For the new millennium, I resolved to replace my two-year-old desktop system with a new-from-the-ground-up Windows dream machine. I kicked off the quest two weeks ago, and with the peerless advice of TechRepublic members, I’m on my way to assembling a solid shopping list.

My requirements are simple. As I wrote in the original Challenge: “At the top of my wish list is Windows 2000 multimonitor support. I’m not a gamer, so blazing 3D performance isn’t important. But I do want the ability to run at very high resolutions, using 24-bit color, without having to watch the screen repaint itself. And price is a consideration.”

For business users, it’s hard to beat the productivity boost that comes with adding a second monitor. As a technology writer, I can’t imagine working without at least two screens in view at all times. I can have a Web browser or e-mail client open in one window and Word or an HTML editor open in the other. Not having to switch back and forth between windows saves my sanity and my wrists!

Apparently, a lot of TechRepublic members are sold on multimonitor capabilities as well, judging by the flood of recommendations for Matrox Graphics’ Millennium G400 and Millennium G450 display adapters. I’ve used Matrox cards for years and have had nothing but positive experiences. The killer feature of the G400 and G450 is the DualHead Display option, which allows you to connect two monitors while only using a single slot. And the price is right, starting as low as $145 U.S. (The super-high-end G200 Multi-Monitor Series is tempting, but it’s overkill for my needs.)

TechRepublic member sir_tuc is certainly a fan of the G450: “Use the new Millennium G450 from Matrox!” he wrote. “Have you seen the output of this card? Beautiful! Stunning! Gorgeous! Don’t waste it on poor quality monitors. You cannot go wrong with this one. Will do all that you have asked and has enough left over as not to be outdated any time soon.”

The only caveat, as TechRepublic member montea pointed out, is this one: “According to Matrox, Windows 2000 does not support independent resolutions. This may (or may not) have an impact on your multimonitor support thoughts. In my view, the G450 at 2048×1536 24-bit color or 1600×1200 24-bit color (for multimonitor support) covers all the bases and at a reasonable price.” A Matrox representative confirmed that information. Although the G450 will run flawlessly under Windows 2000 at up to 1600×1200 resolution per monitor, both displays must run at the identical resolution. That could be a problem on my desktop, where I have a 21-inch analog monitor alongside a flat panel display that’s limited to 1024×768 resolution.

Several readers recommended graphics cards based on the Nvidia GeForce2 MX chipset. TechRepublic member Jay.Winks called the decision a “no-brainer.” He wrote, “The buck/bang ratio has been dominated by Nvidia for a while, especially with the release of the GeForce2 MX series, which rivals their higher-end cards’ performance marks for very little dinero. Add to that the multihead support in the MX portion of the Detonator driver series and it sounds like the cards were made for you.”

Finally, koval offered this rave review for ATI’s product line: “I would suggest the ATI Radeon 64MB DDR. Check reviews and you can see that in 32-bit mode, it keeps up with most or all GeForce 2 Ultras. You could go with a PCI version of an ATI card or other to be the secondary and set up the BIOS to have AGP your primary for all the Radeon features.” That’s a tempting solution, as my existing system already contains an ATI All-in-Wonder 128 that could easily migrate to the new system.

There’s my short list. Thanks to everyone who responded. I’ll let you know when I make my final decision!

Here’s Ed’s new Challenge
My quest to build a brand-new Windows dream machine for 2001 continues. This week, I’m focusing on storage components. I’ve got 2,001 TechPoints to exchange for your opinions about the state-of-the-art in IDE controllers and drives. I’d like the fastest, most-reliable storage possible, without sacrificing Windows compatibility or expandability. Want to earn the points? Share your personal experiences and include links to any products you recommend or any information you’ve found. The more details you provide, the more likely I am to select your post for publication in an upcoming Microsoft Challenge column. If you think you’ve got the answers, click here to tackle this week’s Microsoft Challenge.