Viewfinder 2 revealedPublished: 19th Jan 2002, 12:19:35 | Permalink | Printable
Review: We take a look at the best view you've ever had of your desktopBy now you may have head of the upgrade to the ViewFinder graphics card from various "other" RISC OS news portals whose names will go unmentioned. The difference is, Drobe has a proper review.
For the usual crowd who've been living under a rock or alternative hiding place for the last year or so, ViewFinder is a podule for RiscPCs which greatly enhances the normal RiscPC graphics capabilities. The podule does this by interfacing to an AGP graphics card - nominally something you'd find in a PC.
The original ViewFinder uses an ATI XPert 98 card, but John Kortink (the creator of ViewFinder) has now added support for the ATI Xpert 2000Pro card.
By PC standards, both these cards are far from stunning - in fact, they're close to bottom of the range by 2002 standards, however they still give vast improvements in speed, colours and resolutions over the original RiscPC. One typical combination with the 2000 Pro card is 1600x 1200 x 16 Million colours at 91Hz - if your monitor can handle it of course!
John has given users serveral choices to upgrade from the original ViewFinder. Firstly, they can DIY it, by locating an Xpert 2000 Pro card themselves, and unscrewing and replacing the Xpert 98 card. No more than a 5 minute job even including flashing the new firmware. Unfortunately the card itself is stocked by very few high street stores, although it can be obtained online for around 40UKP including VAT and P&P.
Alternatively, John will upgrade your ViewFinder for you at a cost of 80 Euros if you return the card. Similarly, CJE will do the same for 50UKP. Note that some ViewFinders will require a different blanking plate and this can be obtained for an extra 5UKP.
Of course, both the original ViewFinder and the new version are available to buy as full products for 295 Euros and 360 Euros respecitively, or in UKP by contacting CJE.
So what it's like in practice? For the most part, everything appears much the same as it did under the original. There is a quite difference in speed for some operations (according to the benchmarks published by John), which is sometimes apparent, but for the most part the effect is quite subtle - the desktop feels a little smoother, graphics operations a little faster, etc.
Of course, the other main advantage of the upgrade is the increase in resolutions and framerates. You can for example now do 2048 x 1536 in 16 million colours, where previously you could only do it in a mere 32 thousand, and 1600 x 1200 can be done up to 91Hz. Again, these all depend on your monitor's abilities, and these resolutions will well exceed what the monitors connected to most RiscPCs can do, including the 17" Iiyama 410 Pro used in this review.
So is the enhanced ViewFinder worth getting? If you're a hardware junkie, or you want to support the RISC OS market, then certainly. However, for most users probably not, as you'll still have to shell out for a monitor to make your ViewFinder worthwhile. For these users, the orginal ViewFinder is still an excellent purchase - probably the best hardware upgrade after StrongARM, and you still leave yourself open to upgrading to the enhanced version later on.
Peter Naulls, office of we-know-what-we-are-doing
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