Epiphan Systems Releases PCI Express VGA Frame Grabber

March 31, 2010 by Victor · 1 Comment 


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.

Epiphan Systems Announces New Open Source Frame Grabber

October 14, 2009 by Victor · Leave a Comment 

A first in the market of high resolution video capture hardware, Epiphan Systems has announced a new open source frame grabber – Epiphan Lecture Recorder.

According to the product page, shipping of the Lecture Recorder will start sometime in November. Epiphan Lecture Recorder, or ELR in short, has some promising features that, at the price tag of $2000, are unbeatable by similar offerings.

ELR formats

ELR’s Unique Features

Even though this product seems to be aimed at the educational market, Epiphan Lecture Recorder has some unique features that make it a perfect frame grabber for pretty much any application. Firstly, ELR supports not only DVI and VGA capture, but also has on-board inputs for composite video and stereo audio.

Furthermore, Epiphan Lecture recorder has a very generous 32GB of buffer memory, which is expandable via portable flash sticks, network drives, or external hard disks.

Finally, ELR features 5 USB ports for external devices and peripherals, meaning that you can create software that will allow you to connect external control devices such as IR remotes, CD/DVD writers, wireless modules, an so on.

Open Source

As mentioned earlier, Epiphan Lecture Recorder will be an open source device. What this means for developers is that it is possible to access all features of the frame grabber. And, because the ELR is more of an embedded computer or internet appliance, many interesting applications can be written for it. For example, the ELR, as it has an Ethernet network interface, can function as its own server, as pictured below.

Epiphan Lecture Recorder

In a Nutshell

The Epiphan Lecture Recorder is more of a computer with on-board frame grabber and video and audio capture cards than it is an actual frame grabber. While this might not be the ideal device for the general public, the ELR could be used as a platform for a wide variety of applications.

Click here to view Epiphan Lecture Recorder’s product page on Epiphan Systems’ website.

Frame Grabber Specification Comparison Table Updated

July 3, 2009 by Victor · Leave a Comment 

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.

Capture VGA

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.


Easily Duplicate a VGA Signal to Anywhere in the World

December 16, 2008 by Victor · Leave a Comment 

Gone are the days of WebEx and high-priced license-based collaboration solutions. Epiphan Systems has introduced a simple yet powerful VGA-based conferencing product for online collaboration and monitor synchronization.

The VGA Bridge, promises to “bridge” the distance gap between two monitors or projectors, whether they be in the rooms next to each-other or accross the world.

It works by digitizing the analog VGA signal into a compressed digital format that is suitable for web broadcast and then sending it to the receiving VGA Bridge for uncomression and reproduction. While this is not a new concept in the world of web-enabled streaming content, the fact that the VGA Bridge can handle resolutions up to 1600 x 1200 in 100% lossless quality is a first. Of course, you would need a fast and stable Internet or Gigabit LAN connection in order to achieve transfer rates of up to 60 frames per second, but that is to be expected from such as high-end and specialized product.

If web-based collaboration, telemedicine, or remote monitor synchronization are critical to your application, we suggest that you seriously consider the VGA Bridge from Epiphan Systems.

New, Revolutionary VGA Frame Grabber Released

December 8, 2008 by Victor · Leave a Comment 

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

Stay tuned for more news and reviews as more information is released by Epiphan Systems about the VGA2Ethernet.

Your Complete Guide to VGA and VGA Capture

October 6, 2008 by Victor · 1 Comment 

Whether your application involves creating IT instructional manuals, recording from high resolution security systems, sharing a presentation with people from around the world, or printing handouts directly from any computer screen, you are looking at VGA video capture or VGA signal capture as a mean to achieving these goals. This article will explain in-depth how VGA signal capture works and what you need to know in order to capture such a signal.

The VGA Plug

VGA connector

Unlike DVI or HDMI, which are both digital standards, a VGA signal is purely analog. The differences between VGA, DVI, and HDMI are described in detail in this article.

“VGA” is short for Video Graphics Array and has been the most common connector/plug for analog video on computer equipment and various electronics with an analog video output since the introduction of personal computers (PCs). VGA carries a RGB (red-green-blue) signal and is sometimes referred to as “D-Sub” due to its’ 15-pin “subminiature” connector. The term “VGA” also refers to the VGA standard graphics resolution – 640×480 pixels.

A detailed VGA pinout is shown below to help advanced users understand how VGA works. Source.

VGA Video Connector Pinout

Pin # Signal Name
1 Red
2 Green
3 Blue
4 No Connect
5 Ground
6 Ground
7 Ground
8 Ground
9 No Connect
10 Ground
11 No Connect
13 Horizontal Synchronization
14 Vertical Synchronization
15 DDC Clock


VGA Frame Grabbers and How They Work

The only true way to capture and record a VGA signal is through a VGA-compatible frame grabber. A VGA frame grabber can be defined as a device that proccesses analog VGA signals and converts them into digital signals readable by computer equipment. While frame grabbers are described in slightly higher detain in this Wikipedia article, these three main internal components determine a VGA frame grabber’s performance:

  1. ADC (analog-to-digital) converter. This is the circuit that transforms the analog signal coming from the source VGA signal into a digital stream that can be read by the target computer.
  2. RAM (random-access memory). Also referred to as buffer memory, this memory is vital in storing the captured image for a short period of time on board the actual frame grabber.
  3. FPGA (field-programmable gate array). This is the heart of the frame grabber and is analogous to a processor inside a PC. It is a part that is entirely programmed by the manufacturer of the frame grabber.

Some frame grabbers, like the PixelSmart VGA Master have no on-board RAM buffer memory. This fact alone, besides leading to a lower-quality image, lowers the maximum possible capture rate (also referred to as frame rate) achievable by the frame grabber. Frame grabbers without on-board RAM are sufficient for the capture of presentations with lots of static slides or any other static imagery, like capturing screenshots from the computer’s BIOS. On the other hand, if you are capturing a high-resolution image and/or are capturing from a source with a high frame rate, like a video game console (ie XBOX 360) or medical equipment (ie: ultrasound), a frame grabber with at least 16MB RAM would be preferred.  The VGA2USB Pro by Epiphan Systems, for example, has 32MB RAM memory and is able to capture at a whopping 60 frames per second in some resolutions.

PixelSmart’s Internal PCI VGA-Master


Epiphan Systems’ external USB-based VGA2USB Pro frame grabber

While RAM is important in defining the characteristics of a frame grabber and the quality of the image it outputs, another important factor is the way that the FPGA, or processor, is programmed. You will notice that the higher-end frame grabbers, like the VGA2USB Pro pictured above, have built-in features that some of the more basic frame grabbers, like the PixelSmart, do not have. A quick look at the Epiphan Systems webpage reveals the following features programmed via the FPGA processor: On-board cropping, Color space conversion, USB Transfer Accelerator™, Compression Booster Filters™. All of these software/firmware features allow the frame grabber to achieve extremely high quality and transfer rates without increasing the frame grabber’s size.

Please refer to our complete Frame Grabber Specifications Comparison Table for detailed and complete specifications on every VGA frame grabber on the market.

Applications for Frame Grabbers

Frame Grabbers, while being a niche product, have many practical uses in today’s IT-oriented business environment. The five most common and prominent uses are described in detail in our Top 5 Uses for High Resolution Frame Grabbers You Should Know About article. From the gaming industry to the military, frame grabbers are used accross many fields related to computer technology. To give you a general idea, some industry-specific uses for high resolution VGA frame grabbers are described below.

Computer Console Gaming

Microsoft’s X-BOX 360 gaming console has the ability to output its images via VGA or DVI. This means that a VGA frame grabber can be used to capture and record the gameplay from this game console, and even broadcast the gameplay live over the internet for other viewers to see.

The diagram above explains how to connect an X-BOX 360 to a frame grabber for recording and broadcasting the gameplay. The X-BOX’s VGA cable is connected to a VGA splitter’s input, from which one VGA output goes to the TV, and the other to the frame grabber-equipped computer. The image can then be broadcasted to the internet using the computer.

Presentation, Conference Broadcasting and Recording

In today’s globalized business world, businesses often have partners in many different countries. When conducting an online meeting or presentation, the presenter often has the need to share his screen with viewers around the world. For this exact reason, VGA frame grabbers are useful. They allow the presenter to not only share an image from a projector, but also from a BIOS screen, an ATM machine, a RADAR device, a medical ultrasound device, a security system, or even an electronic microscope. Most of these VGA sources are not able to be broadcasted in real-time with the use of traditional software sources, and frame grabbers are the only way to properly create diagnostic-quality images and videos from these devices.

In the diagram above, the VGA source is connected directly to a frame grabber-equipped PC with access to the internet. Using any web broadcasting software, the user is able to relay the images and video captured by the frame grabber to his or her audience.

Security System Surveillance Recording and Broadcasting

Today’s security systems and cameras are able to support digital formats as well as high resolutions required for complex security solutions. Of course, as solution is needed to record the outputs from the security system, store it in a digital format, and provide access to the files from remote locations. All of this can be accomplished with VGA frame grabber-based technology, such as the VGA Recorder, which have ample space for recording video files (up to 500GB), are able to directly transmit recordings to a remote FTP location, and give access to the recorded files through a web interface.

The diagram above, borrowed from the Epiphan Systems website, shows how easy it is to hook up a security system’s VGA output to the VGA Recorder. Everything can be set up in minutes, and the VGA Recorder is able to archive hundreds of hours of digital compressed video data to its internal hard drive.

Telemedicine and Remote Guidance

Telemedicine, also known as Remote Guidance, is an expanding field in which doctors are able to, through the internet, diagnose patients and provide advice. Telemedicine has many practical applications but some of the more notable ones are the delivery of expertise to areas in which it is not practical to have a qualified doctor at all times. For example, lets suppose that a player on a sports team gets a knee injury. Through telemedicine, the coach can use a portable ultrasound device like the Logiq Book XP and, with the aid of a frame grabber, relay the images from the Logiq Book directly to a qualified radiologist who can then make a decision on the severety of the injury.

The diagram above shows how any equipment with a VGA output, such as the ultrasound device, can be connected to a frame grabber, and the a computer. The images are then relayed to the qualified radiologist or doctor through the internet or a satellite uplink. If you would like to find out more about the field of remote guidance,  then this website is a good start.



The VGA signal is the most common format used on today’s electronics and computer-based equipment. When this equipment is coupled with a VGA frame grabber, the possibilities are endless. Using a frame grabber, which is a relatively inexpensive device, organizations can not only significantly cut costs, but can also improve their productivity.



VGA, DVI, HDMI. What they are and how they differ.

September 9, 2008 by Victor · 5 Comments 


VGA stands for Video Graphics Array and is the most common connector for analog video on computer equipment and various electronics with an analog video output. VGA carries a RGB (red-green-blue) signal and is also referred to as D-Sub due to its’ 15-pin connector. The term “VGA” also refers to the VGA strandard graphics resolution – 640×480 pixels. The VGA connector, unlike DVI or HDMI does not carry a digital video signal.

The following is a “VGA chart” showing the term, pixel, and aspect ratio for common resolutions. Source: Wikipedia

Name x
(×1 Million)
Percentage of difference in pixels
VGA 640 480 0.31 1.33 0% −36% −61% −69% −77% −79% −84% −90%
SVGA 800 600 0.48 1.33 56% 0% −39% −52% −63% −67% −75% −85%
XGA 1024 768 0.79 1.33 156% 64% 0% −21% −40% −47% −59% −75%
XGA+ 1152 864 1.00 1.33 224% 107% 27% 0% −24% −32% −48% −68%
SXGA 1280 1024 1.31 1.25 327% 173% 67% 32% 0% −11% −32% −58%
SXGA+ 1400 1050 1.47 1.33 379% 206% 87% 48% 12% 0% −23% −53%
UXGA 1600 1200 1.92 1.33 525% 300% 144% 93% 46% 31% 0% −39%
QXGA 2048 1536 3.15 1.33 924% 555% 300% 216% 140% 114% 64% 0%




DVI stands for Digital Visual Interface and is a digital video format used on most modern computer monitors. It is forward compatible with HDMI video in digital mode and fully compatible with VGA video in analog mode.

The DVI connector carries both a digital and analog video signal. It is of rectangular form and comes in a variety of flavors dependant on its pin layout.

DVI-I (Single Link) Integrated digital and analog signals.
DVI-I (Dual Link) Integrated digital and analog signals.
DVI-D (Single Link) Digital signal only. Incompatible with VGA.
DVI-D (Dual Link)

Digital signal only. Incompatible with VGA.

DVI-A Analog signal only. Backwards compatible with VGA. Incompatible with HDMI.



HDMI, or High-Definition Multimedia Interface, is a commonly used connector on consumer high-definition video equipment, such as plasma TVs and DVD players. HDMI carries a video and audio signal along one cable and has support for content protection. HDMI video is backward-compatible with any digital DVI signal, meaning that a DVI signal can easily be converted into HDMI and vice-versa.



Compatibility, Signal Conversion

This section will explain how to convert a VGA signal to DVI, a DVI signal to VGA, a DVI signal to HDMI, a HDMI signal to DVI, a VGA signal to HDMI, and a HDMI signal to VGA.


VGA, being an analog signal, can only be converted to an analog DVI signal. This includes DVI-A and DVI-I, with only the analog pins being used on the DVI-I connector in the conversion proccess. A simple adapter can be used to convert VGA to DVI.




Since HDMI is essentially a digital DVI signal with an audio feed and support for content protection packaged in one cable, HDMI can easily be converted to DVI as long as no content protection is enabled on the HDMI device. Of course, when converting HDMI to DVI or vice-versa, only the video signal is carried over. An inexpensive adapter (pictured) is used to convert the signal.



VGA is purely an analog video signal, while HDMI is 100% digital. This alone makes both video formats incompatible with each-other. Some sort of analog to digital (ADC) or digital to analog (DAC) converter must be used in order to interface VGA with HDMI. One such product is the Atlona AT-HD500. While there are several similar products on the market to convert VGA to HDMI, all of them are costly and do not produce the same quality as a pure HDMI or VGA connection would give to the user.

If you are looking to connect your VGA video card to your HD TV via HDMI, it is suggested that you invest in a video card with direct digital DVI or HDMI interfaces, as this is the cheapest and best way to display the video from your computer on a TV.


Convert VGA to TV signal using tiny device

August 13, 2008 by Victor · Leave a Comment 

How many times have you wanted to use a TV as a computer monitor? Maybe there has been a situation where you wanted to extend the output of your laptop or portable computer onto a TV screen but the computer did not have a TV output? While the TV-out was a standard port on older laptop computers, it is seldom found on modern portable and ultraportable computers.

This is where a device like the Grandtec GEZ-1000 VGA-to-TV converter comes in.  About the size of a standard pencil eraser (4” x 2.25” x 1.25”), the GEZ-1000 takes a VGA signal and converts into a TV signal via a standard composite video RCA or S-Video cable.

The GEZ-1000 uses a starndard USB port to draw its power, so no external power source is required. Simply plug it into the VGA source, and composite video or S-Video output, and any available USB port, and the device will automatically begin relaying the VGA image to the TV it is connected to. If you are considering this converter, make sure to have long enough VGA and video cables available, as these are not included in the package.

Feature comparison table for the world’s best VGA and DVI frame grabbers

July 29, 2008 by admin · 2 Comments 

The niche market for VGA and DVI frame grabbers is full of different products, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Since there are no defined standards in the field of high-resolution frame grabbers, it is often very difficult to choose among the various offerings. Analyzing each frame grabber and then comparing it to others in the industry can be a very tedious task, which is why we’ve compiled a side-by-side comparison table to ease the selection process, making it easy to compare these cutting edge products side by side.

This table was made using specifications supplied via each manufacturer’s website and data sheets. Some manufacturers do not provide complete specifications for their products, in which case “Not specified” is written in the table cell. For actual real-life tests and results, consult the “Reviews” section of this website.

Please note that all specifications supplied by the manufacturer are included in this table, making this the most comprehensive frame grabber comparison on the internet. After the table you will find short descriptions for what each specification means and how it impacts the capture process.

EMS Imaging Xtreme RGB

Epiphan Systems

Epiphan Systems DVI2USB Duo Epiphan Systems VGA2USB Pro Foresight Imaging I-RGB 200 Ncast DCC 3.1
Product Image

Interface PCI (internal) Gigabit Ethernet
USB 2.0 (external) USB 1.1 and 2.0 (external) PCI (internal) PCI (internal)
Board Format 3/4 Size PCI Card, 105mm x 170mm; PCI Bus Master with scatter/gather DMA providing up to 1GB/sec peak, 500MB/sec sustained

External device, 7.95″×4.13″×1.38″, 202×105×35 mm;
Gigabit Ethernet Bus

External device, 5″ x 3.2″ x 1.2″; 126 mm x 81 mm x 30 mm; USB Bus providing with up to 480 Mbit/s External device, 80 mm x 54 mm x 23 mm; 3.15″ x 2.125″ x 0.91″; USB Bus providing with up to 480 Mbit/s 3/4 Size PCI Card; 120+ MB/sec sustained to system memory via PCI bus master; Real-time transfer to VGA memory Full size PCI card; PCI 33MhZ, 32Bit BUS
Connectors 2 DVI-I Type connectors Two VGA D type connectors
Two Ethernet RJ45 connectors
One USB type A connector
One 5V DC power supply connector or Power-Over-Ethernet
DVI dual-link; USB mini B type connetor VGA D type connector; USB mini B type connector; 5V DC 1.3mm power supply connector 15 pin D-shell connector (VGA type) RGB on DB15; DVI-D; S-Video; Composite
Input VGA, DVI (single link) VGA DVI (single link and dual link) VGA VGA, DVI-A (analog only) VGA, DVI (single link), composite, S-Video
Input Mode Detection Automatic Automatic Automatic Automatic Automatic Automatic
EDID Support Programmable EDID Programmable EDID Programmable EDID Programmable EDID Not specified Not specified
Video Format R,G,B plus separate HSYNC and VSYNC signals; R,G,B plus CSYNC signal; R,G,B with Sync-on-Green synchronization. TDMS Single Link R,G,B plus separate HSYNC and VSYNC signals; R,G,B plus CSYNC signal; R,G,B with Sync-on-Green synchronization. TMDS Dual Link; HDCP ready R,G,B plus separate HSYNC and VSYNC signals; R,G,B plus CSYNC signal; R,G,B with Sync-on-Green synchronization. R,G,B plus separate HSYNC and VSYNC signals R, G, B plus separate HSYNC and VSYNC signals; TDMS Single Link
Maximum Resolution 2048 x 1536 (VGA) 1920 x 1080 (DVI) 2048 x 2048
2560 x 1600 (wide)
2048 x 2048 2560 x 1600 (wide) 2048 x 2048 1600 x 1200 1920 x 1200
Update Rate User defined, typically up to 60 frames per second, limited by available PCI bandwidth. Multi-buffered to eliminate tearing artifacts Up to 120 frames per second, depending on resolution and amount of change in frames Up to 52 frames per second, depending on amount of change in frames Up to 62 frames per second, depending on amount of change in frames Not specified YUV mode: 24 60 fps RGB mode: 15 30 fps
Capture Rate at 1280 x 1024 60 fps 20-100 fps 10.0-52 fps 10.0-62 fps Not specified 28-56 fps
Color Resolution 16 bits per pixel, 5:6:5 format; 24 bits per pixel, 8:8:8 format. 16 bits per pixel, YUV(422) Chroma packed YUYV format. 24 bits per pixel, RGB 8:8:8 format; 16 bits per pixel, RGB 5:6:5 format ; 8 bits per pixel, RGB 3:3:2, 3:2:3, 2:3:3; 8 bits per pixel, 256-grey scale format ; 16 bits per pixel, YUY2(422), UYVY; 24 bits per pixel, RGB 8:8:8 format; 16 bits per pixel, RGB 5:6:5 format ; 8 bits per pixel, RGB 3:3:2, 3:2:3, 2:3:3; 8 bits per pixel, 256-grey scale format ; 16 bits per pixel, YUY2(422), UYVY; 24 bits per pixel, RGB 8:8:8 format; 16 bits per pixel, RGB 5:6:5 format ; 8 bits per pixel, RGB 3:3:2, 3:2:3, 2:3:3; 8 bits per pixel, 256-grey scale format ; 16 bits per pixel, YUY2(422), UYVY; 24 bits per pixel, RGB 8:8:8 format; RGB 8:8:8; RGB 5:5:5, YUV 4:2:2, Y-only RGB 8:8:8 format; YUV 4:2:0 format
Transfer Rate 330 Megapixels per second 270 MPixel/s and 532MPixel/s for two consequent frame interlaced grab 330 Megapixels per second 270 Megapixels per second 200 Megapixels per second 165 Megapixels per second
On-board memory 32MB 32MB 32MB 32MB 12MB
Multiple devices supported Up to 32 Yes, limited by network bandwidth Limited by number of USB ports present on computer Limited by number of USB ports present on computer Not specified Not specified
Operating System Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista Linux (x86, amd64), Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista (x86, amd64), Mac OS X 10.3.x and up. Linux (x86, amd64), Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista (x86, amd64), Mac OS X 10.3.x and up. Linux (x86, amd64), Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista (x86, amd64), Mac OS X 10.3.x and up. Windows XP Professional Windows 2000, Windows XP, Linux
SDK, API Windows: EMS SDK included. WDM streaming drivers included. Windows: DirectShow API, Proprietary API (C/C++, VB 6, C#, Delphi) Linux: Video4Linux API, Proprietary API (C/C++) Mac OS X: Quicktime API, Proprietary API (C/C++) Windows: DirectShow API, Proprietary API (C/C++, VB 6, C#, Delphi) Linux: Video4Linux API, Proprietary API (C/C++) Mac OS X: Quicktime API, Proprietary API (C/C++) Windows: DirectShow API, Proprietary API (C/C++, VB 6, C#, Delphi) Linux: Video4Linux API, Proprietary API (C/C++) Mac OS X: Quicktime API, Proprietary API (C/C++) Auto-SYNC automatic configuration software; Example application programs (source code included); Real-time video streaming with AVI file creation; IDEA software development kit; ActiveX controls; Common Vision Blox, Image-Pro Plus, and TWAIN drivers SDK available: Ncast Screen capture software application, Ncast Control Program for settings
Power Requirements Max current at +3.3V – 1A Max current at +5V – 1A Max power – 8 Watts 5V DC external adapter or Power-Over-Ethernet 5V DC external adapter 5V DC external adapter Not specified Input RGB analog 1600×1200 (capture set to 18fps): 3.3V @ 1.20A = 3.96W; 5V @ 0.55A = 2.75W; Total= 6.71W typical
Operating Temperature 0 to 35 ?C Not specified Not specified Not specified Not specified 0 to 35 ?C
Storage Temperature -20 to 70 ?C Not specified Not specified Not specified Not specified Not Specified
Relative Humidity 5% to 90% non-condensing Not specified Not specified Not specified Not specified 5% to 90% non-condensing
Other Features / Specifications Update rates when used with the EMS Vigilant-X graphics card are: 1 channel at 1280 x 1024 = 75Hz. 1 channel at 1024 x 768 = 75Hz. LEDs to indicate operational status (power, source, capturing) LEDs to indicate operational status (power, source, capturing) LEDs to indicate operational status (power, source, capturing) Pixel jitter: 0.5 ns S/N ratio: 47 dB Dedicated trigger input Camera power: +12 V DC @ 1.0 A Camera integration Dedicated high current digital output Simultaneous capture of two synchronized input streams; Picture-in-Picture capability
Common Applications Capturing VGA and DVI signals using a stationary source Capturing a VGA signal over a distance; Capturing high-resolution imagery from dual-link DVI signals. High speed and high precision military, medical, and industrial applications. Capturing ultrasound, radar and other industrial diagnostic-quality images. Broadcasting VGA output to web. Capturing VGA and DVI signals using a stationary source. Monitor, display testing. Supports camera integration. Capturing camera output, archiving HD video.
Price Not specified $1 600.00 $2 000.00 $2 000.00 Not specified $ 1 995.00

This table was made using specifications supplied via each manufacturer’s website and data sheets. Some manufacturers do not provide complete specifications for their products, in which case “Not specified” is written in the table cell. For actual real-life tests and results, consult the “Reviews” section of this website.

Brand/Product PixelSmart VGA-Master Unigraf UFG-03A Hidef
Product Image

Interface PCI (internal) PCI (internal)
Board Format Full size PCI card; 32 bit 33 MHZ 5 Volt BUS 3/4 Size PCI card; 175mm length; PCI bus master; bursts up to 133 MBytes/sec; Compatible with both 5 V and 3.3 V bus logic voltages
Connectors DB15 VGA RGB on DB15; DVI-D; optional composite video
Input VGA VGA, DVI (single-link)
Input Mode Detection Not specified Automatic
EDID Support Not specified Not specified
Video Format R, G, B plus separate HSYNC and VSYNC signals R,G,B plus separate HSYNC and VSYNC signals; R,G,B plus CSYNC signal; R,G,B with Sync-on-Green synchronization.
Maximum Resolution 1280 x 1024 1600 x 1200
Update Rate Not specified Not specified; Progressive and interlaced scan modes.
Capture Rate at 1280 x 1024 Not specified Not specified
Color Resolution Not specified 16, 24, 32 bits per pixel
Transfer Rate Not specified 133 Megabytes per second (~300 MP/s)
On-board memory Not Specified
Multiple devices supported Up to 4 Up to 10
Operating System DOS, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows NT, Windows XP Windows 2000, Windows XP, Linux
SDK, API Victor SDK by Catenary Systems; ImageJ processing software. Video for Windows, UFG-03 Extended Driver Interface, SDK with examples, DLL library, C++, Visual Basic, LabView code included
Power Requirements Not specified 7.5 watts maximum
Operating Temperature Not specified Not specified
Storage Temperature Not specified Not specified
Relative Humidity Not specified Not specified
Other Features / Specifications None Picture-in-Picture mode allows for up to 10 capture images displayed on one screen; Hardware image scaling from half of imput image size to 1600 x 1200
Common Applications Presentation recording, low-quality image capture Webcasting, testing and measurement (LabView)
Price $349.00 Not specified

*Manufacturers specification sheets were used to compose the table above. In cases where the manufacturer did not indicate a specification, not specified is written in the table cell.



All manufacturers except for Epiphan Systems, which makes external USB-based devices, produce internal PCI cards.


Frame grabbers from Epiphan Systems and PixelSmart only have one input for a single VGA or DVI stream. However, Epiphan Systems DVI2USB Duo is the only frame grabber on the market that is able to capture dual link DVI signals with a maximum resolution of 2048×2048. Ncasts DCC 3.1 gives the user the most choice in terms of signal inputs as it has on-board VGA, DVI, composite, and S-Video inputs.

Capture Rate

Out of the two manufacturers that specified capture rates in their specification tables, Epiphan Systems has the highest possible capture rate at 62 frames per second, while Ncast has a higher lowest frame rate at 1280 x 1024. Capture rate depends highly on the nature of the image that is being captured. The user will notice lower capture rates in applications where there is a lot of movement in the VGA or DVI source.

Color Resolution

Compared to other manufacturers, Epiphan Systems VGA2USB and DVI2USB have the widest range of support for different video formats, whereas Unigrafs UFG-03A is the only frame grabber with support for a color resolution of 32 bits per pixel.

Transfer Rate

The maximum transfer rate determines how much data can be moved between the frame grabber and the computer. While it doesnt directly affect the picture quality, a higher transfer rate means that the frame grabber can handle more pixel changes from frame to frame.

Multiple Devices Supported

Many times, the user needs to record output from multiple sources onto one device simultaneously. Basically, this number indicates the maximum number of devices all functioning at the same time, while connected to a single computer.

Operating System

All manufacturers have Windows XP support. Epiphan Systems is the only manufacturer to support MAC OS X while PixelSmart is the only company to have support for the ancient command line-based DOS and Windows 98 operating systems. Epiphan Systems, Ncast, and Unigraf are the only companies to support Linux.


All manufacturers provide the user with an SDK and sample code. Epiphan Systems and Unigraf are the only two companies which produce Video for Windows capable frame grabbers which have the capability to appear as high-resolution cameras in Windows.


All high-resolution and high quality frame grabbers are generally priced around $2 000 USD. PixelSmarts VGA-Master is priced at only $349 because it is not capable of grabbing high resolution signals, meaning that the picture quality will be poor compared to the other frame grabbers in this review.


Be wary of manufacturers that omit important specifications such as capture rate in their specification sheets. Specifications are usually not included if the product is unable to achieve steady performance.