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JimThorley

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The best DVD decoder card by far

Quote-end
03.02.2001

Advantages:
Lots of useful features, great playback quality

Disadvantages:
If you're using a high - resolution desktop, some slight degradation of picture clarity may be noticeable

Recommendable Yes:

Detailed rating:

Speed

Stability

Ease of Installation

Picture Quality

Value For Money

Ease of use

Instruction manual

Memory / capacity

Manufacturer Support

3 Ciao members have rated this review on average: helpful See ratings
very helpful by (75%):
  1. BJEEE
  2. Manx
  3. Katerina
somewhat helpful by (25%):
  1. trungn

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The H+ card is, without a doubt, the best DVD decoder card available on the market right now. Even most of it's "competition" are just different cards which use the same chipset (like the Creative DXR2) or just plain old carbon copies re-badged (like the Videologic DVD Player.) So Sigma Designs must be doing something right...

The card itself is about as easy to install as they come; just run the installation disc to load the drivers up, then open your computer up. The card itself just pops in an empty PCI slot, and then it's just a case of hooking up the sound cable and the VGA passthrough cable (both included) and you're good to go.

As far as playback is concerned, well, it's pretty much faultless. The card itself takes virtually all the processing load off of the computer, so much so that even on my clapped-out old PII-266 I could run all sorts of programs in the background without so much as a judder in the picture. Try doing that with a software decoding package... Since the card uses an analogue overlay to display the picture on the screen, you have to make sure you hook the monitor up correctly (the monitor plugs into the H+ card, and the pass-through cable runs from your graphics card to your H+) otehrwise you'll end up sat watching a green rectangle on the screen. Some users have reported that the movie picture quality on a monitor is marginally better using software decoding, and that the rest of the screen is slightly degraded by the pass-through cable, but to be honest I've never noticed this, even when I've been looking for it. But, if you're running a very high resolution desktop and you're VERY fussy about your display quality, it might be something to take note of.

The card also supports TV output via S-VHS or composite signal; the picture quality doing this is better than a lot of cheap standalone players, and is far better than you'd get by using software decoding and a TV-Out capable graphics card, so if you're planning on outputting to a TV, a decoder card is the only way to go, in my opinion. The card also has a digital sound output, so you can run the sound to an external DD5.1 or DTS decoder unit and get full 6-channel digital surround sound. So a PC with this card could quite easily take the place of a "standard" DVD player. The TV output only outputs the DVD movie signal to a TV, though, so you can't use it for playing games on your TV, for exmple.

The card can easily be "fixed" to make it region-free and disable Macrovision using one of a number of available freeware utilities, and it can also force an NTSC video signal into a PAL one, and vice-versa, which makes it even more useful as a replacement for a standalone DVD player.

All in all, a brilliant little card. As a PC-DVD player, it does just about everything you could expect it to, and puts almost no load on your computer's CPU. And when connected to a TV, it boasts many functions that are only usually found on pretty high-end standalone players. A great DVD playback solution all round.
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Product Information »

Manufacturer's product description

The award-winning REALmagic Hollywood Plus, the de facto standard for PC DVD playback, showcases the true visual an...

General

MPN 49381
Bus Type PCI
Max Resolution 1600 x 1200

Video output

Supported Display Graphics VGA (640x480), XGA (1024x768), SVGA (800x600), SXGA (1280x1024)
Analogue Video Format NTSC, PAL

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This review of REALmagic Hollywood Plus - - PCI - retail has been rated:

"very helpful" by (75%):

  1. BJEEE
  2. Manx
  3. Katerina

"somewhat helpful" by (25%):

  1. trungn

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.

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