In an unexpected move, Epiphan Systems unveiled its’ VGA2PCIe frame grabber today – a completely internal frame grabber based on the PCI Express bus. This move is unexpected because Epiphan specialized in external USB and Ethernet based devices.
The VGA2PCIe is a fairly basic 1-channel VGA frame grabber. At the same time, VGA2PCIe offers capture rates that are impressive to say the least. Let’s take a look at the advantages and shortcomings of this new device:
- No compression when transferring the from VGA to the PC, meaning that your computer will see the VGA signal in 100% lossless, raw quality.
- Capture rates vary between 35-85 frames per second, making this frame grabber ideal for high frame rate applications.
- VGA2PCIe is able to capture full HD (1920×1080) video at high frame rates.
- VGA2PCIe is based on 1x PCI Express, meaning it will fit in any PCI Express slot.
- For a price of $800, this is lower than other competing internal devices.
- Only one channel for VGA capture, although several VGA2PCIe devices can be installed on the same machine.
- No drivers for Linux or Mac, but Epiphan promises to add them in the near future.
- No audio input capture support, while other frame grabbers in Epiphan’s product line (like the VGA2Ethernet) support a stereo audio input.
VGA2PCIe is a strong contender in the internal frame grabber market. It should definitely be put under consideration if you are shopping for an internal VGA frame grabber. The specifications are impressive an Epiphan’s support has always been great.
One of the most visited pages on our site is our massive and extremely informative feature comparison table for the world’s best VGA and DVI frame grabbers. Since it was created, some manufacturers have changed the specifications for their devices, while Epiphan Systems introduced the VGA2Ethernet frame grabber, which is now part of the table.
The first thing that you may notice is that the VGA2Ethernet has much higher specifications than any other frame grabber on the market. This is due to the fact that the VGA2Ethernet is a much more sophisticated device and, as such, is not really comparable to the other grabbers.
Why is the VGA2Ethernet different?
You can think of the VGA2Ethernet as a separate small computer equipped with a frame grabber. As such, it is able to function remotely. In other words, the VGA2Ethernet does not have to have close proximity to the target computer, as is the case with PCI or USB based frame grabbers. As shown below, the only requirement for the VGA2Ethernet is that it be on the same network as the target computer, and within proximity of the source that it is capturing the VGA signal from.
The fact that the VGA2Ethernet can be separated from the target computer distance-wise is not the only thing that makes this device different from others, however. By using the Gigabit Ethernet bus to transfer the images and a PowerPC processor paired with an advanced FPGA, the VGA2Ethernet is able to digitize images at resolutions up to 2048 x 2048 and, depending on the change in content from frame to frame, transfer them at up to 120 frames per second, making the VGA2Ethernet significantly faster than other any frame grabber available on the market.
Please click here to go to our complete VGA frame grabber review and specification page. Do not hesitate to contact us should you wish another product to be added to the table.
When an organization, company, or individual has an idea for a VGA capture-based product, such as a webcasting system, a recorder of VGA signals, or any other VGA-related hardware product, a separate frame grabber is purchased, mated with a PC with software, packaged, and sold.
Solutions for capturing, broadcasting and recording presentations and seminars are often rediculously expensive ($10 000+) due to the fact that the original cost of the hardware (frame grabber + capture card + PC + peripherals) runs at half the retail value of the actual product. Not only did this make VGA capture-based solutions unaffordable to some, it also meant that educational institutions such as school and colleges had to spend an arm and a leg if they were to outfit every single one of their classrooms with such devices.
In order to solve this problem, Epiphan Systems has announced and is now shipping a new product aimed at capturing the market of developers, power users, and integrators – the VGA2LAN Development Kit. With a fully open-source architecture, a custom Linux build environment, access to all drivers and ports, the VGA2LAN is poised to create a revolution in the industry.
What is it?
The VGA2LAN platform is based off of a Motorola PowerPC chipset and comes preinstalled with a custom build of Ubuntu. The basic specifications are as follows:
- 1 VGA input with integrated frame grabber
- 1 VGA output
- Integrated Gigabit Ethernet hub
- 5 USB 2.0 ports (4 external + 1 internal)
- No moving parts
In other words, the VGA2LAN is effectively a small PowerPC-based computer with an integrated frame grabber.
Of course, what interests us most is the quality of VGA capture that this device can achieve. Does it really make sense to develop products using the VGA2LAN platform or is it still better to use an internal or external frame grabber paired to a PC? The basic specs are listed below and a full list of specifications can be obtained at Epiphan Systems’ web page:
- 2048 x 2048 maximum resolution
- 120 frames per second maximum capture rate
- Lossless quality
- 270 Mpixels/s pixel rate, 532Mpixels/s if interlaced
The specifications of the integrated frame grabber are comparable to those found in high-end devices costing upwards of $2000. A detailed comparison of VGA frame grabbers can be found here. And, since the price of the VGA2LAN Development Kit is under $1000, it makes sense to use it instead of a computer + frame grabber combo often costing 5 times that amount.
A Platform for Next Generation Internet Appliances
The VGA2LAN does not come with any internal memory. However, USB 2.0 flash memory drives can be purchased for pennies on the dollar and are sold in all capacities up to 128GB, meaning that you have plenty of buffer space to work with. Furthermore, the 4 external USB ports can be used to connect external hard drives and other storage media, such as CD, DVD, or Blu-Ray burners, infinitely expanding the VGA2LAN’s storage capacity.
Since the VGA2LAN is an open source platform, devices such as USB Wi-Fi antennas can be connected in order to provide wireless communications, should the integrated Gigabit Ethernet network card not be sufficient for your application. Furthermore, the presence of USB 2.0 ports means that peripherals suchs as keyboards, mice, AMX/Crestron control units, and others can be interfaced with the VGA2LAN, making it perfect for virtually any application that involves the capture of VGA signals.
The VGA2LAN Development Kit is a great way to build, use, and sell hardware products for a company or organization that doesn’t have the resources, finances, or expertise to manufacture their own capture hardware. And, at a price of $999 US, it is most definitely a bargain.
With current high end PCI-based and USB-based VGA frame grabbers pushing maximum capture rates of 60 frames per second, a VGA frame grabber that could capture at twice that rate seemed like a far-fetched idea… until today.
Already up for sale on this page, the VGA2Ethernet frame grabber claims to operate at a maximum resolution of 1600 x 1200, at which it can capture at a maximum rate of 66fps. However, that number is 120fps for lower resolutions.
Typical of any frame grabber made by Epiphan Systems, the VGA2Ethernet is external, portable, and has the same recording, archiving, and broadcasting functions of its smaller siblings. You may find a detailed review of these functions in our Epiphan VGA2USB LR Review.
Unlike any other VGA or DVI frame grabbers, the VGA2Ethernet, as the name suggests, plugs into the Ethernet port of the target computer. While GigE and other machine vision frame grabbers have been using the Ethernet protocol for some while, emplying Ethernet in a VGA frame grabber is a first for the industry. VGA2Ethernet uses the Gigabit Ethernet protocol, which is what allows it to achieve such high transfer rates when compared to traditional USB or PCI frame grabbers.
Besides the capture rate advantage, using the Ethernet protocol also allows you to extend the distance between the actual frame grabber and the target computer, as long as both the grabber and the target computer are on the same LAN. A diagram is shown below (taken from Epiphan.com):
Stay tuned for more news and reviews as more information is released by Epiphan Systems about the VGA2Ethernet.
Almost all computer equipment sold these days supports DVI. This can range from modern computers and projectors to game consoles like the Microsoft X-Box. Of course, this means that high end hardware solutions for DVI capture are now becoming readily available.
The first thing that you must determine is whether your DVI signal is a true digital video signal or a traditional analog source. The easiest way to tell if a digital or analog signal is running through your DVI port is to look at he connector that you are using and match it with the diagram of the DVI connector below.
If either your DVI plug or connector are DVI-D (DVI-Digital), this means that a 100% digital signal is being used. For this kind of signal, you absolutely need to use a DVI frame grabber.
If the connector or plug is of the DVI-A (DVI-Analog) flavor, then you’d be able to use a DVI to VGA adapter and a VGA frame grabber. DVI-A supports analog signals only is and is identical to VGA but with a different pin placement.
If the plug is DVI-I (DVI-Integrated), this means that it is capable of running both an analog and digital signal along the cable. Thus, unless you know if the signal is analog or digital, you would need a DVI-capable frame grabber to capture the signal.
As stated earlier, a VGA frame grabber would do the job for DVI-A and analog-only DVI-I signals. Before a VGA grabber can be used, the DVI signal needs to be converted to a VGA one using a DVI-to-VGA adapter, which costs roughly $10 (pictured below).
You can now follow the same procedure as you would when recording a VGA signal with your VGA frame grabber.
Digital Signals (DVI-D and DVI-I)
If you have determined that you have a digital DVI signal that needs to be captured, a DVI-specific frame grabber must be used. Before choosing a suitable frame grabber, you must determine if the DVI signal is single link or dual link.
A single link DVI signal can support, at a refresh rate of 60 Hz, a maximum resolution of 1915 x 1436. If your DVI cable supports a higher resolution at a refresh rate of 60 Hz, then you are running a dual link signal. Dual link DVI is used primarily on large LCD monitors, such as the Apple monitor or the 25″+ Dell monitors.
If you need to capture a dual link DVI signal, then your choice of frame grabber is limited to one model, the Epiphan Systems DVI2USB Duo (pictured below), which captures single and dual link digital DVI signals only.
Unfortunately, the DVI2USB Duo is a very specific high-end frame grabber that does not have the ability to capture an analog or VGA video signal. However, the DVI2USB Duo is a blessing for those with dual link DVI capture requirements. You can see how the DVI2USB Duo stacks up against its competition in this table.
If, however, you need to capture a single link DVI signal, then your choices are much greater. If you are looking for a PCI-based card, then you have a choice of the EMS Imaging Xtreme RGB, NCast DCC 3.1 or the Unigraf UFG-03. If you are into external USB-based solutions, then Epiphan Systems offers the DVI2USB, which is an external dual-mode VGA and DVI frame grabber or the DVI2USB Solo, which can capture a single link DVI signal only.
There is no one ideal frame grabber that does everything. Your choice of a DVI capturing device should depend on your needs, as outlined above. If you wish to find the specifications of each frame grabber featured in this article, then this would be a good place to start.