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RealMagic XCard Review
Posted on October 9, 2002


Introduction

Sigma Designs have been in the MPEG decoding business for several years now, producing semiconductor products of many different flavours, for many different markets. But it was their Hollywood Plus PCI card which brought them to the attention of the consumer PC market. The Hollywood+ allowed PCs to playback DVDs on a TV or Monitor in high quality, with none of the jerkiness associated with the early software players using lower power PCs. Sigma sold a lot of cards. But then came TV-Out as standard on many 3D graphics cards, better playback software, the popularity of DivX content and higher power PCs - and the Hollywood+ had its day. If software playback is good enough, who needs hardware?

The XCard was released earlier this year, and upped the stakes a little. It can play back DivX content. It has digital sound. It has progressive-scan DVD playback. It keeps the picture in the digital domain when overlaying a video image onto a VGA signal. And it seems ideally suited for beefing up the video playback capabilities of a Mini-ITX motherboard. Perhaps we should try one and find out...

Manufacturer's Product Pages

Contents

  1. The Package
  2. Hardware Installation
  3. Software Installation
  4. Connecting the XCard to a TV
  5. The Remote and Software
  6. The XCard In Use
  7. Conclusion

The Package



As well as the PCI card, you get a remote control and receiver and a multitude of connecting cables and adaptors in the package. The full packing list is:

Quickstart guide, PCI Card, CD containing Drivers and Manuals, Remote Control, Remote Receiver, Component video adapter, S-Video to Composite video adapter, VGA pass-through cable, Audio adapter to sound card, Audio adapter cable (mini-jack to L/R RCA connector) and a composite video cable.


The back panel of the PCI card consists of a Line Out socket, S/PDIF Digital Out, Composite/S-Video TV Out, VGA Out and VGA In. On the card itself are Line Out, Digital out and Digital In connectors, and headers for an optional SCART RGB Connector kit (requires another PCI slot) and a Digital Video Port.


This schematic shows the placement of the connectors.



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