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Visiontek 5564 Xtasy Everything
If there's anything about the future of technology that I hear about, it's one word, convergence. What exactly is convergence? Think about this example of the future. You are sitting on the couch in front of your television watching the SLTV station and your TV says "You have an incoming call from John Smith, would you like to accept?." You say yes, and in the corner of the screen a little box pops up with your friend John's head. You guys say hi to each other and he tells you to check your SLCentral.com stocks, so you tell your TV "Open up stock quotes for SLCentral.com," the screen splits in half, one with the SLTV channel you were watching, and the other with the internet that shows you all the charts and the current price of the SLCentral.com stock. "OHHHHHH BOOYYYY" you say, as you notice that your 1,000 shares in SLCentral.com jumped up 12 points and you can now stop working for the rest of the year! You tell the TV to close the stock window, it goes back to full screen SLTV and you tell John you have to go and celebrate. He hangs up, but of course you don't want to miss your favorite show on SLTV so you press pause, pausing the live television and go celebrate.
Can you see where I'm going at with this? Convergence in terms of technology is the merging of all your technologies into one thing. Can you picture something like that happening? I know that I can, in fact, if you're up-to-date on your technology, you'll know that a bunch of the stuff I mentioned is already happening right now, pretty cool huh?
Now that you understand what convergence is, lets apply this to Visiontek's new product, the Xtasy 5564 Everything, featuring NVIDIA's Personal Cinema. When I mention the personal cinema to people, many of them have never heard of it, so lets begin by just explaining what exactly it is. NVIDIA's press release on the product best explains it:
...the industry's most complete digital entertainment solution, offering consumers a sophisticated blend of consumer-friendly video functionality, industry leading DVD playback and award-winning 3D graphics technology all in one consumer friendly package. NVIDIA Personal Cinema is the first product of its kind to implement a multi-function remote control, ensuring users of a simplified and intuitive interactive PC/video experience.
If you are interested in reading the entire press release, you can find it here
We'll be talking about every one of the features that this product provides more in-depth throughout this review, so be sure to read carefully.
Easily schedule and organize the recording of your favorite TV shows
Preset Good, Better, Best and Customized Quality recording settings
Personal Digital Video Recorder
Superior Quality DVD Playback
High-Quality Video Editing & Publishing
High-resolution Video Conferencing
Industry's First Multi-function Wireless Remote
Video Output to Monitor, TV, or VCR PERFORMANCE
Industry's Best 2D/3D Graphics Technology
Real-time AVI, QuickTime, MPEG1, MPEG2 capture (VCR to DVD resolution)
Real-time MPEG2 Timeshifting Playback
Xtasy Everything 5564 comes with a 3 year warranty
What's In The Box
What can you expect with this product? A CD with the software and drivers, a remote control with batteries, all the wires you'll need, user manual, a Visiontek GeForce2 MX400 video card, and the NVIDIA Personal Cinema break box.
A Closer Look
Lets take a closer look at what is really included. The video card is a GeForce2 MX400 with 64MB of memory. If you are interested in seeing how the card performed, we put it up against a bunch of other cards including the entire NVIDIA Ti lineup. You can view the benchmarks and test results here. Overall, it's a budget card offering mediocre performance. One of the benefits to the card is that it does offer dual VGA using NVIDIA's TwinView technology so you can do some dual monitor action. I found this feature to be very useful and is a definite plus.
Next up is the personal cinema break box. Let's take a look at what kind of inputs and outputs this offers:
Aside from this, there is a spot for an FM connection, which means that there should be an FM tuner option at one point in time.
As you can see in the picture below there is a green and red LED inside the box. The green just means the unit has power, and the red dot is for the infrared connection with the remote control.
One of the first things I noticed with the unit is that it doesn't have the full composite inputs, meaning the red/white/yellow plugs, but only the yellow (video-in). When you look in the box you will notice that there is a wire that has the red/white composite wires and on the other end is a 1/8" audio jack. Right away I noticed a problem, how was I supposed to capture video from something like Nintendo 64 or Dreamcast where all you can use is composite plugs? I'm pretty sure you can go to radio shack and get a plug that can turn the composite audio plugs into a 1/8" audio jack, but that would require you to pay more. I would have liked the actual break box to just have all the composite inputs. Not only that, but when I did connect the Nintendo 64 for example, the space around the composite video-in is not big enough, so the plug does not fit. There are things that should have definitely been taken into consideration. Of course there are always ways around it to make it work, but you shouldn't have to go those measures. Either way, most of you will not need to be recording video from your console, so everything else should have no problems at all.
Next up is the remote control. This pretty much allows you to control everything from the DVD player to the TV to the electronic programming guide. A very nice addition, and we found it very easy to use.
The documentation included is a very simple quick installation guide. It's not very much documentation considering there is a plethora of software included, but if you take a look on the CD you will notice that there are guides for everything on there. This is great considering Visiontek usually lacks manuals. Even though they are on the CD, it's much better than nothing.
What's On The CD?
As I mentioned in the previous section, there are the manuals for the software, but what kind of software can you expect to get? Visiontek went with Intervideo's WinDVD and WinDVR, as well as MGI VideoWave 4.
WinDVD is a full-featured DVD player, and is excellent quality. I had no problems at all with it, and is an excellent inclusion. WinDVR on the other hand allows TV-tuner functionality as well as recording and something called timeshifting. The TV-tuner capabilities of the software worked great, it scans all of your channels and tells you what you can receive. It also has a very cool feature where you can surf all the channels and see what's going on with every channel at one time by taking screenshots every few seconds on each station. Recording worked perfectly, but one of the cool things is that you have the capability of recording a certain program at a certain time which is very nice. Timeshifting didn't work exactly as expected, and was something that I was very upset by. What timeshifting does is basically record a certain amount of seconds in it's buffer and then play the TV with a delay. This allows you to actually pause live TV, rewind, and fast forward. You guys have all heard of the Tivo box for your TV right? This essentially does the same thing. So when I found out that this didn't work too great, I was very turned off. What happens is that the timeshifting delays and the audio gets delayed from the video, so you get that old Chinese movie in English affect. At least for me, that makes the whole feature useless. Hopefully this can be fixed in a future software upgrade of the WinDVR software.
MGI VideoWave 4 is included to allow you to do some basic video editing. This is actually a fairly powerful program and very easy to use. So if you have no experience in editing video, and want to port everything on to the computer, VideoWave 4 is great. It lets you cut your video, add effects and transitions, capture live video, and other cool stuff.
Installation is very straightforward based on the quick install guide that is included:
The first thing you need to do is install the included video card and its drivers. Plug the personal cinema into the back of the video card with the included green wire. Everything is setup now, and you should see the green LED light up on the personal cinema. Next step would be to install the included software, especially WinDVR to use the TV-tuner functions.
Now simply plug in the cable/antenna plug and open up the WinDVR software, everything should be recognized and it will start to search for channels that get a signal. Also for audio, you will need to plug in a 1/8" audio jack from the personal cinema into your soundcard input, and another cable from your soundcard output into the speakers. This way you will have audio on your computer as well as from the TV-tuner and any inputs you put in.
Now you can input any video and/or audio sources via composite or S-Video and output back the same way. This way for example, you can capture some video, edit it, and output back to a VCR to put it on a tape.
Pros & Cons
Overall I would say this product is pretty good, but not as good as I expected. First and foremost, the timeshifting capabilities were very important to me, yet it did not even work correctly. I would state that bundling the personal cinema with a GeForce2 MX card is a downside, but when you look at the price ($199 retail), it's a pretty nice deal. The DVD quality is excellent, and unless you are really a hardcore gamer, the card shouldn't really make much of a difference. Not only that, but it does feature the TwinView feature, which works flawlessly. Although the composite video-in did not fit the consoles I had, as I mentioned before, that won't be an issue for most of you, and other than the consoles, there were no problems. The software bundle is pretty good, especially the digital video editing software which was very easy to use, yet pretty powerful at the same time.
Re-Printed From SLCentral