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To begin with, the responsiveness of the Poweroid system was noticeably better. Scrubbing the timeline was smooth and accurate, projects and assets were imported quickly, and the general editing experience showed a marked difference. To see just how much of a difference, we gave each system three tasks. The first was an Export to DVD from a 16-minute timeline in Premiere Pro (a task that the RT.X100 doesn’t assist with). This uses every aspect of the PC, from hard disk, RAM and CPU for the transcode, hard disk speed for the assemble and DVD write speed for the burn. Our test rig took a leisurely 1hr 45min 47s to complete the process, while the Poweroid 4202 ripped through it in 53min 58s – about half the time.
Next we used the Matrox Media Export tool to set up a simultaneous Web encode of 6 individual files (Windows Media 8 and Real Media 8 at 56-, 256- and 512kbps) from the same project. Our test rig constantly failed during the encoding process until we shifted the project assets over to the PC’s faster system drive, at which point it managed it in a respectable 24min 54s. It’s obvious that the RT.X100 is providing a large amount of assistance here, as the Poweroid 4202 was only five minutes faster at 19min 52s, but there was no need to shift any of the asset files around in order for it to work.
Finally, while the RT.X100 in both systems means that they can both export MPEG2 and DV AVI files in real time, as well as export to tape, we thought it would be interesting to see how they fared when we cut the dedicated hardware out of the loop. To do this, we used Premiere Pro’s file export rather than the Matrox Realtime Export tool to create a single DV AVI file from our test project. The results were interesting, with our dual-CPU rig taking 24min 28s to turn our 16min project into a single file, while the Poweroid 4202 managed it in only 5min 56s. If it wasn’t for the fact that the RT.X100 provides so many other services (accelerated batch encoding, hardware-assisted real-time previews, analogue capture, advanced editing tools, effects and filters) you might question whether it was needed at all.
However, while it’s clear that all this power makes for an excellent video editing platform, we did come across a rather serious issue during testing. Despite the beautifully tidy internals of the Poweroid 4202, with clipped and tied cabling and unimpeded airflow, the Parhelia card got rather hot under the collar during heavy use. This caused critical errors and system crashes, and forced us to test with the PC’s side panel removed to stop it from overheating. When we discussed this with Poweroid, which said that it would replace the standard VGA fan with a Zalman heatpipe cooler for the Parhelia in all future units, so we’re satisfied that this is not a problem that you’ll encounter.
There’s no doubt that the Poweroid 4202 is an expensive piece of kit, particularly when you consider that you’ll have to add the cost of a monitor (or three) and maybe some decent DVD authoring software to the bill. But it’s also one of the best video editing rigs we’ve seen.
Poweroid is to be commended on the level of build quality and the attention to detail shown in this model. It’s got just about everything you could ask for, along with the power to back it up. As our tests show, it can cut the amount of time that common editing tasks take in half, so if you’re currently spending most of your day staring at a progress bar, the cost of this PC isn’t as hard to justify as you might first think. We were definitely sorry to see it leave the labs