Matrix Orbital MX212 Display
|Matrix Orbital MX212 Display|
|MX212 In Action and Conclusion|
These days there are many pre-modded cases to choose from, and while they all try to be different, the truth is each "new" case sells to thousands of people. In the end you're left with the same case setup as many other people. To make your case different, you need an edge. That's where Matrix Orbital comes in. Matrix Orbital has been making LCD, VFD and other displays for years, and what's cool is that they are located right here in Calgary, Alberta Canada. Sweet stuff.
Today we will be looking at their popular MX212 display and give this unit a run through the paces. There are so many options and functions of this unit that we won't bore you with them all. Instead, we'll just highlight the ones that struck us as nifty and just touch on the rest.
Package & First Look:
I was through Calgary recently to see a friend and I thought I'd give Matrix Orbital a call and see if they could hook me up with some new gear. I talked to Nick and he said that they'd send me out some gear right away, but I asked if I could head on over to their manufacturing facility and pick it up instead. He agreed and I got to take a brief tour of the Matrix Orbital Fab. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me, but we were invited back so that we can take pictures another time.
All of the manufacturing, packaging and shipping is done in-house at MO. This helps to save cost and also ensures that everything is up to snuff.
The MX212 is packaged very well and even comes wrapped in bubble wrap. Also the face-plate is protected by a thick plastic coating that peals off to reveal a more shiny finish. The pictures of the unit below were taken with the film still on, so the MX212 doesn't look as impressive as it does in real life.
The MX212 is designed quite simple and that's what makes it beautiful.
While the MX212 comes equipped to monitor temperatures from four probes, the standard package doesn't include any temperature probes at all. You can however, control fans with this unit using software to setup and configure the front buttons.
In order to take full advantage of the fan headers (also known as GPO (General Purpose Outputs)), you'll need to supply power to the MX212 though the use of a floppy power connector. These GPO's also server other functions such as making LED's flash, starting fans, and pretty much anything else you want to hardwire to a fan header.
To let me test out the full functionality of this unit, Matrix Orbital also fired me over an small accessory package pictured below. These accessories include a temperature probe, and the GPO LED display and cable.
Because the sides of the MX212 are short, many tool-less cases will not work with the MX212. If you use clip-on drive rails you will probably be out of luck, unless you have a case that also allows you to mount the drives using screws instead of the tool-less rails. Our CoolerMaster Stacker case can be used either with rails or with screws. Beause of this stroke of luck, we had no problem installing the unit.
My only real beef with this unit is that it requires software to work properly, and the software is not included. That's right, you have to purchase the handy-dandy software to make this unit work. Matrix Orbital uses the famous LCDC software and it is very powerful, but it sucks that you have to drop another $20 to pay for the software that the box says "Easy to use software included!" In fact, you have to go and download the software because there is not a CD in the box. While there is software available for free that allows you to communicate with the display, the features they boast require software that costs almost $20, after your 30 days trial expires.
We'll take a brief look at the LCDC software that allows this unit to do some pretty cool stuff. This is not meant as a tutorial or a guide, it is to simply show you a bit about the interface and what all is possible with the MX212.
I have to give credit to Matrix Orbital for supporting this unit under both Windows x86 and Windows x64. They have drivers available for both platforms and they seem to work without any issues at all. We ran this unit on both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows and found the drivers to work exactly the same. This is nice to see.
After you install the drivers and the LCDC software, the next task is configuring the software to work with your display. This should be a painless process, as you head on over to the Configure/Test area in the LCDC software screen.
LCDC - Configuration
Once the display is detected and connected, you can adjust the brightness and contrast. I dropped the brightness down a bunch as the display was too bright in my opinion. At 40% brightness, you can still easily read the display in a bright room, and that's good enough for me.
The capability of the MX212 is rather remarkable. You can display stock quotes, weather, Motherboard Monitor information, SETI info, Folding @ Home stats, email notifications, hard drive space, voltage, MP3 info and visuals, FPS in games, fan speed, RSS feeds, network traffic and much, much, MUCH more. The key here is that it has to be done through the LCDC software, and more specifically - plug-ins.
Once you've got the plug-ins installed and configured, you need to set up the "screens". Screens are what gets displayed on the MX212 LCD. As you can see below, you can set up basic screens as well as screens based on events. Events are handy for things like displaying Winamp visuals only when Winamp is playing music.
Head on over to the next page as we fire up this unit and take some pictures of it in action.