|Sony Maximum Performance Upgrade Kit - Part 2
The kit does come with pretty impressive specifications.
||5x max DVD-ROM drive (CAV)
24x max CD-ROM drive (CAV)
||6,740 KB/s max (DVD 5x)
3,600 KB/s max (CD-ROM 24x)
|Average Access Time
||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
||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
|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
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.
Advanced features of the player are also a lot more refined than Creatives. 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.
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
This arrangement is much like the Encores.
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 Encores.
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
soundcards internal CD-audio input, and connect the audio from your DVDs/VCDs to the
soundcards Line In external input.
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.