|StarTech VGA to NTSC/PAL TV Video Converter|
February 17, 2004 | Scott Turner
"Feeling limited by the built in monitor that came with your computer? Want to be able to see what you're typing without squinting at it? StarTech.com has new VGA to NTSC TV converters perfect for multimedia presentations, public broadcast systems, and PC gaming."
I pondered this phrase, the first sentence of the Video Converter's manual (or leaflet, rather...more on that later.) Was I feeling limited by my monitor for computer gaming or presentations? Would I feel more liberated were I able to, say, hook up my portable laptop to a TV screen for a demonstration? Could I perhaps host a LAN tournament and broadcast the image over a TV to spectators? Would the converter provide everything I needed to get the job done neatly and efficiently?
The short answer is yes, but there are a few bumps on the way there.
New Meaning to All-in-OneOpening up the box containing StarTech.com's product was a surprise to say the least. The small box had a hole on the inside inlaid with the converter, slugly fit into the packaging. All of the required cables for accomplishing the jobs that lay ahead of me were built straight into this remote control looking device. A USB connector was present to provide power from a computer to the device, as well as a VGA video connector and an audio plug to draw the picture and sound from a computer. To convert it to the TV screen, the device also has built into it an S-Video plug and RCA composite video plugs, as well as left and right audio RCAs to plug into an audio reciever or possibly your TV as well. A switch on the side of the unit allows the user to vary the device between recognizing the European video standard of PAL or the American NTSC standard.
The only hinderance at this point was getting the cables to all make it to my TV and reciever, both placed relatively close to each other. Even with the laptop I was connecting the unit to within four or five feet of the TV and audio system, the remote unit was held suspended in the air by the akwardly short cables coming out of it. While I'm sure someone setting up a professional presentation would be able to hide the cables, for someone in their own home, an extra foot or two of cable wouldn't have hurt.
Plugging it All InSince the hardware set-up is the easiest form of plug and play possible, I had no problem connecting the unit to my G3 Pismo laptop for my first experiment. The manual, a paltry 3 pages of actual content, couldn't be blamed at this point for any connection failures on my partó easy to follow pictures and diagrams, as well as specific hardware specifications were abound. However, once I had plugged in the adapter, my problems started en masse. I would have no sound, or possibly no video, and then maybe a black and white or very fuzzy picture.
The problems were easily solvable, using the 4 buttons on the remote control in addition to 4 directional buttons to adjust the picture's alignment on screen (Freeze for a snapshot of the computer image on the TV without affecting the computer, Reset to restore your TV to its default video setup, Filter to adjust TV resolution, and Zoom to enlarge the TV screen.) However, since buttons like "Reset" had a description on the back of the manual as "Restore TV image to default setup," I had little to go on when setting up the various resolutions and getting the TV to a clear picture. Software support for the unit is virtually the same as a second monitor, with you being able to set up either image mirroring for the TV or an extended monitor. The only part that takes time is finding a set of resolutions (the adaptor only supports 640x480, 800x600, and 1024x768) that fit both your TV and computer screen.
Working the UnitAfter a half-hour of trial and error, the video convertor finally was set to my liking...and wow, did I really like it! The unpleasant set-up of the unit was quickly alleviated by a crystal clear image on my run of the mill Panasonic 32" standard definition TV. iPhotos photo libraries were bright and vivid. Keynote presentations were sharp with even the menus being readable at a distance. Even a game of Unreal Tournament 2003 displayed the action smoothly and with my pumping sound system it was rocked with every explosion.
Final ThoughtsNow, while I'm not a tech-guru nor the type of person that rearranges their video cables for fun, the Video Converter seemed to me to be fairly easy to set up. A lack of documentation on a few nice built-in features and woefully short unit cables that would've expedited the setup process are made up for with great results once onscreen. Whether gaming alone or presenting on a large TV screen for a conference meeting, the StarTech.com video converter will likely fit your needs as long as you don't need inordinately high resolutions. For the Mac gamer itching to host that LAN party with a spectator arena or if you just want to pump your Mac games through the latest high definition TV, the StarTech.com video converter is a must-buy.