At Last: A Hardware Decoder For MPEG-4

Test Sequences Via TV And Monitor Display

This picture shows the quality of the TV output. The picture is interference free and razor sharp.

Even the full-screen display on a computer monitor can be quite impressive.

Conclusion: Convenient MPEG-4 Playback For Dated Computers

With its Xcard, Sigma Designs is the first producer to supply a hardware decoder for MPEG-4. This means that older computers with less processor speed especially stand to gain from this solution. Even with an Intel Pentium II/300 it is now possible to play a Divx-MPEG-4 film in full-screen mode smoothly. In addition to playing MPEG-4 films, it also lets you play DVD videos in MPEG-2 format and Video CDs in MPEG-1 format without overloading the CPU. It is even possible to play your favorite film via the TV output, while running an office application at the same time. The Sigma Designs package, which is available for the price of $99, comes with plenty of cables, thus catering to virtually all the needs of the average user. Also worth mentioning is the remote control provided with the board, which communicates with an infrared module via the serial port. The awkward player software is a point of criticism, however - it has no intuitive user controls and it takes a long time to figure out the available functions. The EM8475 chip from Realmagic, which is integrated on the decoder board, is the first module in its class. Accordingly, it remains to be seen as to whether or not some set-top boxes will be equipped with this chip in the near future. All in all, this is a good product that is ideal for users with older PCs.