The Matrox Marvel G400-TV is designed as an 'all-in-one' graphics and video solution, similar to the ATI All-In-Wonder series. It's a single AGP board providing 2D, 3D, MPEG decoding (for DVDs etc.), as well as TV viewing/recording and video capture. The one distinct advantage the Matrox has over the ATI, however, is that it provides hardware-based MJPEG video compression. The input video quality is superior to that provided by other similar cards such as the All-In-Wonder series by ATI. It is visibly sharper and cleaner, which of course is important for video editing. The Matrox Marvel G400-TV features an onboard Zoran MJPEG codec chip, which allows realtime compression and decompression of MJPEG-compressed AVIs with no CPU overhead. The quality of the compression provided by this chip is in excess of software codecs by the likes of PICvideo etc. At the Matrox drivers' maximum quality settings it will take up approx. 6Gb per hour of video. Unfortunately, the drivers only allow for hardware accelleration in DirectShow decoding. Standard Video For Windows decoding, which is used by many video editing utilities such as VirtualDub, is not supported, meaning your CPU time will be taken up by decoding frames rather than video processing. Some programs such as Adobe Premiere do support DirectShow decoding, however. Decoding in VFW will take up 50% CPU on a 1.4GHz Athlon, but on a P3-600 the CPU is not fast enough to decode in realtime. Another problem with the MJPEG compression is that the field order is inverted, meaning that fields are not placed in the right order. A simple 'field swap' filter will correct this, however. Also, when decoding the MJPEG via AVIsynth, an AVI scripting tool, dropped frames are not displayed correctly. You'll need to handle the dropped frames manually. Driver support is pretty standard for thjis class of card. There is no Windows 2000 or Linux support for video capturin
g - display drivers only. This is a major issue that Matrox have said they will NOT be correcting in a future release. It is possible to add MJPEG decoding support via an unofficial method in Windows 2000, but capturing should be performed in Windows 98 only. Overall, the quality of the MJPEG compression is excellent. There are no visible artifacts during motion. The hardware compression means you can set it to maximum quality with no CPU overhead. As for 2D and 3D, the quality is fine, not exceptional but perfectly usable for your main PC. 3D acceleration is not cutting edge but it will play all of the current games at a decent frame rate in normal resolution. TV output is very good. It works in both WIn98 and Windows 2000, can convert frame rates to PAL or NTSC etc. This card is a good upgrade for users of lower end capture cards who require more features without breaking the bank.
At first glance I was slightly pesamistic about the Matrox Marvel G400-TV because of its lack of memory. With only 16MB of SGRAM memory it did not compare well with other graphics cards with 32MB as standard. However, although dated, the Matrox Marvel G400-TV peformed excellently in all fields. For games, the card gave an excellent frame rate at a resolution of 800x600 and faired quite well for a resolution of 1024x768. However, with new games coming out demanding more from your graphics card the Matrox should not be bought with gaming in mind. The card comes with an external box for connecting TV aerials, and video and audio inputs and outputs , which makes connecting devices much easier than having to fiddle behind the back of your computer. The video out connection gave excellent results, and the option for dual display is good for those who need extra room on their desktop for purposes such as CAD and graphic design. Although not the best I have seen, the TV in connection fairs well, but the software could be better. For TV enthusiasts a dedicated Hauppage card would probably be a better choice. The video in connection was good, with video frames rarely being dropped. However, a fast processor, and a large hard drive will be needed to make the most of this feature. The card also features DVD hardware decoding, which is essential for those computers lacking enough processor power. The quality of picture is quite good, but not as good as a dedicated hardware DVD decoder. In summary, this is an expensive card, and is fairly outdated. However it is a worthy buy if you can find one for under £125. Definately worth a look for those wishing to dabble in multimedia, but for professionals and extreme gamers, look elsewhere.
Matrox have really got a beauty product on their hands here. You cannot go far wrong with the G400 Marvel. Although the 3d side of it is a bit long in the tooth, the video capture side of it is really awesome! If you are wanting to edit your home videos then this is the card for you! Although it does not support Firewire (and so if you have a nice Digital video camera you would be better off going for another solution) for those of us with hi-8 or VHS-C cameras, this card is exactly what you need. Sporting a break-out box, so you don't have to fiddle around behind your PC, all of your connections are right on the desktop. You get composite video in/out, s-video in/out, stereo in/out and rf in all within a neat blue box that sits on your desk. Yes, it has a TV tuner built in, and with the enclosed software you can use your PC as a vcr. You may need a large hard-drive if you want to record that 2 hour TV movie, but as anyone who has dabbled with video will know, that is par for the course. The instruction manual is well written, the hardware works flawlessly and the accompanying software will get you up and running in no time. It comes bundled with Avid cinema which is fine for newbies, but something like Adobe Premiere will really make this card shine. DVD playback is possible, and quality is good. The card allows you to use a TV as a second monitor, and through the software you can play back DVD's on a TV while using your PC for whatever you want. The card uses hardware-MJPEG compression/decompression for full-resolution and full frame rate capture and playback. All in all, a fantastic product, bristling with features and it does exactly what it says on the box. Oh! And Matrox tech support is first rate, especially the web based discussion forums.