VD-Z3 Impressions

Started by benzaldehyde, February 13, 2004, 02:21:45 AM

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Hi all,

I recently had some difficulty with my XBox. I wanted VGA, and it didn't want to provide (even after repeated beatings). Getting native VGA was quite the hassle, requiring modchips, buffers, new BIOS by one Pixel8, and an original 1.0 Box. Even then, all it would get you is permanent 480p. Thus, I heard about Mr. Pallant's impressions of the X2VGA from Neoya and became quite excited. Sure, transcoding isn't as great as good ol' Dreamcast style VGA, but you take what you can get. Reading the linked post, one might see my disappointment develop with the X2VGA. The colors were great, but there was an annoying diagonal interference-like pattern that mucked up the picture. Apparently, Microsoft switched from Conexant circuitry to Focus in version 1.4 and 1.5 boxes (like mine), yielding a compatibility issue. Neoya was at a loss to explain the problem, so I began searching elsewhere.

Then I came upon VDigi Electronics. Like Neoya, they are a surprisingly polite Hong Kong-based company selling inexpensive component-to-VGA transcoders. I wrote them and asked if they had observed such a problem in their well-known ZD-V3 transcoder. They said "no."


Once the device arrived it was immediately put to work. The box is compact, though a little roughed around the edges due to being shipped in an envelope. Personally, guys, I'd spring a few more dollars for an outer box. The out-of-box experience is reserved. You have the device, a sleek little number only about 4" X 3" X 1". The device does not directly connect to the XBox as does the X2VGA. This is a general use transcoder, with separate RCA inputs for Y, Pb, and Pr. Thus, any newer system can be used, though there are better alternatives for the Gamecube and PS2. There are LEDS to indicate power status and component input activation. I especially like the latter, as it seems to be something like a 5 candela blue LED that is as blinding as it is cool. It makes the cord jungle behind my desk glow with a blue hue. That's a great unintentional use. A switch is included to deactivate component input, which initiates the VGA passthrough function. I haven't tested the passthrough quality just yet.

After hearing about the X2VGA, VDigi changed their business stance a bit, now including an XBox component cable (no digital audio but not too shabby in quality) with the VD-Z3. Also needed is an external power source ( <_< ), and just for fun they provide a nice USB-to-XBox Controller port for using said controllers on your PC. The latter is a temporary promotion, though. The instruction manual is a nice little black and white affair with full descriptions of use for different systems and functions. After getting everything out, it was time to put the thing to work.

I used my version 1.5 XBox on a slightly problematic old CTX VL700 monitor. The system was connected through the included component cable to the VD-Z3, then from that to my monitor. The system booted, but unlike the X2VGA, the dashboard is not viewable. An analog to the X2VGA's 480i Easy-View exists in the ZD-Z3, activated via a dip switch. The relative quality between 480i between the ZD-Z3 and X2VGA is terrible; it's almost unnavigable. Know thy dashboard, because you won't be seeing it that well. Once a game boots, the VD-Z3 comes alive.

Immediately noticeable is the lack of one thing; the diagonal interference-like pattern. WOO-HOO! The colors seem every bit as vibrant as those on the X2VGA. There appears to be a minute normal interference shimmer, but is only noticeable if you really, really look for it (like black text against a white background). This is probably due more to my old monitor, which squeals in 480p and has a terrible moir´┐Ż problem, the switchbox, or my eyes from staring into my monitor for so long. :wacko: Edges are sharp, and colors are very stable. I would say that it easily competes with the X2VGA in picture quality (having used my X2VGA with a friend's older XBox). I should note that the picture is identical using the included component cable or the Microsoft HD AV pack. Nice inclusion, VDigi!

A few things have yet to be tested. I'm going to boot up Syberia later and test the other resolution modes. Also, I plan to get a PS2 component cable (I thought I would rue such a day!) to test. Some issues are also apparent. While I can see little difference between picture with the X2VGA and VD-Z3, academically there must be as the latter requires one more connection. Perhaps someone with better eyes, like Jeremy Pallant or Lawrence, would be able make out such discrepancies. For myself, though, I find this to be well worth the $50 I paid. Yes, only $50! Saving the best for last, you know! Mine arrived in a week and a half, and apparently worked perfectly. Don't worry too much about ordering from VDigi; their customer service was very helpful in the ordering and shipping department.

I love this thing. I can finally play my XBox games in a proper fashion. :P If anyone has any functionality questions, just ask. I'd be glad to put this thing through the paces. I hope that my not-so-short synopsis will be helpful to any considering such a purchase. Thanks for reading!

Update: I've played with it a bit more and can comment a little further. It would appear to me that the VD-Z3 outputs a slightly sharper and brighter picture than the X2VGA. The difference seems more academic than overt, though. The passthrough is excellent. I'm working through it now at 1042x768, and there is no blurring or ghosting to be seen. Furthermore, the 720p works great. Syberia looks great though there is still that ever-minute scrolling. I only use a PC monitor and it can't handle 1080i, so I can't comment (though it is supported accroding to the manual).

Jeremy Pallant

Damn! Another product to try out!

On a more serious note, while I don't envisage the VD-Z3 finding a place in my configuration, I shall certainly check it out.

Thanks for the information.

P.S. Neoya is, to the best of my knowledge, a Taiwanese company.