Sony Maximum Performance Upgrade Kit - Part 2

2. Specifications
The kit does come with pretty impressive specifications.

Read Speed 5x max DVD-ROM drive (CAV)
24x max CD-ROM drive (CAV)
Transfer Rate 6,740 KB/s max (DVD 5x)
3,600 KB/s max (CD-ROM 24x)
Average Access Time 115ms (DVD-ROM)
100ms (CD-ROM)
Interface EIDE (ATAPI)
Loading Mechanism Motorized Tray
Buffer Memory 512KB
Modes Supported CD Digital Audio and CD Extra
CD-ROM (Mode 1)
CD-ROM XA (Mode 2 Form 1 and Form 2)
CD-I (Mode 2 Form 1 and Form 2) CD-I ready, CD-Bridge, CD-RW, CD TEXT
Photo CD, Video CD, DVD Video, DVD-ROM and DVD-R
Package Contents Sony DDU220E DVD-ROM Drive
Sigma Designs REALMagic Hollywood Plus MPEG-2 decoder card
2 DVD-ROM titles
Audio and Video adapter cables for PC
User Guide
Minimum System Requirements Intel-based PC with Pentium 133MHz or higher
PCI2.1 compliant slot
Plug & Play BIOS support
16MB RAM and 2MB free hard disk space
SVGA card
16-bit SoundBlaster compatible soundcard
MS Windows 95 or later
Bus Mastering EIDE connection
Amplified Stereo Speakers (Dolby AC3 or Dolby Pro-Logic amplifier and speakers required for surround sound)

The unit that I received for review was not the full upgrade kit, however. I obtained the DVD-ROM drive and the MPEG-2 decoder card separately, and was lacking the 2 DVD-ROM titles. Mine only came with the Star Trek: First Contact DVD Screen Saver disc.

"The Advanced features of the player are also a lot more refined than Creative’s. You can click an Auto-Configure button which will adjust the colour/brightness and sizing controls automatically, but you can also go through a manual 12 step process to calibrate all three colours (red, green and blue) independently."

The rear of the Sony DVD drive showed the usual connections: power, EIDE connector, analog CD-audio output (MPC3) and the Master/Slave/Cable Select jumper switch. There was also a few pins marked Reserved, which looked vaguely like the Digital CD-audio connection on the Encore 2x. Since these pins were labelled reserved, and this was an evaluation unit, I did not test to see if my hunch was right. In case you are unaware of it, the Digital CD-audio output on the Encore plugs directly to the SBLive, and bypasses the Digital-to-Analog converters on the DVD-ROM drive, to yield, theoretically anyway, a cleaner signal.

"The REALMagic Hollywood card however, automatically uses the 16:9 enhanced mode."

The REALMagic (RM) Hollywood Plus card differs substantially from my Encore card, though it does provide much the same functionality. [Click here for listing of feature set]

The internal connections are as follows:

  • An analog CD-audio input (MPC3 compliant connection) from the DVD-ROM drive
  • An analog stereo output (MPC3 compliant connection) from the RM to your existing soundcard

This arrangement is much like the Encore’s.

The external connections are as follows:

  • Dolby Digital AC3 SPDIF output (to connect to an AC3 decoder/amplifier)
  • Stereo line out (downmixed from AC3 signal, for Dolby Pro Logic Surround amplifiers)
  • Monitor DB15 connection
  • VGA input (passthrough connection)

This arrangement marks a departure from Encore’s.

Firstly, the presence of a stereo line out was an added convenience. You can choose to hook up the CD-audio directly from the DVD-ROM drive to your soundcard’s internal CD-audio input, and connect the audio from your DVDs/VCDs to the soundcard’s Line In external input.

"Sigma Designs has also optimised their drivers to handle 16:9 optimised widescreen DVD titles. Most DVD titles are special editions and are shown in the original widescreen format used in the cinema theatres. This gives a panoramic view of the shots."

Unlike the Encore, the RM does not use a conventional VGA passthrough. A special cable, much like Canopus’ WitchDoctor connection, plugs from the DB15 of your VGA card to a special DIN input on the RM card. I was a little intrigued by this device and wondered if it will improve the quality of your existing VGA card, since the Encore was plagued by serious degradation.

The only negative aspect I felt when examining the bundle was that the DVD playback software and drivers were supplied on two floppy discs! It was quite a rude shock to me, since I have gotten used to having software being supplied on CD-ROMs.

But in hindsight, this actually makes sense. Assuming you have no CD-ROM drives and the DVD-ROM drive is your first drive, there is a chance Windows might not recognise the disc on start-up so it is always useful to fall back on floppy discs.

 

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