Matrox RT.X10 video editing card review and test

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Matrox RT.X10

The RT.X10 is Matrox's second dual-stream editing card using software Codecs to take advantage of fast, modern processors. We check out how this more downmarket newcomer compares with its recently launched big brother, the RT.X100.

Matrox has a plan to take over the world of desktop video editing using what it calls the Power of X. This has nothing to do with cartoon heroes with superpowers. Realising that time is fast running out for hardware editing solutions, the company has made a radical leap to software, in order to take advantage of the exponential growth (to the power of X) in processor capability.

Matrox kicked off its global domination strategy with the RT.X100. This is aimed at a slightly higher, semi-professional market than its previous prosumer real-time editing products, such as the RT2500. Now, with the RT.X10, Matrox is targeting the hobbyist sector. The RT.X10 is intended to provide an upgrade path for editors who find themselves limited by a basic OHCI FireWire card paired with entry-level software.

Family features

The X10 hardware doesn't look that different to the X100, apart from a tell-tale vacant space where a large chip obviously could have been. The X10 doesnít have the C-Cube silicon found on all previous Matrox RT boards, although it does still carry a Matrox graphics accelerator to process the real-time 3D effects. All video compression and decompression duties have been shifted over to the host CPU, including output. The result is that two of the X100's most welcome features - real-time DV and MPEG-2 IBP output - are not available on the X10. The absence of the C-Cube also means that itís not possible to capture straight to MPEG-2 IBP either, confirming this card's less professional orientation. As with the X100, the host CPU is also called upon to perform a few extra real-time effects.

Conclusion

While the RT.X100 is a clear winner in its class, the RT.X10's position is a little more complicated. This isn't really to do with the card itself, although the lack of real-time chroma and luma keying are significant negatives. Indeed, the X10 is currently the most powerful editing card available for the money, with the DV500 DVD well behind in terms of real-time features.

What does limit the X10's potential is its lack of compatibility with many low-cost Athlon systems based on VIA KT chipsets. The various versions of KT are at the heart of most Athlon motherboards. However, Pentium 4s are coming down in price, and most of Intel's standard chipsets for the P4 processor are on the X10's compatible list.

So, although the chosen hardware platform must be compatible, the X10 still sets a new price point for real-time editing, and we can't wait to see how Matrox's competitors respond. Although some time in the future, the X10's major competitor won't be hardware at all, but software. For now, though, it represents the cheapest route to powerful real-time editing.

James Morris

Read the full review in December 2002's Computer Video magazine.




 

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