December 3, 2022

I can’t say enough about Silicon Graphics’ 1600SW TFT display.

Cool looking in 1998, it’s cool looking today; but as with all SGI technology, it’s a little strange (that’s not a bad thing). This is not a monitor that you can just bring home, plug in, and go to work on. You’ve got to understand it first. But it’s well worth the effort, for even over 10 years later it doesn’t get any better than this.

To start with, the 1600SW has blazing silicone rainbow fast pixel update. You know that streaking and blurring you normally have to be concerned with, especially when you’re playing video games, using a TFT? You won’t find it here. That’s what I mean by lfast pixel update.

But, get this–they’re still the only TFT that will support a native 16:9 resolution. In case you don’t know what that means, producers/users can fit together two side-by-side screens stacked up with work or projects with no problem. This also makes them much better than others for working with digital video. (I should point out that a catch with this is that since this makes the native resolution 1600×1024 @ 60Hz, anything else is going to look strange and screwy, and that may happen to you as you adapt the 1600SW to your machine.)

Now, the 1600SW has a connector that’s OpenLDI. When TFT was still in the development stage, everyone except SGI was going for the cheaper alternative–DVI. OpenLDI is more expensive, but superior. The ROI is far better than with DVI. In other words, you’re getting what you pay for. There’s usually a good reason why something is more expensive than an alternative to that something. I don’t think one should cheap out on computer equipment–not even monitors.

This does make it so that the connector and signal are completely different, however, so you can’t plug it into a DVI card. The cards that the 1600SW will natively support are: 3D Labs Oxygen VX1-1600SW; Number Nine Revolution IV; and, Formac ProFormance 3 (Mac card).

As far as machines that will natively support the monitor, there are once again three, and they are all made by SGI: SGI’s 320; 540; and O2/O2+. Furthermore, they need a small credit-card sized adapter card to support the 1600SW. This card fits onto the motherboard through a custom connector. An LVDS connector is provided for the on-board graphics. These cards will not work on any other machine, either.

So, if you have a modern non-SGI machine, you can get an MLA (MultiLink Adapter) also made by SGI and get LVDS output from DVID or HD15 input. But there’s also PIX Solutions’ Pix Link adapter–this is a DVI-to-LVDS converter. My Pix Link has served me flawlessly.

Then there’s the PCI-based pass-through adapter card developed by original head engineer of the 1600SW development team Dan Evanicky and Oscar Medina. The power here comes directly from the PCI-bus. This is a convenient solution, too.