Model: Matrox CompressHD H.264 Encoding Accelerator Card
Manufacturer: Matrox
Provided By: Matrox

Matrox is no stranger to the computer industry. Founded more than 30 years ago, this Canadian company is recognized as a leading manufacturer of professional graphics solutions. While best known for their high-end graphics cards, Matrox also has groups involved in developing imaging solutions as well as providing digital video editing products for broadcast and video professional markets.

While MPEG-2 was the de facto video standard for many years, the growing demand for high-def content has resulted in a number of new formats. One of the more promising developments is the H.264 standard. Utilizing the latest video compression technology, H.264 delivers the same quality as MPEG-2 at a third to half the bit rate. This allows you to create much smaller video files which require less network bandwidth and storage space.

There is one down-side to the H.264 standard and that's that it's very resource intensive. Even with a high-end computer, it can take a considerable amount of time to encode HD video with even a moderate bit rate. To speed things up, Matrox developed its Matrox MAX technology. This unique technology uses a dedicated hardware processor which can encode an H.264 file for mobile devices, the web or even Blu-ray Discs in less than real time.

One of the first products to support Matrox MAX is the CompressHD. This low profile, half-length PCI Express card works in systems with or without a video I/O device. Using applications such as Apple Compressor on the Mac and Adobe Media Encoder on the PC, the CompressHD is able to encode H.264 files at resolutions ranging from iPod to HD and at bit rates as high as 50MB/s.

While it took a little longer than expected, Matrox has finally shipped the PC drivers for the CompressHD. In this review, we'll take a closer look at Matrox's H.264 encoding accelerator card and then see how well it performs.

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