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Matrix Orbital MX610

Date: July 17, 2006
Author(s): Greg King

Are you looking to spice up your case mod with a multi-function LCD panel that gives you tons of tweaking ability? While the MX610 is not for the novice, it gives plenty of power to those who want it… and are willing to learn the LCDC software.



Introduction

For a long time, when one would think about LCD displays for their PC’s drive bay, one company would come to mind? Matrix Orbital. An LCD bay insert is a quick and easy way to add functionality to you PC, as well as a little "bling" for good measure.

Matrix Orbital has been in the LCD accessory game for quite some time, and by quite some time I mean 11 years. Since 1995, Matrix Orbital has been engineering and manufacturing innovative LCD solutions for any company that needs their offerings for a very long time. Has this time been well spent? What does Matrix Orbital have to offer to you and me?

Matrix Orbital’s latest offering to the PC community is the MX610. The MX610 is a 20×2 line PLCD. This means that there are 2 rows, each containing 20 characters. The other term that might be confusing is PLCD. This basically means that the MX6 consists of polymer LCDs. The benefits of PLCDs are that they consume less power, have a very high response time (pixel refresh rate) and finally, the angle that these can be seen in huge (roughly 160 degrees for those of you that are counting.)

Upon arrival, the MX6 came wrapped securely in bubble wrap to avoid any damage that might have happened during shipping. Once unpacked, with the accessories strewn across the floor, I notice one obvious feature of the MX6. This thing is built well. If I were to, say, throw the MX6 across the room at someone, they would know it. Well. No plastic for me thank you, give me a metal face plate and all will be well.

The face of the MX6 is thick and sturdy, making the MX6 feel like a quality component well before it’s even installed. Comprised of 2mm steel, with the face of the unit being equally thick plastic, I am glad to say that no corners were cut in the making of the MX6. Here’s to hoping the quality extends out to its use.

The first thing we will see is the MX6 itself. There is an attractive silver braided USB cable connected to the back of the MX6. This is how the MX6 will communicate with your computer, allowing it to display all the information you’re gamer’s head can handle.

On the left of the unit, there are four buttons. These will be used to cycle through the different settings and controls that the MX6 has to offer.

On the right side of the unit, we have 3 buttons. The top one is used to “pause” a selected screen on the Orbital when it is in use.

Moving onto the back of the MX6, we see that there is quite a lot going on.


Further Inspection

On the back, the most noticeable thing we can see is the USB connector. On the very left of the unit, we see 4 male plugs for thermal probes and directly to the right of them, there are 3 male connectors for fans. To the immediate right of the USB hub, there are pins for an internal USB cable that you can connect directly to your motherboard.

Also, from a top view, we can see that there are actually two PCBs. One is strictly to control the display and the back one is to obviously handle the I/O. There is also an extra power connection, in the form of a floppy power cable connector, should you require more power.

Moving to the accessories, the MX6 came to me with packaged as an OEM product, hence the lack of packaging pictures. We have seen the USB cable as it came zip tied to the PCB of the Orbital but also included was another USB cable that allows you to hook directly into your motherboard, giving the overall look of your case a much cleaner look.

Next we move onto the LED display that you can program to signal any number of things. This little PCB also comes with a handy template should you actually wish to cut your case and install the 3 LED board on your PC. I will show this but will not actually be installing this onto my case.

And the back:

And finally, the cable that it connects it to the MX6.

The last thing that was included in the unit when it was shipped is a thermal probe. This, like any thermal probe, can be mounted anywhere in your case to give you temperature readings.

I should note now that the MX6 is somewhat of a paperweight without the proper software. This is not a device where you can plug it in and forget it. It takes a bit of work and it takes a lot of LCDC.


LCDC

Where can I get LCDC? Good question friend. LCDC can be downloaded directly from the LCDC website or you can install it off of the included driver CD.

Once the correct drivers are installed, and you have gotten your software installed too, you can begin to play with the MX6. The very first screen you will see will be a small 1½" x 3" window. From this screen, you will first want to configure your software. Also, you can control when the MX6 displays information, stop when it from displaying info, send it to the tool tray and close the program entirely.

As stated earlier, you will need to manually configure what you want, and do not want, to run and be displayed. The configuration window is full of options and allows you to control just about anything that you want.

As you can see, there are more than enough options for you to work with. The main area that most will work in will be the plug in section. As you look down the list, you can see that you also have controls for fan speeds as well as Dallas one wires, which are just thermal sensors. You can also setup the MX6 to display when you get email messages and you can also password protect your MX6. You wouldn’t want anyone playing any jokes on you at the next LAN party would you? I thought not.

The plug in section has just as many options for you to use as the configuration screen did.

From here, you can control all of the default plug ins that have come with LCDC. You can track stocks, display temps with the aid of mother board monitor 5, monitor your SETI stats, use the MX6 in tandem with winamp and trillion, set alarms, monitor RSS feeds and monitor the weather. All from this little console.

Moving on to the other main piece in the LCDC software, we will take a look at the screen builder. From here, you can actually build your own display to be shown on the MX6.


Different functions

As you can see, there are numerous settings here as well. It is on this screen that you can either add "screens" to the list, or build your own. To start the process, you first need to click on the green plus sign in the top right of the screen. From here, you can navigate and make your own displays. You can also add one that you might have downloaded. There is a strong and loyal community dedicated to PC LCD accessories and you can download any number of pre made displays. One such downloaded display is this neat AMD 64 logo.

And now for one that I made:

Isn’t that just adorable?!?

The more you play with the software, the more you will get used to it. To say that it is in depth is an understatement and for some, it might prove to be a bit more than they thought they might have been getting into. It is certainly not for the faint of heart.

The following pictures are more examples of what you can do and monitor with the MX6 when you use it with LCDC.


Conclusion

Well, there you have it. The Matrix Orbital MX610 proved to be a quality piece of hardware that would accent any PC lucky enough to house it. While I am left impressed, the MX6 does not get off so easily. There are some problems that I would like to see addressed. The first glaring complaint that I have is not so much with the MX6 itself, but the software needed to run it. LCDC is an extremely robust piece of software but is very complex.

I understand that only a handful of people have actually worked on the software and that is its greatest downfall, and greatest advantage. For most people who might order the MX6, it is assumed that they have a bit of technical prowess to them. Then there are others who do not possess this ability to work with software, trust me, I work with many. I would love to see this software made more user friendly, but in a way that still captures all of the usefulness that it already possesses. LCDC is great for those that can master it. As for my other complaints, it’s just me nit-picking.

I would love to see a full, longer frame. I was able to put the MX6 onto the bay mounts but with only one screw in them, the unit was prone to tilting one way or another. This is easily fixed by screwing down the screws really hard.

All in all, the MX610 lived up to my expectations and with the help of the extremely robust LCDC; it far surpassed those expectations entirely.

Well folks, we are at the end. The MX6 has proven to be a very nice add-on for anyone’s PC. It not only looks nice but the functionality of the unit is amazing as well. I am awarding the Matrix Orbital MX610 a well deserved 9 out of 10 as well as this editor’s choice. The MX6 is a superb example of what a PLCD display should be and then some. The only thing keeping this from getting a perfect 10 is the steep learning curve of the software. Most people can catch on but I guarantee there will be many people pull their hair out trying to get this up and going. If you should have any trouble, drop me a line in the forums and I will be more than happy to help.

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