but trying to sit in front of a large CRT running at 60Hz will leave you with a headache after a surprisingly short space of time.
When I questioned Matrox about this refresh rate problem, I was told that it was aware of the issue, but that the company was really expecting the target user to be hooking up two LCD monitors rather than a CRT and an LCD. However, I personally know a couple of independent film makers/video editors who use this exact type of setup – one large CRT screen and one TFT monitor – and surely it’s this type of user that is the prime market for a card like this.
For argument’s sake, let’s assume that Matrox is right and that most users of the APVe will be connecting two TFT monitors, meaning that the 60Hz refresh rate won’t be an issue. But as I’ve already mentioned, if I want to output HD video both monitors can not be connected digitally, which means that you have to compromise on image quality on one of your LCD screens. Of course you can choose to output SD video and connect both your LCD monitors via DVI, but that kind of defeats the purpose of this card.