by April 10, 2001 0 comments

Matrox Millennium G450

Price: Rs 11,900 with one-year warranty
Features: Dual head, 32 MB DDR RAM, 4x AGP
Pros: Good 2D performance
Cons: Bad 3D and gaming performance
Contact: Neoteric Infomatique 
Tel: 22-4172600 
Fax: 22-4185294 
Address: B-20, Shree Ram Indl Estate 13, G D Ambekar Road
Mumbai 400031

The unique feature of this latest card from Matrox, the Millennium G450, is its dual head, which enables it to support two screens simultaneously. You can hook up two monitors, or a monitor and a TV.

 All graphics cards use what’s called a RAMDAC (Random Access Memory Digital to Analog Converter) for display. The G450 has two RAMDACs that have been integrated on a single chip. The primary RAMDAC runs at 360 MHz and can give a maximum resolution of 2,048×1,536×32; while the secondary RAMDAC runs at 230 MHz and gives a maximum resolution of 1,600×1,200×32 for your secondary display. The card comes with a special cable, which has a VGA connector on one end and an S-video and a composite video connector on the other. This cable takes your second display, which can be a TV, VCR or even a camcorder. 

The card’s dual head feature can be used in four ways. First, you can extend your desktop across two monitors and run two applications simultaneously. You can also play multi-player games, with each player playing on his own monitor. The second option lets you zoom into any part of the primary monitor and view the zoomed part on the second monitor. This can be useful for graphic designers who can zoom into an image to work on it, and simultaneously view the original image size. The third option lets you watch full-screen DVDs on one screen (which may be your TV screen), while the second (your monitor) is free for your Windows desktop. The card comes with software called Matrox DVD Player for playing DVDs. Finally, the last function lets you clone or duplicate your desktop onto a second monitor, or a larger TV, which can be useful while putting up presentations for a large audience. 

The G450 uses 0.18-micron technology, which may be the reason for its lower heat emission and power consumption. The card doesn’t have a cooling fan, unlike various graphics cards in the market today, but does fine with a heat sink. The card supports the latest 4x AGP, which enables transfer speeds of up to 1 GB/sec. It’s also backward compatible with 2x and 1x AGP. The model we got for review had 32 MB of DDR (Double Data Rate) Video RAM.

We ran several tests on the card to see how it does in 2D and 3D work. We checked its performance against the Asus V7700, which is based on the GeForce 2 chipset from nVIDIA. Our first test checked for the card’s 2D performance in real applications. For this, we used the latest Business Winstone 2001 and Content Creation Winstone 2001. Both cards gave equal performance on these benchmarks. Next, we moved to 3D graphics and gaming. Here, the G450 was beaten hands down by the Asus with an overall difference of more than 300 percent. So, the G450 is not really equipped to handle 3D graphics as well as the Asus. In gaming too the story was pretty much the same. We then shifted to 2D graphics performance using the Graphics Winmark of Winbench 99. Here, the G450 did better than the V7700, standing at 402 against 358. So the real strength of G450 lies in the 2D department.

Overall, this card isn’t meant for high-end graphics or gaming. Rather, with its dual head, it’s a good choice for running multiple applications simultaneously,
or putting up presentations for a large audience.

Sachin Makhija at PCQ Labs

What’s good

GoLive has more under its hood than the average user will ever use. But with that power, it hasn’t gone power-mad. The features are all easily accessible, and they don’t intrude into your consciousness until you need them. A much-improved browser-based help guide lets you find step-by-step advice for particular tasks quickly. But you’ll need that help less and less, because GoLive’s consistency reinforces what you already know. 

GoLive has excellent site management features, with a single interface, the Site window, handling all site features. The Files tab has all files and folders used in a site, exactly mirroring the contents of the local hard drive’s organization. Files can be dragged in and out of this tab, new folders can be created, and objects or items can be moved up or down levels. 

Templates created by GoLive are reusable. Double-click a Stationery file and GoLive offers to create a new page with the template elements. Drag a Component from the Objects palette onto a page, and it copies the HTML while making a reference to the source. Changing the source updates every instance throughout the site. These two features help create an assembly line for crafting sites and later updating them. Making a Component out of a navigation bar allows changes in the navigation with a few clicks and a Save. 

External URLs and embedded e-mail addresses (using the ‘mailto:’ resource locator, to be technical) share the External tab of the site window, while colors applied as attributes and font sets invoked via the Font tag have respective Colors and Font Sets tabs.

The Design tab contains the most powerful and extensive of the new features: A prototyping tool that allows a designer to easily ‘sketch’ out new sites or sections of existing sites by combining templates, links, and layout tools. Pages and sections can be dragged in, and link relationships can be added (to be placed into real links on the finished pages later).

The Design tab allows any site to contain multiple designs in progress, and each design can have elements that are separately linked to different areas of an existing site. A simple staging approach allows you to check designs into your existing site, or to recall them if there are problems. This whole structure offers a way to test ideas out quickly and easily, as GoLive tracks all the relationships, rewriting pages and links as you submit and recall designs.

GoLive includes various new site management features including WebDAV (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning). Nowadays such collaborative working is becoming the norm for large sites. For these advanced, multi-author sites it’s also becoming common to tailor not just templates and library items but the program itself. WebDAV is a technology for exchanging and synchronizing files, much like FTP but with substantially more power or, conversely speaking, much like CVS (Concurrent Versioning System) but with substantially less power.

WebDAV works over HTTP. It integrates with Apache and other Web servers, allowing the system administrator to add it as an extra. It supports file locking and shared locks so that several people can work on a website at once while knowing precisely who has which files checked out. It also allows better two-way synchronization so that newer files from the server can be downloaded at the same time that local files can be uploaded. This is one of the best features the software offers.

GoLive includes a JavaScript-based SDK (Software Development Kit) complete with interpreter and debugger. The idea is to encourage third-party developers to introduce advanced functionality while letting workgroups take control of features such as custom palettes. The SDK is certainly a step in the right direction but it’s by no means as simple as Dreamweaver’s in-built macro recording.

The software also offers a Clean Up Site tool that carries out a number of housekeeping tasks. It can delete any files in the site that aren’t referenced from any link descending from the home page or navigational hierarchy; and it can copy files from elsewhere on your local hard drive or network that are referenced by pages but not contained in the site’s content folder. 

The Export feature offers three options for copying your site to a new folder. Export also offers ‘stripping’ features that can pull out GoLive-specific HTML, as well as extra white space and comments. 

And what’s not

GoLive lets you plan and build your site before going live, but links must still be handled manually. The software has plenty of options for building and applying Cascading Style Sheets and JavaScript, but it hasn’t yet gone that extra mile to provide a full implementation of CSS; nor does it have debugging and programming tools for JavaScript. 

GoLive doesn’t let you use the site design to create automatic navigation links and rollovers in the way that NetObjects Fusion does. Initially this looks possible with the New Pages command which lets you specify automatic links to parent, child or sibling pages. Unfortunately these links aren’t actual but rather ‘pending’. In other words, you will be reminded to add them manually.

GoLive’s use of the Layout grid is great for non-coders and those for whom the visual impact of the page is more crucial than its download time, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t offer good direct table handling too. Some features, such as the ability to sort by rows or columns, are impressive but generally the table handling still isn’t either as interactive or as easily controlled as it should be. GoLive still seems to see tables as an occasional add-on rather than the fundamental basis of a clean HTML layout.

Support for advanced media and dynamic data is important, but by far the most important capability for a Web authoring package is its HTML control. GoLive’s HTML editing is left to two alternative views–HTML Source and HTML Outline–in the Page window. Both of these provide powerful editing environments with advanced features such as code checking against browser profiles, color coding with URL and media file highlighting and so on.

Compared to Dreamweaver, however, with its roundtrip HTML, simultaneous page and code editing and its quick tag selection and editing, control is underpowered and awkward. Dream- weaver’s Tag Selector manages to fit the same functionality into the Page window’s status bar. More importantly, GoLive’s palette’s behavior is strange. For example it looks like you should be able to instantly select the link that the cursor is in and quickly copy it within the Source Code palette; bizarrely though everything is selected apart from the crucial surrounding <A>tags!

Dreamweaver retains its coding edge, but there is one area of HTML functionality in which GoLive does move ahead. In the past, its Find and Replace was limited, but now the feature is fully HTML-aware. Using the new Element tab in particular opens up the ability to search for particular tags or tag attributes, with GoLive intelligently prompting you with all available options. With the Actions option you can then set whether the tag, its attributes or its content is changed. As parameters can be saved and reused, this means that you can automate common searches such as for IMG tags without ALT attributes.

Is GoLive 5 for you? It all depends. If you only dabble occasionally with website design and want lots of help putting pages together, then Microsoft FrontPage may be a better choice for you. For those who need the power of GoLive 5 or Macromedia Dreamweaver, which package will prove the best choice may depend largely on workflow preference. With Dreamweaver, you first figure out what you want and then fill in values; in contrast, GoLive allows you to drop in placeholders that can accommodate any kind of object anywhere, and then leave you to figure out the value later. 

All in all, most people updating websites on a day-to-day basis should find plenty to love in GoLive 5. It’s focused on their needs. 

Swati Sani for PCQ Labs

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