Sony Maximum Performance Upgrade Kit - Part 3

3. Installation
The first thing I noticed when I was about to begin installing was that there were some cables missing. The first glaring omission was the EIDE cable. I believe that most users wouldn’t have one lying around. Luckily for me, I had a spare one (from the Encore drive the Sony replaced). The other omissions were the analog MPC3 cables that connects the analog CD-audio from the DVD drive to the MPEG-2 decoder card, and from the MPEG-2 card to your existing soundcard’s CD-in.

A quick email to the distributor confirmed that these cables would be supplied in the full upgrade kit.

Other than that minor inconvenience, the installation went on smoothly. Windows automatically detected the DVD-ROM drive without the need for me to supply any drivers, and only stopped to prompt me to supply the drivers for the RM Hollywood Plus card. After the drivers were recognised, all that was needed was for me to install the application (REALMagic DVD Station Control player) software.

4. Software
The software provided was very easy to use. The controls are laid out pretty much like a control panel of a standalone DVD player, and as a bonus, the cursor keys and ‘Enter’ on the keyboard work like their counterparts on a standalone DVD player’s remote control.

When using the monitor and switching to full-screen mode, I liked the pop-up panel (which pops up like the Taskbar) that gives you access to most of the DVD features (menu/volume/chapter searches/etc.), when you moved the mouse pointer to the bottom of the screen. This seems much more intuitive than Creative’s pop up menu.

"The video quality on all the DVD titles I tested were just amazing. The images were sharp and crisp and the colours were as saturated as the PowerDVD’s, without any of the jaggies found on i740."

The player also had some nice touches. For instance, the mouse pointer automatically disappears if you do not move it for a while and comes to life only when you move it afterwards. With the Encore, I find myself always needing to push the pointer all the way to the right so it doesn’t block off a part of the screen.

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. Unlike Creative’s software, the step-by-step tuning/calibration actually tells you what you should aim for, so you do not set the values too high or low.

The only problem I had was that the software did not automatically save the settings for future use. For instance, I calibrated the set for 800x600x16 bit, and then switched to 1024x768x16 bit and ran the player at that resolution. When I switched back to 800x600x16 bit, I had to re-calibrate all over again. I was using version 1.1 of the software. The latest version is version 1.3, which fixes this problem.


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Special Thanks to Mr Michael Tan of Convergent Systems
for the provision of the Sony DVD Upgrade Kit