GFX-1600SW Multi-Link Adapter Alternative

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There's a new card that provides MultiLink Adapter functionality designed by members of the original 1600SW development team. The card makes the 1600SW compatible with many modern graphics card. This page provides some background info on the 1600SW, provides some info on the card, and support options.

I've bought this card and used it in conjunction with my G5 PowerMac with the NVidia GeForce FX 5200 controller at home. It's wonderful! Since this is a really cost effective way of getting an excellent display I've put this web page together to let others know.

G5 with 1600SW screenshot


The SGI 1600SW was an outstanding display when it was released by SGI and is still very good by today's standards. The monitor supports 24-bit 1600x1024 resolution at 110 dpi. (See article about the display).

SGI stopped selling the 1600SW a couple of years back, and today they can be bought on eBay for around $300US. The displays were designed before DVI became standardized and use a proprietary LVDS digital signalling scheme and connector. There are no cards in production that still support the hardware and those that can be bought off of eBay are several years behind the cutting edge.

Until today the only option to work with more recent graphics cards has been to buy the SGI MultiLink Adapter. The MultiLink Adapter converts between DVI and LVDS and allows graphics cards with DVI interfaces and that support the wide-display to work with the 1600SW. These originally retailed for around $500US and today sell for upwards of $600 on E-bay. This is twice the cost of the display and makes the total package cost around $900US. This might make you wince as the 20-inch Apple Cinema display retails for $1300US and offers a similar resolution and aspect ratio.

the GFX-1600SW PCI board

The GFX-1600SW DVI / DFP to LVDS converter

The GFX-1600SW provides similar functionality to the SGI MultiLink Adapter - it converts DVI-Digital (DVI-D) and Digital Flat Panel (DFP) to the LVDS digital interface of an 1600SW. This is very, very cool! The card rests in a PCI slot on your PC or Mac (or other PCI-bus equipped machine) and draws its power from the bus to run the converter hardware. The converter does present itself as a PCI device on the bus and so requires no drivers. The converter is completely transparent to the host so should work with any host operating system on (FreeBSD, Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, etc) as long as the hosts graphics adapter and driver is capable of the appropriate display modes.

The adapter is developed by Dan Evanicky, who headed the engineering team responsible for the 1600SW, and Oscar Medina. The card is distributed as th GFX-1600SW by Sharper Technology.

Graphics Cards

In order to work with the GFX-1600SW graphics cards must have a DVI or DFP interface. There's a spreadsheet of the cards known to work under DOS and Windows. For XFree86 users, it's reasonable to expect cards that work under DOS / Windows and have XFree86 support should work. Mac's equipped with graphics cards with DVI ports should work fine (I can personally vouch for the NVidia GeForce FX 5200).

Some cards may have an issue with the display settings when the machine boots under DOS or Windows. The problem lies with the communication that happens between the graphics adapter and the display when the graphics adapter is powered up, and what it subsequently reports to BIOS. Bill Evanicky phrases it so:

"During DOS boot, Windows Boot, Windows VGA Safe or Windows SAFE MODE, the system graphics gets the timing information from your graphics card's Basic In/Out System (BIOS) that resides on a Read Only Memory (ROM) device within the graphics card itself and contains the basic I/O commands to display graphics and text to the screen.

Apparently, space in the newer graphics cards' boot ROMs are at a premium and the 1600SW is no longer a viable market, so some manufacturers have removed support for its timing information during the bootup phase. If the graphics card's BIOS does not include the support for a specific screen resolution, then it chooses one that is the closest to the monitor to which it is connected. Sometimes, it selects a video mode that would require it to drive the 1600SW monitor outside its normal operating range. When that happens, the monitor will usually ignore the timing sent to it and flash the amber LED to indicate it is not receiving any video information.

After Windows finishes booting, the system graphics then gets the timing information from the display driver -- this is a software utility that is provided by the card vendor, usually on a CD or it can be downloaded from the vendor's Web site (and it's a good idea to always download the latest version). Fortunately, ATI, NVIDIA and even, I believe, Matrox still support the 1600SW's native screen resolution of 1600x1024 in their display drivers so you should be good to go once the OS comes up.

What we have done where a graphics card lacks the SGI monitor's timing information necessary to scale up certain lower resolutions is to modify the firmware in the Extended Identification (EDID) chip on our adapter. We replicate lower resolutions like 800x600 and 640x480, one atop the other, during the bootup phase and for Safe Mode so you can interact with either of the screens if you want to modify your BIOS or change other parameters. Please note that graphics cards for the Macintosh do not have this problem because they must support the Apple Cinema Studio display which has the same pixel format at the SGI 1600SW. "


Some recent laptops have DVI outputs. I tested an Apple Powerbook with the GFX-1600SW and 1600SW and found it worked fine when connected -- when it was disconnected, the screen didn't immediately revert back to the usual display, but did eventually get there.

VillageTronic and Margi sell adapters than support DVI/DFP which can be used in conjunction with the GFX-1600SW and 1600SW. The VillageTronic VTBook appears to have the edge in terms of specs at the time of writing.

Support for the 1600SW

Dan Evanicky purchased all of Mitsubishi Japan's remaingin 1600SW inventory and bought out one of the European Service Depots. He has brand new monitors, complete display modules, backlight lamps, and many other spare parts. Dan also sells refurbished units with a 1-year warranty and will replace the backlight CCF tubes to restore the brightness and chromaticity characteristics back to their original quality.

You can reach Dan via email


Most of the information on this page comes from Dan Evanicky. Dan was the technical lead on the SGI 1600SW and who provided much of the information on this page and was the technical lead on the SGI 1600SW project.


If you have comments on this web page, or experiences with the GFX-1600SW, that you'd like to share then send an email to

* Caveat Emptor: before buying the card, check that the host graphics adapter and driver is capable of displaying the appropriate display modes.

Content last modified: July 2006
Page pulled from cache and placed at Byte Cellar (orig page 404's): February 2008

Thanks to 'Orion' who created this page...wherever you are...