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Matrox's Extio Reviewed 204

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the serious-kvm-solutions dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Looks like Matrox isn't as dead as some of us thought. This box of tricks lets you connect four displays up to a PC that's 250 meters away. All the graphic data is sent down a fiber optic cable to the Matrox box that then connects to the screens. To the end user it feels like they're working directly on the PC, but the PC can be locked away somewhere safe."
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Matrox's Extio Reviewed

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  • by slincolne (1111555) on Friday July 13, 2007 @03:46AM (#19846485)
    A nice, quiet, mediawall without the bulk of the PC's to get in the way.

    These would be so cool for demonstrations and conventions.

    I wonder how many of these cards you could fit in a single computer ?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by suv4x4 (956391)
      These would be so cool for demonstrations and conventions. I wonder how many of these cards you could fit in a single computer ?

      ... one.
    • by muffen (321442) on Friday July 13, 2007 @06:20AM (#19847059)
      We've been using KVM Extenders for years, so when we get into the office we put our laptops in the serverroom, and via the KVM extender we can work in a different room. No noise, and the computers are kept cool all the time.

      This was initially done for security reasons, and the first KVM Extenders we had couldn't forward sound or USB, but nowadays it's not a problem at all, and it's all done over cat5 cables.
      • by timeOday (582209)

        but nowadays it's not a problem at all, and it's all done over cat5 cables.
        I don't see how anything running over CAT-5 is going to be adequate for remoting high-def video / gaming displays.
    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday July 13, 2007 @09:17AM (#19847855)
      Oh great, now I have to walk 250 meters every time the damn thing crashes! Do you have any idea what a strain this will put on us fat programmers?!?!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 13, 2007 @03:46AM (#19846487)
    Given the matrox [[1,2],[3,4]], compute the matrox's extio.
  • Uhm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Friday July 13, 2007 @03:47AM (#19846493)
    Looks like Matrox isn't as dead as some of us thought.

    When was Matrox dead ffs? When Seagate bought them, they were one of the top HDD brands (well, for commodity OEM drives, if not known for amazing quality).

    The fact that half of Matrox's utilities are producing Seagate brand drives doesn't make them dead, does it.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      When was Matrox dead ffs?

      Yea, laugh at me :(

      "He mixed up Maxtor with Matrox. Idiot!"

      I deserve it.
    • by smchris (464899)
      Heh, heh. Seagate utilities or not -- The way a linux person might love nvidia, I had a soft spot for Matrox because they were pretty much _the_ company that supported accelerated OS/2. But that was a long time ago. Man, not competitive with nvidia on price so we get all these niche-market things. That said, I have an old 32 meg dual-head DVI that I'm keeping because I think it would be ideal for a machine I want to run Xen.
  • by _merlin (160982) on Friday July 13, 2007 @03:49AM (#19846499) Homepage Journal
    Matrox never went away completely - they just left the consumer market. They still sell cipsets for connecting very large numbers of monitors to computers. Dual-head is nothing to them - they do eight- and even sixteen-head chipsets. They don't handle games well, but it you just want lots of displays...

    This product doesn't look suited to the consumer market, either. It looks like a solution for airport terminals or something - hide away a PC with one of their multi-head video cards and use this to carry the video to where you want people to see it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They are in the "Industrial Market", machine vision, etc.
      I see their ads in Advanced Imaging Magazine all the time.
      http://www.advancedimagingpro.com/ [advancedimagingpro.com]
      • by spac (125766)
        I was a model in one of the recent Matrox ads. (Hint: I was standing on a ladder)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by value_added (719364)
      This product doesn't look suited to the consumer market, either.

      Indeed, the article quotes the price to be as reviewed £1,645.00 (Inc VAT). That's a chunk of change, to be sure.

      My own solution (to cut a hole through two adjoining rooms) produces similar results, but is far less elegant. I'd be interested in such a device. Or, put another way, it may be that the limited consumer market includes people concerned about noise, clutter and peace of mind (like me), in addition to any number of other subg
    • With 4-8 display one PC with say 4 gigs of Ram, a 16 Port USB Hub and VMWare. You have 1/4-1/2 of of a computer lab running on one system. I do something simular on my Mac with Parallels and only 2 displays where I have a keyboard and a mouse hooked up via USB and I mount those USB devices into my Virtual System and have it Full Screen on an other system. So it just like having 2 systems side by side.
    • I always though one of these [uic.edu] would be nice.
  • That's good.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RuBLed (995686) on Friday July 13, 2007 @03:55AM (#19846521)
    It is good that the pc be installed somewhere safe, it would provide a more physical protection for the box itself although I'm not sure of the data.. But I find this ironic...

    This is where Matrox comes in with the Extio, which offers secure remote access, complete with multi-screen display options. The Extio itself is a small metal box that sits on your desk


    Now we got more than $1K of equipment sitting on the desk... (according to the price on the article)
    • The retail price of the equipment is sometimes far less than the value of the data in the computer or the function it serves.
    • Erh... the average gamer has at the very least $1k of equipment sitting on (or under) his desk...
  • I was hoping to read about a new standard monitor connection that replaces DVI (and HDMI) with fiber.
    Instead Matrox has opted to move the graphics processor out of the computer, and use a (no doubt proprietary-format) optical link between the two.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by paimin (656338)

      I was hoping to read about a new standard monitor connection that replaces DVI (and HDMI) with fiber.
      That already exists [practical-...-guide.com].
    • by jcr (53032)
      It's probably just PCI-express over fiber. Why would they invent something they could just buy off the shelf?

      -jcr

  • by jimmydevice (699057) on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:19AM (#19846617)
    I thought IBM did this back in 1970 with twinax. I know I did this with coax for a good 500 feet in 1998 (it was a demo at a airport). Why is this news and why would you need to do this now? Is display hardware, wireless or local fiber networking that expensive that you need to buy a 10 year old solution to solve your ill planned design?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Just Some Guy (3352)

      I thought IBM did this back in 1970 with twinax.

      What was the resolution on that twinax? Did it do 1920x1200 times 4 (source: product info page [matrox.com])? Have the equivalent of 6 USB 2.0 ports? Support digital sound transport? Work on commodity hardware?

      Remote displays have been around for quite a while, but this is the modern incarnation of it. I'm not going to turn town a terabyte SATA drive just because I used a DEC with hard drives in the 70s.

      Why is this news

      Because most of us (myself included) didn't know that such a thing existed until we read this story.

      and why would you need to do this now?

      For

    • It doesn't matter what was done in the past. Seriously. I think we need to get over who did it before.

      Ill planned design? Sometimes it takes a less common solution to solve a problem. I don't know what the problem would be, but then, I am not well versed in problems that need unusual solutions. I think airports are one use though, if you think about it. I've seen video displays for departures and arrivals at airports out in the open, away from walls, and you can't really fit a computer there without
  • How elegant it seems to me, sending visual information in packets of light. It reminds me of seeds of some beautiful flower which instantly sprout when planted.

    I wonder, if one were to send a one minute stream of uncompressed video data, would more photons be required for the transmission over the fiber, or in the final display to the user/viewer?
    • by cybereal (621599) on Friday July 13, 2007 @09:11AM (#19847805) Homepage

      I wonder, if one were to send a one minute stream of uncompressed video data, would more photons be required for the transmission over the fiber, or in the final display to the user/viewer?

      But, the real question is if these cables ran under water could we consider each packet a photon torpedo?

  • From the article (Score:4, Informative)

    by lewko (195646) on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:38AM (#19846691) Homepage

    Recording studios for example could use high powered PCs without having to put up with the constant drone of cooling fans - an Extio installation would give you all the power of a high-end workstation, while the noisy hardware whirs away in a soundproof room in another part of the building.

    As opposed to say putting the artists in a soundproof room, and the recording and PC gear in a control room.
    • by fruey (563914)
      In the control booth where you're already more or less soundproofed from the artists, it's still nice to have no loud machines, because you have monitor speakers in there too, and it might help in having a better environment for optimal level setting & pre-eq / noise cancellation.
    • by antifoidulus (807088) on Friday July 13, 2007 @05:22AM (#19846869) Homepage Journal
      How about we just put Justin Timberlake in a sound proof, airtight room and forget to open it back up?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Just Some Guy (3352)

        How about we just put Justin Timberlake in a sound proof, airtight room and forget to open it back up?

        Would that be a dick in a box?

  • It would be nice for airport displays [lagom.nl]. A single server can drive all displays and no restrictions on video cable lengths. Apparently, it currently is one server, one video card per display. But maybe I'm mistaken.
    • by imsabbel (611519)
      Seeing that its cheaper to have a small server with a LAN port in the display than using such a device, i am not that sure.
      • by LWATCDR (28044)
        That depends on how important uptime is to you.
        You could keep the display box in your server room and use a good server class machine for it. Redundant power supplies, ECC RAM, and RAID. Just put more than one card in the server and drive many displays with this gadget.
        Need to upgrade the hardware? One box and it is in your server room.
        Of course it gives you a single point of failure but with a good server class machine that isn't a terrible problem. And if you are really worried keep a spare..
  • ...this is kick-ass for sound applications. You can keep a noisy eight core workstation in a separate room together with a huge drive array, and only have the interface inside your studio booth. Excellent!

    Another interesting bit is that the actual graphics processor is in the Extio, not in the PC. This way rendering lag is minimized. Weird, yet cool.
    • by T.E.D. (34228)

      Another interesting bit is that the actual graphics processor is in the Extio, not in the PC. This way rendering lag is minimized.

      I'm not sure I understand this comment. The information is still going to have to travel (up to) 250 meters from CPU to display. What does it matter for lag where in that 250 meters the GPU sits? Perhaps I don't understand what you mean by "rendering lag"?

      I work on commercial flight simulators. Lag as measured from control movement to video response is something the FAA has stand

  • by valderievaldera (952266) on Friday July 13, 2007 @05:56AM (#19846981)
    Matrox being dead or not dead, whatever some of us thought, at least Matrox's marketing department is able to make excellent use of the powerful /. publicity-tool "post [your product name here] as an anonymous coward".
  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Friday July 13, 2007 @07:34AM (#19847307)
    Finally, a company makes a product that I've been crying out for since ages ago. Now there just needs to be a consumer version of this video+USB-over-fibler protocol. It should, however work this way: the graphics processing should be done at the machine, and the fiber optics cable should just carry the video signal. If a 20 meter cable and a fiber-to-DVI+USB junction cost, say, $150 (not unrealistic), it could kick off the next mass revolution in home computing, where the computer itself becomes an appliance like a water heater.

    Here's what I'm pictuing: People spend tons of money to make their computer quiet and well-cooled. But if the thing lived in the cold basement, they could bolt in cheap gigantic fans and disturb noone. But here's the kicker: The basement computer would be a multi-user system, where all the users of the household (including, for example, the living room display) would be using the same system simultaneously. Their rooms would contain displays and input devices only, wired in by fiber. Even if that happens, they're unlikely to get in each others' way, since by then these things will have at least 16 processor cores for them to share. But it means that if a single user needs to do something processor-intensive, she'll have the power of a pretty serious 16-core machine behind her, while the kids browsing myspace from the same computer (but on a different display) won't even notice.

    3D GPUs are also about to go seriously multicore, and resource division on those will be easier than it is with CPUs. So if there are two gamers in the house, they could share a powerful multicore card and get acceptable performance. But if only one of them is playing, he can hog the resources of all the cores, and turn everything up to eleven.

    This paradigm of the basement computing appliance could revolutionize the way hardware is made and marketed. Multisocket motherboards for the mass market could easily become common, but I'm picturing also a system of arbitrary daughterboards with extra processing units, which will speed up the system without forcing the owner to scrap things. Sure it will become a giant lego-like mess that sounds like a jet, but that's OK. It's in the basement (and will by then hopefully have sane power management which will turn off absolutely every part of every chip which isn't being used).

    My point is that normal households with multiple computers today duplicate a lot of resources which go wasted, since single user has the opportunity to use them all simultaneously. The way to fix that is to pool all the household's processing into a single, big, arbitrarily extensible machine which stays out of people's way. And for that, we need a good long-run digital video over fiber standard. And maybe, with all the excess heat these things will put off, they really could double as the hot water heater!

    • by amorsen (7485)
      But here's the kicker: The basement computer would be a multi-user system, where all the users of the household (including, for example, the living room display) would be using the same system simultaneously. Their rooms would contain displays and input devices only, wired in by fiber.

      Yay for the return of the mainframe!
    • by brucmack (572780)
      I agree with you totally... we are missing the ability to run multiple simultaneous users on home machines. I also agree with you about graphics cards... as soon as DX10 takes off, graphics virtualization becomes king and graphics power can easily be shared between processes just like a CPU.

      The only bad thing about this is the basement requirement... Where I live, most houses don't have basements, not to mention the people who live in apartments. So I wouldn't mind getting all that in a nice silent form fac
      • by Richy_T (111409)
        I agree with you totally... we are missing the ability to run multiple simultaneous users on home machines.

        Who's this "we"?

        Rich
    • by TagrenHawk (19856)
      While I appreciate the sentiment expressed here, I have a couple of questions:

      When Timmy wants to play a game that requires the CD/DVD to be present in the machine, is he going to be willing to stomp down the stairs every time he wants to play? And how is Susie going to react when Timmy takes out the latest teeny-bopper movie she was watching in order to play Halo 8? Plus, when he fires up the game Daddy's Skype conference call with the important client on the other side of the world pauses at a critical
      • Virtually all "media other than USB" can be connected via USB, so I don't see a big problem.

        While external DVD+-R drives are in the $60-70 range right now (compared to $30-40 for internal), there's no reason why they couldn't drop to be just a dollar or two more than an internal drive if demand increased, since there's not a whole lot of extra hardware necessary. Readers for many other types of media (especially flash cards) are only just now being built in to computers, and are more commonly used in read
    • Don't leave audio out of the mix. A little bit of TOSLINK should be stirred in to that fiber optic signal, also.
  • but the PC can be locked away somewhere safe.

    You misspelled that last word. It should be q-u-i-e-t.
  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday July 13, 2007 @08:52AM (#19847687) Homepage Journal

    We have a friend who damaged her ear in an accident and simply can't tolerate any level of white noise or background humming. Her and her husband have gone so far as to build onto their house and concentrate all of the noisy appliances into the new section so that the rest of the house can be silent. When they visit our house, we unplug the refrigerator while they're around.

    When I tell her husband about this, he will place an order within the hour. They've had a hard time getting a silent PC that's quiet enough (yes, her ear is really that damaged) but still reasonably nice, and I'm certain they'd rather have a high-end, powerful PC that can sit in the "noisy part" of the house and still be absolutely silent at her desk.

    • That sounds more like brain damage (differentiating signal from noise) than ear damage (she can hear both signal and noise or she wouldn't be bothered!).
      • That sounds more like brain damage

        It could be. As I said to another poster, although we're friends, we're not extremely close. At least, we're not close enough that I'd feel comfortable asking about the distinction.

        However, I was shot in the ear by a paintball gun once. The ball basically formed a perfect seal with the hole, and I honestly thought I was dying at first. It was agonizing. Once I was able to walk without throwing up, the pain gradually decreased and mostly went away. I saw a doctor shortly after and he said that it d

  • All the morons who think this is a good idea should google "KVM extender". They've been around for years.

    Nope. This gadget isn't so you can "hide the PC", it's for something else. Public information displays stuff like that...
  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Friday July 13, 2007 @10:30AM (#19848513)
    I support an energy trade floor and got to demo the beta of the Extio over a year ago. We currently have a mixed environment where every trader has a laptop and a blade [clearcube.com] that resides in our server room. The big plus for us with this device is it turned the laptops into 4 monitor blades because you can connect to it via an expresscard slot. I can say that the blades which push an Nvidia Quadro over cat5 is always washed out whereas the Extio looked very crisp and clear.
  • Homer: Mmmmmm Remote Multi-Display MythTV System...
  • ...with SGI machines. I have no idea what tech they were using (I worked in the Ince buildings next door, but got to tour the datacenter and production floors once), but each designer had two SGI boxes linked with some Cray-sourced technology. Both machines were rackmounted in a block-long data center. Out on the production floor, all that was on the desks was a keyboard, mouse, screen, and a pod into which you could hook up speakers or headphones. Totally silent production floor, all the noisy fans, he
  • Another good use for these -- clean rooms. I work in the pharma industry, and always cringe when I see a PC in a clean room. You've got a fan pushing air through the insides of a dust-collecting box, that you can't spray down with disinfectant to decontaminate.

    With one of these, you've still got the keyboard/monitor, but you can get sealed keyboards and LCD monitors fairly easily, while sealed PCs are a lot harder to come by.
  • A while back, I had a requirement were having 3 to 5 monitors up showing data, analysis, and results all LIVE would speed up results. Matrox looked like the product that would do the job. I looked at the Matrox solution, and found my bank account wanting. So I looked at what Debian/Knoppix/Ubuntu offered. The result is a multi-monitor graphics machine for the price of a single Matrox card; Good product, I just can not afford it.

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