You will also notice that all of them are at least dual-core, with the top recommendations being a pair of dual-core Opteron processors – for four CPU cores in total. Matrox is not kidding here, either. We tried a number of configurations with the RT.X2, including an Athlon 64 FX-55 single-core PC. With the latter, the Matrox drivers wouldn’t even let us install the product, saying our system didn’t meet base specification. We’ve never come across any product before which refused to install completely on a system of this power. A dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4200+ or a Pentium D are the minimum recommendations. You also need a fairly meaty graphics card. Here Matrox is a little less draconian, although you need at least 256MB of on-board memory. Even here, 512MB is preferable, with some 256MB cards not offering every single ability.
In the end, we used two dual-processor, dual-core Opteron systems for testing. Our first was a workstation kindly lent to us by www.gladiatorcomputers.com. This was based around a pair of dual-core Opteron 270 processors on a Tyan Thunder K8WE motherboard, placing it right at the top of the performance tree on Matrox’s list of validated systems. The graphics card was ATI’s FireGL V7350 which although not specifically on Matrox’s list, is based on the same GPU as the X1800 XT, but with 1GB of memory. So again we were expecting best-in-class performance. Matrox also sent us an HP workstation with the RT.X2 preinstalled. This was a dual-processor dual-core Opteron 285 system with 512MB Radeon X1800-series graphics, so again right at the top of the Matrox performance tree.
In other words, the RT.X2 has some pretty hefty requirements, and buying one will almost certainly entail a new system to go with it. But with Intel’s Core Microarchitecture showing some excellent video encoding abilities, and quad-core processors on the horizon for late 2006, there will be plenty of high-performance options in the future.
We also found installing the product entirely unproblematic, albeit involved, as it includes a routine updating the firmware on the RT.X2’s Xilinx FPGA chip. This general-purpose DSP means that Matrox can actually update the capabilities of the RT.X2 hardware as well as providing new driver features, further extending the scalability of the product. One other point worth noting before we turn to the RT.X2’s editing abilities is the fact that it doesn’t actually contain its own FireWire chipset, instead relying on your PC’s built-in IEEE1394 or a third-party adapter. Virtually all PCs meet this requirement these days, but you won’t be able to capture DV or HDV without it.