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Comparing Differences in Multiple Monitor Support

One of the most often-requested features from workstation users is support for multiple monitors by operating systems. Members of the software engineering, CAD/CAM, and digital content-creation professions all rely on multiple monitors to check their code, run programs, or view interim results while working in a second screen with the final design. Starting with Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft offered this capability at the O.S. level. Of course, there needed to be device drivers that could take advantage of this feature. Companies including S3, 3Dlabs, Tseng Labs, and others created chipsets that (when combined with device drivers in Windows NT and Windows 2000) produced results in the configurations design professionals needed.

In Windows XP Professional's initial release, the multimonitor support on laptops is excellent; yet on workstations, it's sporadic. This is ironic given the positioning of Windows XP Professional into the technical marketplaces. Clearly, graphics chipset manufacturers and video controller manufacturers have a full workload in anticipation of the October 2001 release if their customer base signing on at that time can run multiple monitors.

The approach Microsoft has taken to support multiple monitors is shown in Figure 1. Initial tests on a Dell workstation where a 3DLabs Oxygen graphics card was first used and then an S3 card showed sporadic performance. An IBM ThinkPad configured with S3 SavageIX chipset worked flawlessly.

Figure 1 Configuring multiple monitors on a Windows XP-configured laptop.

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