Test Bench:Matrox Parhelia Multi-Display Card

$399

Matrox Electronic Systems

1055 St-Rgis Blvd

Dorval, QC, Canada H9P 2T4

(514) 822-6000

www.matrox.com

A year or so ago, you needed a Matrox card to have a dual monitor setup. With the explosion of LCDs that can actually fit on your desk, dual-monitor video display cards are now almost standard. Matrox’s response is the triple-threat Parhelia, which isn’t just a triple monitor card, but can also be configured to output a dual-monitor workspace plus a preview window. That’s an ideal configuration for video editors.

Multiple Monitors and More

Before we began our tests, we immediately went to the Matrox Web site and downloaded the latest driver (version 1.04.00.078) and utility software for Windows XP. We then hooked up a digital flat panel to the main DVI connector (stamped "A" on the back of the card) and a Y-adapter to the secondary DVI connector. The Y-adapter splits to either two standard analog VGA connections (15-pin D-Sub) or to a single VGA and an S-video (or RCA) output.

Stretching a high resolution Windows workspace across three monitors gave us more screen real estate than we’ve ever had before. We used three 18-inch LCDs that ran natively at 1280×1024, which is what the Parhelia outputs (3840×1024). The card is not optimal for LCD panels that run natively at 1600×1200, although such screens are very rare and expensive at this time.

We connected an NTSC production monitor to the S-video adapter (any television will work). With the right software, in our case MediaStudio Pro 7, the monitor window is output to the television. Television previews are critical for checking the color in your video and watching out for interlacing problems, in addition to verifying edge-masking issues.

We are using the word "preview" here because that is the term for that-window-that-is-not-the-source window in your editor, but the "previews" are not really previews anymore. Instead, the S-video out is the finished video. Of course this is no problem for unaltered DV video sitting on the timeline, but we were able to add 3D motion picture-in-picture overlays, transitions and animated titles, all at the same time and all with full-frame, full-frame rate S-video previews. Clearly there is a collusion of technologies here between the CPU the software editor and the Parhelia card, but we were very impressed with what we saw.

Three for $399?

At first, we thought the Parhelia was a luxurious $399 triple-monitor card for folks who could afford three LCD displays: super cool, but not really something you need for editing video. When configured to output an NTSC preview from your timeline, however, it suddenly occurred to us that this card does much of what (much more expensive) real-time effects cards do. Suddenly, $399 for the Parhelia seems like a pretty good deal for what is, without question, the best display card for videographers.

TECH SPECS

RAM: 128MB

Driver Version: 1.04.00.078

Video Out Configurations:

  • 2 DVI
  • 1 DVI + 2 Analog VGA
  • 1 DVI + 1 Analog

    VGA + S-video (or RCA)


    System Requirements

    Platform: PC

    Operating System: Microsoft Windows 2000, XP

    Processor: 600MHz (or equivalent)

    Bus: AGP 2.0 compliant

    Other Hardware: 300W power supply

    Supported Video Software (for RT previews): Adobe Premiere 6.5, Avid Xpress DV 3.5, Ulead MediaStudio Pro 7, Adobe After Effects 5.5, Boris RED 3GL

    STRENGTHS

  • Dual-monitor + TV out
  • Real-time TV previews

    WEAKNESSES

  • Slightly complex to configure

    SUMMARY

    A versatile and powerful video display card for video editing.

  • LEAVE A REPLY

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here