The SGI 1600SW Flat-Panel Display Saga [Updated 2024]

Back in ’03 I grabbed an SGI O2 system on eBay. I always wanted an SGI to play with (used them in the lab back in college for a bit) and it seemed the O2 was the best bang for the buck. To go with it I grabbed an almost-new SGI 1600SW widescreen, flat-panel display. 17.3-inches diagonal, 1600×1024 native resolution at 110dpi and an industrial design that’s won awards. [ Informative PDF here. ] A lovely display. The thing is, I really don’t use the O2 very often — glad to have it, but it sits idle most of the time. But that screen. What a screen….

I recently pulled my media PC out of the entertainment center and installed Ubuntu Linux on it as a second OS (XP’s on the box, as well). Just wanted to play around with Compiz Fusion, really. At any rate, it occurred to to me that the 1600SW would make a lovely display for that box. But sadly the SGI display is not DVI, but an LVDS signal. Happily, there are DVI to LVDS converters.

The best and most versatile is the SGI Multilink, an external box — but it’s costly. $400 on eBay is not an uncommon thing to see. As such, I’ve gone with a cheaper alternative: the GFX-1600SW [Archive] Multilink adapter alternative. It sits in a PCI slot (it just draws power — it’s not a graphics card) and converts a DVI signal to LVDS. Sadly, it doesn’t do much in the way of scaling non-native resolutions, but it was much cheaper than the SGI Multitlink.

In searching for information about the GFX-1600SW, I ran across a link that was 404-ing, but a trip to revealed the page. As it seemed helpful to folks trying to make modern use of the 1600SW, I’ve captured it and placed a copy here, on this site. Have a look. I tip my hat to ‘Orion,’ who created the page.

Wish me luck in this endeavor. The adapter is in the mail — I’ll let you know how things turn out.

UPDATE 2024: The Shuttle media PC was, years ago, repurposed to another family member (and has since died and been scrapped) and the SGI 1600SW lived for some time as a display on my Mac Pro. Since the Mac Pro has no PCI slots, I used a PowerPC-based “Amiga” (Sam440ep-Flex) I acquired since this post was written to power the GFX-1600SW card. It sat in that system for a couple of years just  drawing power, with video coming into it from the Mac Pro and leading out of it to the 1600SW on the desk. Quite a circuitous arrangement, if I do say so myself. 

Presently the 1600SW is on the shelf, along with the SGI O2 I originally used it with, but their last regular use role was in my DC office back in 2017

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12 Responses to The SGI 1600SW Flat-Panel Display Saga [Updated 2024]

  1. Josh says:

    You should keep checking out Nekochan, there was a Multilink that went for about $75 a few weeks ago. I am sure that there are a few more that will come up cheaper.

    I have 2 1600SW and I love them, the native resolution is just awesome.

    • Blake Patterson says:

      I was very sad to see the loss of Nekochan. I only recently became aware. Most of what I had loaded on my O2 came from that site.

  2. Kim says:

    Thanks for the info. Any news yet? I’d like to hook up my old 1600SW to a MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, my SGI power supply died, so that’s an additional problem…

  3. badr says:

    Ahhhh man. I also own an O2 and I have also the Visual Workstation SGI rolled out with Windows 2000 which was a mess… :( I was one of those whop fell on that trap…

    I don’t have the monitor though… I’d love to get my hands on of those monitors just because they look so frigging cool.

  4. Bryce says:

    Mine are still going strong, I just found a PIX-Link adapter on eBay to keep the tradition going. I just created a new page on Wikipedia to list all the adapters made for the monitor (see ).

  5. James says:

    I’ve got an SGi Octane and accompanying 19″ CRT monitor. I don’t suppose you happen to know anywhere that sells Octane -> VGA adapters? You see, as nice as the SGi monitor is, it’s massive and weighs about 20Kg; The space it consumes in my house could be better spent housing other retro gear.

  6. John L says:

    October 2013, I still have 5 SGI 1600SW displays in regular use. All of them use a SGI Multilink Controller. The only age related failures have been the 12v 4amp power supplies, but they are easily replaced for $20. Turn off the display when not in use to extend the life of the back light.

  7. Doalwa says:

    Have to chime in here, still using two 1600SWs as my main displays…one at work connected to my Retina MacBookPro and one at home connected to an Lenovo Thinkpad L530…I’m using the SGI Multilink adapter on both, both displays still work fine..SGI for life!

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  10. Bro says:

    Just like Doalwa I am still using an SGI 1600SW on my modern Linux machine. I love the monitor aspect ratio and the text rendering at the 110 DPI is superb. I have also just recently had to replace the power supply and I am running mine through the PCI card adapter as well. Additionally I have one column of vertical stuck pixels. They are stuck green. I think at some point I will attempt to fix it, but it may ruin the monitor.

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