Review: Matrox Parhelia APVe Graphics Card
Posted Apr 24, 2006

Synopsis:
Matrox Parhelia APVe is a great graphics card for any video or graphic application (save Vegas, for the moment). If you are planning on using a Matrox RTX.100 video editing system, you can be assured that there will be no conflicts between the two cards. Being able to spread your applications over up to three computer monitors or two computer monitors and one video display is bound to make you work more quickly. The less time you have to spend minimizing and maximizing windows, the more time you have to get work done.

Price: $399

For more information, contact:
Matrox Graphics, www.matrox.com

One rule I like to follow for setting up an editing system is following the maker's guidelines for optimum performance. For the Matrox RT.X100/Adobe Premiere Pro solution, for example, you can find a few non-Matrox options on the list of approved cards, but I prefer keeping as many components from the same manufacturer as possible. That way, if you do have an issue requiring tech support they can't say, "Well, you'll have to call NVIDIA or ATI on that." 

Thus I use a number of Matrox products in my edit bays. For video editing, I have two RTX.100 cards, and for display cards in those systems I have an older Matrox G550 32MB dual-head AGP card and a G750 128MB triple-head AGP card.

For that matter, I have also gone with one of the approved computer systems on the RTX.100 Web site. That is also a big help should you ever need tech support. For the last few years I've chosen HP workstations—the same ones that Matrox uses in-house for development, tech support, and at trade shows such as NAB.

When the opportunity arose to review Matrox' new Parhelia APVe 128MB PCI Express graphics card for multiple-display DVI output (and more), I tested it with one of these high-powered HP workstations, running applications in Adobe's new Production Studio bundle (see Jan Ozer's March cover story).

Installation

I installed the APVe in an HP xw8200 workstation with a single 3.4GHz Xeon 64-bit CPU, 2GB RAM, and an 80GB System drive. The video drive is an external G-Tech FW800, 500GB RAID 0, which will be the subject of another review. I'm also using G-tech's supplied combo FW800/400 card.

My main reason for getting this new computer is to migrate an RTX.100 card from a slower 2.4GHz workstation that just hasn't been able to output a long project in real time since updating to Adobe Premiere 1.5. I've been needing to force-render all effects and transitions to output without dropping frames. While I am able to migrate my RTX.100 to the xw8200 workstation's legacy PCI slot, AGP is no more, and a new graphics card was needed.

The workstation came equipped with a 64MB NVIDIA Quadra 280NVS. Before removing your old card, remember to uninstall the drivers; otherwise you may experience some headaches. Because the major part of the review is the NTSC video output, I did not put the RTX.100 card in the system yet. In general you would use the analog out on the RTX.100 for monitoring of editing if you have it.

When removing the graphics card, there is an additional plastic release you must press in order to remove the card. Failing to release it could damage the card and the system's motherboard.

One thing you will notice when you put the cards side by side is that the Matrox card is beefier. The Matrox has an onboard fan to cool down the GPU. Don't worry if, with the APVe, the fan makes inordinate noise when you first restart the PC. Mine started up noisy, but within five minutes the noise stopped and hasn't been an issue since. I guess it just needed to let the fan lube itself.

Operation

The Parhelia APVe 128 comes with a full complement of cables to connect from the card's dual, proprietary Matrox connectors to digital and analog computer monitors as well as video monitors. For computer displays—you can attach a maximum of three—you have DVI and VGA connectors. In the box is an illustrated card that shows how to set up different monitor configurations. With so many cables and configurations, it is easy to make a mistake hooking it up. The main cable is on the thick and heavy side, so you may want to prop it up with something to prevent damage to the card. I've had this problem before; the weight of the cables ruined a connecter/adapter on my G550 card.

The third computer output of the Parhelia APVe can be used as WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) output for an NTSC or PAL SD or HD monitor. It works with Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, NewTek's Lightwave 3D, and others. At this time, there isn't a way to output from Sony's Vegas 6 via the Parhelia.

Once you hook up the right combination of cables it is simple. I'm using a 19" HP LCD flat-panel and a 13" NTSC monitor. For the HP I used the VGA connector, and for my 13" I used the composite/S-Video combo cable and connected to monitor Output 3.

If you have a higher-end monitor with Component In, you can swap the composite/S-Video combo adapter cable, for the Component Out adapter cable. In order to get the video monitor to work you must install Matrox' WYSIWYG plug-in, available on the company's Web site. Once installed, in Premiere Pro, go to File > Export > Matrox WYSIWYG, and the output of the timeline will appear on the video monitor.

The NTSC video out seems to be converted to progressive scan, giving it a nice filmic look, but it has artifacts in fast motion. The resulting image quality is good for editing video in more than a small window on your desktop, or making a VHS approval copy, but not for final output. For that you will still need to go through the 1394 port for tape or render to a DVD.

PowerDesk Conflict/Resolution

There is one slight conflict between a setting in Matrox' Power Desk setup and Adobe's Audition 2.0. This configuration can cause Audition not to function. The first thing that comes to mind is, "Why does an audio program get goofed up by a graphics card?" (Of course, it doesn't really matter why it happened, only that it did.)

The important thing is the solution. You simply need to un-check the box for Automatic Center Dialog Boxes. With that setting changed, Audition functions normally. Matrox says this also has been an issue with other programs, so if you don't have Audition and something else won't run, it's probably the same issue, and can likely be addressed in a similar way.

The Bottom Line

This noted (and easily addressed) conflict aside, you will find the Matrox Parhelia APVe a great graphics card for any video or graphic application. Even though Vegas or Avid may not have WYSIWYG out, it will still give you plenty of monitor space. Being able to spread your applications over up to three computer monitors or two computer monitor and one video screen is bound to make you work quicker no matter what your application. The less time you spend hunting through hidden windows, the more time you have to get work done. If you are planning on using it in a Matrox RT.X100 video editing system, you can be assured that there will be no conflicts between the two cards.

System Requirements:
- 600MHz PC running Windows 2000/XP with 128MB RAM, PCI Express x16, 300 W system power supply, CD-ROM drive