Silicon Graphics 1600SW

Hacks, Silicon Graphics FAQs

Silicon Graphics’ 1600SW TFT display is a unique piece of kit. Due to it’s strengths it’s still sought after today, despite dating from 1998. However, like everything SGI produce, it looks very nice indeed, but is far from ‘normal’. Yes, even their monitors are a bit odd. Don’t expect to buy one and just plug it in.

This page is a collection of FAQs and information about this excellent display.

SGI’s 1600SW FAQs

SGI have a collection of 1600SW FAQs on their site. These are a bit outdated, as they refer to issues from when the monitor was in production, but they still have some useful information.

They can be found at

A local mirror can be found here.


What’s so good about the 1600SW anyway?

You mean, apart from the usual stylish SGI design? :-)

The two main things it has going for it are an incredibly fast pixel update – which means none of the using streaking or blurring you get from a TFT – even when playing games.

It’s also the only TFT (still!) to support a native 16:9 resolution. Not only does this mean that content creators can fit two full screens of work on, side by side (ie. two screens worth of 800×600 resolution) but it is also very handy for working with digital video.

Check this HotHardware review from December 2001:

What’s the connector on the 1600SW?

It’s OpenLDI, which was a (superior) alternative to DVI. Back in the day, there were two emerging digital formats – OpenLDI and DVI. Think Betamax and VHS. SGI went for the technically superior OpenLDI, and everyone else went for DVI.

So, can it plug into a DVI card then?

No, the connector and the signal are completely different.

What cards natively support the 1600SW then?

There are only 3:

  • 3D Labs Oxygen VX1-1600SW
  • Number Nine Revolution IV
  • Formac ProFormance 3 (Mac card)

What machines natively support the 1600SW?

Again, there were only 3 – all SGIs:

  • SGI 320
  • SGI 540
  • SGI O2/O2+

These machines will only support the 1600SW when they are fitted with a small credit-card sized adapter card. It fits onto the motherboard via a custom connector, and provides an LVDS connector for the on board graphics. These adapters occasionally pop up on Ebay, and will only work with the 1600SW.

So how can I use the 1600SW with my modern machine?

You’ve got a few choices here. The original is the MultiLink Adapter (MLA) from SGI. This takes HD15 analogue or DVI input, and provide LVDS output. They are obviously sought after, and often cost as much as the 1600SW itself.

The other, newer, option is the PIX Link adapter from PIX Solutions – their web site is The PIX Link is a DVI->LVDS converter. There is a Pro version which offers various extra options for choosing resolution, colour temp, etc.

I have a PIX Link and it works very well indeed.

You can also buy a PCI-based pass-through adapter. It’s PCI based so that you don’t need another external box – it takes power from the PCI bus and requires no OS drivers to function. The card has been developed by Dan Evanicky (head of the engineering team responsible for the 1600SW) and Oscar Medina. The card is distributed as the GFX-1600SW by UltraFlex and the EP-1600 by Sharper Technology.

UltraFlex also sell 1600SW displays with the GFX-1600SW mounted inside the flat-panel. The relevant power lines exist in the monitor to make this possible. They will also mount a converter inside an existing panel, and carry out repairs.

More details can be found at

As of December 2008, the only adapter available from new is the GFX-1600SW, which is available from Sharper Technology and Niktec. I’ve an updated post showing fitting a GFX-1600SW into my Fuel.

Now I’ve got the 1600SW working with my machine, but the display is funny?

The 1600SW’s native resolution is 1600×1024 @ 60Hz, which provides a true 16:9 display. Anything else is going to look odd – you’ll have letterbox blank spaces at the top or the side of the screen.

Also note that LCD displays, unlike CRTs, operate at a set resolution. Try to drive them at anything else and they will scale the image. This means it may not look in proportion, or the fonts look odd. With an LCD screen, you should always try and drive it at it’s native resolution.

What’s this about Super Wide Savvy cards?

It’s marketing fluff. It basically means a graphics card which can support 1600×1024 resolution. Most modern cards should be able to do this.

What’s this ColorLock thing?

The ColorLock is a widget that hooks over the top of the screen, and plugs into the back. You can then calibrate the colours using the display drivers on your host machine.

Note display drivers being the key phrase here – the ColorLock will only work with those machines that natively support the 1600SW. It’s useless on anything else.

What are the specs. of the 1600SW?

Brightness 170 Cd/m2 min., > 235 Cd/m2 maximum
Colour Resolution 16.7 million true colors
Contrast ratio 350:1 typical
Display area 14.6 inches (H) x 9.3 inches (V)
(369.6 mm (H) x 236.5 mm (V))
17.3 inch (44 cm) diagonal
Dimming range 35% to 100%
Dot pitch, dots per inch 0.23mm, 110dpi
Pixel resolution 1600 H x RGB x 1024 V
(4,915,200 subpixels)
Response time 40 ms typical combined rise and fall
13ms Rise
27ms Fall
Viewing angle Horizontal: ±60°
Vertical: +45°/-55°
White balance range 5000° K to 7000° K, adjustable through
software on the host computer

How else can I mount the screen?

The 1600SW has a standard 75mm VESA mounting at the back. Two hex bolts secure the display to it’s pedestal. Lift the screen up to the top of the pedestal and they should be easy to get to.

As well as standard 75mm VESA mounts, you can also use 100mm VESA mounts with an adapter.

1 Comment

One Response

  1. brycenesbitt  •  November 11, 2008 @5:33 pm

    Yet more information (updated Nov 2008) can be found at Wikipedia 1600SW. Pix Solution and Ultraflex no longer carry 1600SW products. For current stuff check Niktec.