DVGear DV Dream Matrox RT.X2 Turnkey Editing System Review

Fan-tastic Turnkey

Resistance is futile. HD editing is barreling down on us, whether we like it or not. For most of us, it means either upgrading our current editing computer systems or getting an optimized turnkey solution. So, for those of you who don’t want to become your own tech support, we checked out DVGear’s latest workstation.

DVGear’s DV Dream turnkey editing system comes out of the box ready to play. We simply turned it on, transferred our project and media files, opened Premiere Pro and started editing without a single hiccup.

On the hardware side, the DV Dream features an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.66GHz processor, 4MB of L2 cache, 2GB of 800MHz RAM and a Matrox RT.X2 capture card. Pre-installed software includes Windows XP Pro and the Premiere Pro CS3 bundle that comes with Encore, OnLocation, Bridge and Device Central.

For real-world tests, we compared some hardware specs and key video production benchmarks of the DV Dream with a recently upgraded system we had on hand. This other system was running Windows XP Home on an AMD Athlon 64 FX-62 2.8GHz CPU, with 4GB of 333MHz RAM, one system and two A/V drives (all running at 7200RPM). All drives had plenty of space and were defragged just prior to our tests.

Looks Cool. Is Cool.

With four case fans and three others chill’n the power supply, CPU and even a heat pump, DVGear is taking heat transfer seriously. Cables are neatly run and secured to optimize airflow, make drive access a breeze and generally look tidy. Even the power supply is located at the bottom rear of the case, a place we’ve rarely seen used in anything less than enterprise-class computers. All of this is clear to the eye, as the left panel is half ventilation grid and half Plexiglas viewing port.

So how cool does all this neatness keep important stuff like hard drives and the CPU? After working for more than an hour in a room with an ambient temperature of 69 degrees, the CPU was at 88 and the 3 internal hard drives were only at 71, 71 and 82 degrees. The CPU in our comparison system was 108 and the drives, in a similar three-drive configuration with a dedicated cooling fan, were at 86, 89 and 91 degrees. We’ve monitored systems that did nothing special to optimize cooling where drives cooked along at 160 degrees and higher. Another bonus: even with all of its large high-efficiency fans, the DV Dream is still only about half as loud as our comparison system with its standard 80mm fans.

Other tidbits we liked include having the power and reset switches on the top panel, along with one FireWire and two USB connections. Also conveniently located on the top is a small rubberized holding tray for stashing removable media like thumb drives. At the back end, dual monitor support and even dual-gigabit Ethernet give you plenty of output options.

Oh, yes, the blue fan-lights pimp the ride complete.

Optimized for Video

One of the reasons to invest in a turnkey system is that you don’t have to spend a half to full day loading software and another several hours finding, downloading and installing updates. All of the key system updates in our DV Dream, such as BIOS and drivers for video and audio hardware, were up to date. There were a few updates to the full Adobe suite of programs that come with Premiere Pro, but these were very recent releases and the Adobe updater can make updating a fully-automated process.

We were glad to see only 20 processes running in the background, consuming a mere 172MB of RAM, to further optimize video editing performance. This shows the DVGear folks have been judicious when installing Windows and the included software. It’s easy to get twice as many background processes going if you’re not careful. In fact, our comparison system had 41 processes munching up 340MB of RAM.

On the hardware side, the DV Dream meets or exceeds all of Adobe Premiere’s system requirements. But, since it can really help and because it’s relatively cheap, we’d probably double the installed 2GB of RAM. The system stripes two Samsung hard drives together in RAID 0 that provide excellent sustained read and write speeds. We measured an average read transfer of 67.8MB/s and a 229MB/s burst speed.

Finally, the Matrox RT.X2 capture card is at the heart of the DV Dream, supplying the extra horsepower needed to accelerate multiple video layers and some types of effects on your high-definition timeline without redlining. It comes with a sturdy breakout box that has A/V inputs and outputs for composite, component and S-video via a Y-adapter.


Real-time Timeline

How a system will perform depends on many factors all working together, not just a fast CPU. Since we’re video editors, we’ll be looking at how the DV Dream handles day-to-day editing tasks, beginning with the basics.

We started our test drive by loading an 84-minute HDV project and related media that contained mostly straight cuts, with some dissolves and simple graphics. If you’ve worked with Premiere, you know it needs to index video and conform audio the first time it sees new media. This took a total of 13:19 on the DV Dream and nearly 21 minutes on our comparison system (see Figure 1). We also captured a few clips in both standard- and high-definition video from our JVC GY-110U.

Video on our timeline played back smoothly, even when we tossed in the standard-definition clips on the same timeline. We then stacked three additional HDV video tracks with audio and scaled and moved each over a five-second period. Again, very smooth real-time playback. Only when we added a fifth A/V track with motion did the system start bogging down. Our comparison system could handle only three tracks smoothly. Finally, we pulled out a known logjam – the Three-Way Color Corrector effect – and applied it to a single layer of HDV video. Our playback now had some stuttering, and we lost accurate audio sync. Matrox includes additional real-time effects, such as 3D DVE, blurring and others that perform as advertised.

We next loaded a 17-minute standard-definition video clip, to test DVD encoding speed. Using the Adobe media encoder to render an MPEG2-DVD file with 48/16 PCM audio at the highest-quality settings and two-pass variable bit rate, our DV Dream beat our comparison system by about 14% (see Figure 1). Matrox has its own flavor of media encoder; however, we did not see a marked increase in encoding speed over our previous test.

For about a week, we kept tossing various small projects at the DV Dream and were very impressed with its design and stability. While we felt confident this could handle most of our routine editing needs for high-definition material, for even more blazing speed or more real-time options, you’ll need to upgrade to a faster CPU or another system. Of course, DVGear’s Web site will allow you to customize your machine to fit specialized needs.

TECH SPECS

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 6700 at 2.66GHz

Capture Card: Matrox RT.X2 DV/HDV, including Adobe Premiere Pro CS3

RAM: 2048MB of 800MHz DDR2 running in dual channel

Video Card: nVidia GeForce 8800GTS

Audio Card: Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme

System Drive: 250GB SATA 700RPM

A/V Storage: Two 500GB 7200RPM drives in RAID 0

DVD Drive: Pioneer DVR-112DBK 18x dual layer

Power Supply: Antec TreePower Trio 650 watt

Strengths

  • Excellent system design
  • Excellent engineering and optimization of hardware and software

Weaknesses

  • Lack of balanced audio connections on breakout box
  • CPU limits some HD editing tasks

SUMMARY

A well-built, stable, good-looking and moderately fast turnkey video editing system..

Contributing editor Brian Peterson is a video production consultant, trainer and lecturer.

DVGear
2808 Hoyt Ave, Ste 301
Everett, WA 98201

$5,357

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