Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve heard of the ArcadeVGA. The ArcadeVGA is the easiest way to interface your PC to an Arcade Monitor. Ultimarc has recently released the ArcadeVGA2 with some new features. The AVGA2 now comes in two versions: an AGP version based on the ATI 9250 chip and a PCI Express version based on the ATI X550 chip. Although, they share many of the same arcade related features I used the AGP version during this review.
Like the AVGA, the AVGA2 allows direct connection to a 15kHz standard resolution arcade monitor with no special configuration or special driver software. The AVGA2 has support for 28 arcade perfect resolutions. This means running games at the exact same resolution as they were run in the arcades. A full list of all 28 built-in resolutions can be seen at www.ultimarc.com.
In addition to the features of previous AVGA versions, here is a list of some of the other notable new features of the AVGA2:
There are a couple of issues when installing Windows XP with the ArcadeVGA2 in the system. During the first part of installation the screen is cut in half. Later during installation, the resolution is set to a mode your monitor may not support. It is highly recommended to install Windows without the ArcadeVGA2 and instead use an alternate video card during installation.
The next step seems to be problematic for AVGA owners as well. Driver installation. I took the foolproof approach and installed the drivers in Windows Safe Mode. This worked without any problems. There was a problem with the Ati Control Panel after installation. Part of the Options screen was corrupted. You could check and uncheck the features, but the corruption partially hides the unselected line.
After installation, there are a couple of things that need to be done to fully utilize the AVGA2 with multi-frequency monitors such as the D9200. First, run the Tri-Sync Utility. This enables the 25kHz resolutions as well as running higher resolutions such as 640x480 non-interlaced at 31kHz. The next step for users of standard resolution and multi-frequency monitors is to follow the instructions at www.ultimarc.com/avgainst.html for setting up MAME. There is little point in using an AVGA2, if you don’t follow these steps, which includes turning off hardware stretch. Some users may also want to specify resolutions for individual games in MAME and other emulators so that they will run at the best resolution for every game. This is best done with one of the automatic resolution generation tools.
15kHz (Standard Resolution) – Most arcade games run at standard resolution. As in previous versions of the AVGA, 15kHz games looked great. Games were displayed at their native resolutions and configuration was easy. On some vertical games, I did have to use a game specific ini file to ensure the correct resolution was picked.
25kHz (Medium Resolution) – All I can say is Cool. Fans of games like 720, Paperboy, and other medium resolution games can now view them exactly as they were displayed in the arcade. As this was the first time my D9200 has run at 25kHz it was somewhat exciting. I could actually tell the difference from my older AVGA as well. The game displayed less flicker and filled out the screen much more accurately.
Regular Monitor Comparison
Using an LCD to test the AVGA2 was surprising, I used the multi-monitor support and connected the D9200 to the VGA port and connected an LCD to the DVI port. This allowed me to look at the output side-by-side. It’s hard to describe the picture but it looked really good. There aren’t any scan lines and it’s not running at standard resolution, but otherwise the picture looked sharp, filled the screen, and looked similar to the D9200 with no stretching. I think the lack of scan lines is what makes the games appear sharper. The labeling of native resolution may be slightly questionable, but games ran as native as they could on a high-resolution monitor. Configuration was just as easy with the D9200 if not easier as I didn’t need to use game specific ini files.
– The AVGA2 AGP version is an ATI 9250 at heart. It's been around for a while and is not going to break any speed records. With that being said, I've never had to think about performance with the AVGA2 AGP. It's handled every thing I've thrown at it. If you are worried about performance, due to running at a higher resolution, etc then Ultimarc does make a PCIe version of the AVGA2 that is based on the ATI X550.
If you have an arcade monitor or multi-frequency monitor then this card is a must. The AVGA2 makes configuration so much easier then some of the alternative methods. The additional new features such as 25kHz resolution support, multi-monitor support, PC Monitor support, and a PCIe version should satisfy almost every user and configuration
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