ColorGraphic’s Voyager VGA CF Adapter

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INTRODUCTION

Last July I reported

on the first VGA card to hit the market, the original

PCMCIA ColorGraphic Voyager.

Since last year, two major things have taken effect:

many new VGA card manufacturers have hit the market,

and most all of them support over 256 colors (which

is the best the original Voyager could do). Also,

the CompactFlash size has become the standard, which

is a great thing since most Pocket PC users don’t

have access to PCMCIA slots or sleeves. Finally, Conduits

has further updated their Pocket

Slides application, and several other players

have introduced their own similarly-minded packages.

 

WHAT’S HOT

CF-size card, higher color depth,

more supported resolution/frequency configurations,

and a combined S-Video, VGA, and Composite output

panel.

 

SETUP

As opposed to using a standard

InstallShield application, ColorGraphic decided to

use something more proprietary. The benefit is you

have centralized access to software installation and

documentation.

Select

the CompactFlash model from the first drop-down, followed

by your device model. Hit “Install Driver”

to send the appropriate CAB file to Application Manager.

 

HARDWARE

FEATURES

Voyager’s focus point

is the output panel, encased in hard plastic, attached

to the end of a 2.5 foot cable. Let’s take a closer

look.

Nice

package design! I received my review unit without

a box, but because I’m always keen on experiencing

what an end-consumer would, I asked to be one.

 

Inside

you’ll find a CD-ROM with installation software and

documentation, the CF card, a CF to PCMCIA adapter

should you want to use the Voyager with your iPAQ’s

PCMCIA sleeve, and the output panel.

The

CompactFlash card itself has the word “ColorGraphic”

stamped on it an amazing four times! As you turn the

card over to insert it into your Pocket PC, you’ll

never forget who made the card. At the end of the

card is a narrow and shallow connector port, where

the end of the output panel cord plugs into. I’m concerned

I might break off the connection. MARGI’s

cable was the most rugged I’ve ever seen on a device

of this class.

Thin

and lightweight, the input end of the display cord

requires you to ping the sides to insert or remove.

Here

is a side shot of the output panel. Again, clear mentioning

of the Colorgraphic namesake. Guys, I haven’t yet

forgotten!

And

now for the sweet spot. The output panel is very well

integrated, and likely the best execution I’ve seen

in combined Composite, VGA, and S-Video (from left

to right) output ports. Just one panel instead of

having lots of awkward dongles hanging off. Very sound

design!

Another

shot of the excellent output panel.

 

SOFTWARE

FEATURES

Voyager has always shipped

with a simple VGA control applet, and the CF Voyager

is no exception. Despite being a no-frills application,

it gets the job done with minimal effort.

Being

a software critic, I immediately noticed that the

Command Bar is not properly updated. I dislike it

when developers get lazy and don’t remember to “wipe

the display” clean so to speak. At times I felt

like I was running an overlay to Inbox (or whatever

else was running in the background).

Let’s

discuss the options. First, you can do “real

time” or timed screen updates, like in the previous

drive release. I put real time in quotes because the

delay is no less than one second. Output options,

matching the output panel, include VGA, Composite,

and S-Video. You can arrange the output window in

whichever orientation you prefer. Changing the background

color requires you to hit “ok” then restart

the Voyager application (conveniently dumped into

your Start Menu!).

 

Notice

the huge number of VGA output options. You can crank

the resolution up as high as 1024 x 768 (at 256 colors,

like ColorGraphic’s competition) and bring color output

to 16-bit. For most presentations, your best bet is

800x600x64k. I could not see any difference in flicker

rate between 60 and 85 Hz. The screen shot to the

right shows the only two options we had with the PCMCIA

card’s early driver.

If

you’re using S-Video or Composite output, you can

choose among NTSC and PAL formats, and a wide range

of resolutions. What the heck is up with 848 x 480

resolution? These are what 42″ plasma displays

(in case you have one!) natively support. Hey, I just

got an 18″ LCD screen. I’ll have to work up to

that plasma tube.

Like

with the earlier driver version, keeping the VGA connection

open lands an icon on the Command Bar.

 

HELP SUPPORT

Help support is provided

through HTML assistance (launched from the installation

CD-ROM), or contact ColorGraphic directly from their

contact

list.

 

OPTIONS

There are no other package

options, aside from the many PowerPoint presentation

applications out there that take full advantage of

this card. Check out the Review

Center for reviews of all the major software offerings.

Voyager

CF support in Pocket Slides v1.5

 

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Voyager

CF supports nearly every Windows CE 3.0 device under

the sun, including the Handheld PC Pros, Handheld

PC 2002, Pocket PCs, and Pocket PC 2002s. Because

you’re not limiting yourself to PCMCIA-accepting devices,

many more handhelds can take advantage of the Voyager.

In fact, two weeks ago ColorGraphic rolled out updated

drivers for Pocket PC 2002 and the BE-300, among

others. On an iPAQ, you’ll need about 45 kb of free

storage space for the driver installation and another

1.5 to 2 MB of program memory once video output is

occurring. As with any VGA card’s use, system performance

drops significantly upon being enabled. Just be warned

if you’re expecting to show off your favorite arcade

game.

 

BUGS AND WISHES

   

Though

I didn’t mention this above, I noticed a decent amount

of heat coming from the Voyager card, though not enough

to suggest faulty wiring. I’ll have to watch this

in the future, and I hope it doesn’t become a major

issue.

 

PURCHASING

   

For

$175.00, you can pick up the Voyager CF from ColorGraphic.

Compare that to $199.99 for MARGI’s

Presenter-to-Go at $200.00. Fan of Nyditot?

I am! Good news for you. Nyditot has released a special

“NVD Driver” that allows allows mirroring

of the virtual display to an external monitor, TV

or S-Video when used with a Voyager VGA CompactFlash

card. Nyditot will soon be releasing a special bundle

of Voyager CF + Nyditot 2.01 + NVD Driver for $179.00.

Heck, for $4.00 more, the bundle is more than worth

it (Nyditot plus NVD Driver retails for $29.98). Once

this add-on goes final, I’ll be sure to update my

Nyditot review.

 

PROS


  • Well-integrated

    S-Video, VGA, and Composite


  • CF is here!


  • Oodles of

    resolution choices (even support for plasma tubes!)

 

CONS


  • Build quality


  • Performance

    degradation; a norm


  • Heat emanating

    from card

 

OVERALL

IMPRESSION

Simply by virtue of being the

first out on the market, developers have lined up

to support the ColorGraphic solution. This is a great

thing for many, because this means software houses

like Conduits and Nyditot are making custom add-ons

specifically for this card, while the other guys are

asking for developer support. Aside from the

possible heat problem, the Voyager CF is a solid presentation

device, and a product I can easily recommend, especially

if you need alternate output methods. Heck, in today’s

corporate boardroom, VGA isn’t the only option, and

in many cases, S-Video fits the bill.

  

Though most of the cards out there provide the same

basic functionality, ColorGraphic is the leader in

providing regular driver updates and keep close ties

with the development community. I’ll place my bets

on ColorGraphic!

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About The Author
Jared Miniman