Matrix Orbital GX Typhoon MCE Page: 1 Introduction
Matrix Orbital have been around for some time, 1995 to be precise. In that time they have engineered and manufactured LCD solutions to the advanced technology, defense and aerospace industries. Matrix Orbital then became the leading name for those wanting a powerful yet flexible approach to configurable information display units. Hailing from Calgary, Canada, Matrix Orbital are now the no.1 suppliers of such units and with the advent of the computer modder, have now enjoyed the same success in the PC market.
The latest incarnation of the Matrix Orbital is the GX Typhoon featuring a TRI-Colour display and in our case, a Media Centre Edition remote or GX24064-TC-BBI-MCE which is the version we will be reviewing today.
Specification & Dimensions
All specifications and technical drawings were taken directly from Matrix Orbital.
Filling one drive bay slot, the Matrix Orbital GX Typhoon should fit in any case should you have a spare drive bay and the only power requirement is a USB header, no extra power is needed which is a bonus for those who are limited on PSU connectors and cable tidy freaks alike.
Lets take a look at the package itself...
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Packaging & Contents
The package itself arrived in a very basic cardboard box. No fancy graphics or glossy cover girl advertise the product inside, just a singular company logo.
The contents themselves are basic enough and for your money you receive: a Media Centre remote; USB cable; installation instructions and of course, the display unit itself. I was surprised to see that there wasn't an installation CD included but the installation booklet points you to the Matrix Orbital website where the latest drivers and firmware can be found. While I appreciate that drivers move along fast and it is hard to keep pace, the price that this product costs should at least warrant a CD with software, installation guide and drivers.
The unit itself, at first glance, looks a very basic affair. Much akin to a fan controller in size and weight, the anodized black casing is very attractive and appears to be hard wearing, I would have liked to have seen a brushed aluminium effect underneath the black which would match the high end Lian LI cases. I should also point out that at the time of writing this review, this model is only available in black. No doubt there will be some stores who will happily supply you with a modded exterior to the colour and texture of your choosing for an extra cost.
Those more observant among you will notice that separate to the main display is an infrared sensor. Quite annoyingly this sensor flashed at random times while configuring the unit even though the MCE remote didn't have any batteries installed at the time, this can however be turned off with LCD Studio.
The remote itself is very nice indeed. Plush buttons with emblems screen printed onto them are also backlit for your convenience. At present the remote is only applicable for Vista based systems so don't expect any joy while using XP/Linux based setups.
Stripped of the casing, the GX Typhoon is exactly as advertised - a 240 x 64 line LCD display. The Media Centre Edition and the standard edition displays are exactly the same in that both have an IR receiver so if you already have an MCE remote you could save yourself a few pounds. To the rear, we see a variety of pin-outs that allow the GX Typhoon to be adapted further with future releases such as keypads etc. This is a great idea as Matrix Orbital are not forcing people to buy into features they do not need and those that do need such add-ons can purchase the items separately. Essentially, you can form a controller that is designed to your own personal needs and tastes. Modularity at its purest!
Next we will take you through the setup procedure...
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Difficult installations and driver support are a thing of the past with the GX Typhoon - presuming you have Vista 32/64bit. Unfortunately we did not have an XP based system for testing at the time of the review. The installation procedure was very easy once you have downloaded the relevant software package from the Matrix Orbital website.
First off, I decided to update the firmware to the latest version, which was a very simple affair. Point and click a few times; follow the simple on screen instructions and hey presto - an up-to-date unit. Next off, the dreaded driver installation. In the past getting a Matrix Orbital to install correctly was at best a tedious affair and at worst a nightmare. No such problems were encountered this time around and I am happy to report that even Vista 64bit is fully supported. Once the firmware was updated and the driver installed I was greeted with a splash screen which gave a taste of things to come.
Houston we have a problem. As you can see there appears to be a slight fault with our sample in that there is a missing section of pixels. Hopefully this is just a one off but it does give me some concerns as to the QA department at Matrix Orbital if they can't even supply a review sample without fault! Still, until we know otherwise, we will assume this is a mix up and continue with the review regardless.
To create your own screens, as well as taking advantage of the many preset ones, you will need to use LCD Studio. This is an open source program that is freely available to anyone and is most useful should you have an LCD screen, not just from Matrix Orbital. G15 LCD's for example are easily customised with this program and it is possibly the most popular program for customising LCD's currently available for no cost.
While I don't wish to dwell on software not directly associated with the Matrix Orbital GX Typhoon, I feel it is necessary to explain how simple it is to get the display up and running. With little over 10 minutes I had the unit installed along with the software and then began to tweak the display to see what it was capable of. As you can see from the pictures above, LCD Studio has a number of prebuilt templates and 'widgets' that can display anything from the time of day to the FPS of your favorite game. There are also many more applications available on the net but there are plenty here to keep you going for a good few hours!
So with the setup now complete, lets take a look at what the GX Typhoon can do...
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The first thing we needed to do was actually configure the display to run in tandem with LCD Studio so with a quick run through auto detection and screen setup, we were ready to start customising.
Aimed squarely at the modding scene, it comes as no surprise that the GX Typhoon has quite literally thousands of possibilities. Firstly, we went for a simple text screen and had a play with the huge number of colours available. Each of the colours below are just samples of the primary colours you can apply, You can basically pick any colour of the rainbow with a variation in tone for each and every colour. It can also be inverted so if you want a black background with red text for example it is possible.
The font type and size can also be adjusted to whatever font/size you desire with the only limit being the amount of fonts you have installed as in the picture above left. If you wish, you can also have the text scrolling across the screen, which again is customisable. But you would not spend that amount of cash to have simple text on a screen now would you? Let's take a look at a few designs which took me all of 10 minutes to configure :
The above sample is taken from 3 Winamp widgets. LCD Studio automatically loads pre configured .dll files into the Winamp directory allowing you to output the data to your GX Typhoon (Ctrl + K).
Above, we see a more complex setup based on the system data of our test setup. Almost every aspect of system monitoring can be configured with gauges and readouts galore - ideal for the overclockers amongst us.
Ok, I got a little carried away here. Well it may look like I did but I can't really claim the artistic merit. This is just a simple PNG image which is automatically converted to be displayed on the GX Typhoon. Sadly the broken pixel line ruins the effect but it does show what is capable of. You can set as many screens as you wish with different utilities on each for easy switching and cycling depending on your current applications in use.
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I had one of the first Matrix Orbital's a while ago and the headaches it caused, along with the steep learning curve was enough to put me off for life. The new GX Typhoon is a different kettle of fish altogether. It's easy to setup, the drivers work straight off the bat and best of all, the software is a pleasure to work with. Sure, the product doesn't come with a manual per se but to be quite honest you really don't need one other than for the software, which after five or ten minutes experimentation is pretty much self explanatory anyway.
The unit itself is very impressive, capable of displaying almost every colour imaginable and apart from the yellows (which look a little dull and green) they are well represented. The only limit to the display is your imagination and the widgets included. More and more utilities are being produced by the tweaking communities every day so a regular visit to the LCD studio forums are well worth the effort. Anyone who is building an HTPC will quickly fall in love with the GX Typhoon's adaptability and PC modders alike will no doubt drool over the sheer amount of options that are available with this display unit.
Perhaps the only downside to the GX Typhoon is the price. Weighing in at £75, it's certainly not cheap and that may be enough to put many folk off, especially when the add on baybus extensions will only increase that price further. However, for your £75 you do get a very nice MCE remote which takes away some of the pain or if indeed you already own a remote then the standalone unit can be had for £10 less.
Personally, I think the GX Typhoon would be the finishing touch to any PC build and presuming you have the available funds, you should buy one now. You won't regret it.
- Ease of use
- Excellent community support
- No included driver CD
- Packaging could be improved
- Suspect quality control (our display unit was faulty)