Review: Matrox Convert DVI Plus

A few months ago, Matrox sent me a Convert DVI Plus to play with for a while. The Convert DVI Plus is  a scan converter that also supports region of interest selection. Basically, you shove a DVI signal into it, and it spits out video on both HD or SD SDI and analog component, composite or Y-C. You are able to select between various output formats; 480i, 720P, and 1080i in various frame rates (see below). 

You have a good selection of basic video output formats, and you can program a stand-alone mode so it doesn't need to be controlled by a computer to work.

The timing was excellent, as I also had a Blackmagic ATEM in house for another review. This gave me a place to send both SDI and component videos to see how it all looked. I’m going to break convention and give you the conclusion first: The Convert DVI does a great job converting a DVI signal to SDI. Getting there however, was a bit of a challenge.

Some of the issues I had in the beginning were due to the fact when I initially received the unit, the only control drivers ran under Windows. I tried to get it working using Parallels, but be warned, due to the way the Convert DVI sets it’s incoming scanning frequencies, it won’t work if you try to configure it that way. Until last week, you had to hook it up to a Windows PC, inline with a monitor to get the configuration set up. 

When I talked to Matrox about this initially, I told them that Mac drivers would be pretty much a requirement if I were to even consider this product. Somewhat to my surprise, they listened and I had a beta of the Mac software in about a month. The final version 1.0 of the driver software was released last week. 

Once I had the Mac drivers, it was actually very easy to configure the Convert DVI. You have a number of options on programming in EDIDs that the computer will see, and you can program the device to operate completely in stand-alone mode, which I did. One irritation is that the Convert DVI needs to have the computer reboot to finalize the programming. This is irritating, but thankfully, only has to be done initially. After the programming is done, you can unplug the USB control cable and use it as a stand-alone converter. Once I had it set to present itself as a 1280x720 display, I hooked it up to my MacBook Pro, fired up ProPresenter (which is expecting to see a 720P external display) and cued up some graphics. 

You can load in a set of EDIDs to present to the computer, and as you can see, they show up. Click to enlarge.

The converted graphics looked great running through the ATEM at 720P. Since we currently run our IMAG system in 480i, I set the Convert DVI to down convert the ProPresenter graphics to 480i. Again, it looked great. Video, both HD and SD sources, played flawlessly and looked great. 

What is nice about the Convert DVI Plus is that it outputs both analog and digital signals, so if you need both, you have it. They also include a DVI loop through for a local monitor. You can input audio from your computer and it will embed it into the SDI signal if you choose. You can also pull audio from the device on RCA jacks (which would make it the world’s most expensive 3.5mm to dual RCA adapter if that’s all you used it for). 

There are two models in the Convert DVI line; the Plus and the, well, not Plus. The Plus adds region of interest support, meaning you can select a portion of your screen and send just that section to your video system. That could be handy if you have, say a 23” Cinema display running at 2540x1400 and you just want to output a YouTube window. 

The downside is, right now, you can’t do that in the Mac driver. They plan on adding full feature parity to the Windows driver soon, but be aware if you want to do region of interest, you must use a PC. There’s a good chance this will change by year’s end.

The Plus will set you back another $500, something I’m not sure I’d pay for. The way I would use this would be to take the DVI output from my Mac Pro, converting it into HD-SDI for use in a video switcher. At that point, I’m going to send a 1280x720 DVI output, and want the whole screen. I really would just want it converted to a SDI signal. 

Another good use of this product would be to convert your DVI signal to SDI for sending straight to a projector. Trying to run DVI over about 15’ is sketchy at best, and most of the time, our projectors are farther away. SDI is easy to run, and relatively cheap to cable, so this would be a great intermediate piece of gear to make that work.

If there was any latency in the device, it was imperceptible. They include genlock support, with timing functions so you can really dial it in to your system.

I wasn’t able to compare this to a Blackmagic or AJA HDMI to SDI converter (both run about $500, or half the cost of a Convert DVI) to see how image quality differs between the two methods. However, I can tell you the Convert DVI looked really good. The fact that it will scale multiple input resolutions to standard video outputs, giving you both analog and digital video out could be exactly what you need for your system. At $995, or $1495 for the Plus, it’s not cheap. However, I remember paying $2500 for a SD scan converter 10 years ago that didn’t look nearly as good. So it’s all relative.

With the addition of the Mac drivers I can now recommend this product. It’s not the only thing out there that does what it does, but it’s certainly worth a look. 

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