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ZOTAC replicates monster PC via tiny box of tricks

by Tarinder Sandhu on 4 March 2009, 06:25


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CeBIT has been a significant let-down in terms of new and exciting hardware, and it's of little wonder that many of the halls - jam-packed to the rafters on previous years - now stand empty.

ZOTAC is one of only six NVIDIA partners to have a booth at this year's show, but it did have at least one very interesting product behind semi-closed doors.

What you're looking at is a regular PC whose graphics card output is plugged into a special card at the bottom. The purpose of this card is to take the video that would normally be shown on your regular screen, compress it, and then send it over, via Ethernet or WiFi, to the device shown below.

The card, connected via a PCIe interface, uses established PCoIP (PC-over-IP) technology - already used by certain Samsung monitors and high-end Dell hardware - to compress and push the signal from host machine to recipient device, and ZOTAC's pre-production version is limited to 250Mbps, making it possible to transfer via certain draft 802.11n WiFi hardware.

Here's the box of tricks on the other end, linked, in this case, via Cat 5 cable.

And here's an application showing the transfer rates. Resolutions up to 2,560x1.600 are supported, we were told.

The point here, we suppose, is to export any video, irrespective of how it's produced, to a much smaller, quieter box that has connectivity options to hook up to a large screen in, say, the lounge. The system is agnostic of the video, so you could have a Core i7 machine with three-way SLI in the bedroom, and the video could be compressed and exported to another display in the home without moving the actual hardware. In effect, it replicates the PC without having it present.

The receiving unit sports a wake-on PC feature, such that you can control the host PC's state, and the compression is good enough that at 250Mbps the resulting video - be it gaming or high-definition media - shows no apparent quality degradation. We observed a very slight lag between keyboard inputs and the screen updating, making it unsuitable for frenetic gaming, and using 802.11n may well incur dropped frames.

Further, this kind of system would be a perfect partner for HomePlug, transferring the video via the mains, but such is the speed restriction on the majority of shipping products, that it would require throttling the bandwidth back to levels where obvious quality degradations would be observed. Lastly, the demonstration system wasn't able to process HDCP-protected content either.

Come the days of widespread 100Mbit/s broadband and this kind of technology will really come into its own, letting you play the latest games on a small laptop should you be on your travels. A concept right now but due to be launched at some point later on this year, we reckon it could work if priced at <£150. What do you think?

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HEXUS Forums :: 6 Comments

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I can't decide if i find this interesting or not.
With current bandwidths it's almost less useful than a 10 yr old ‘TV Sender’ box i own that transmits video over short-wave radio to a reciever (so you can watch Sky on bed etc).
However i understand the potential for the future, and given better bandwidths we could be playing crysis on our netbooks.
I one sense, VNC software has been doing aspects of this for many years, although can't do video or anything with frame rates.

This goes on my ‘maybe’ pile of interesting things
given that for &#163;50 with change you can buy HDMI to Cat5 adaptors, which allow HDCP etc, it will really have to work on Powerline type adapters at minimum of 720p to be much use.
sooooo, this is a hdmi cat5 kvm, without the keyboard and mouse?
I saw the Dell workstation with PC overIP at CEBIT and if the Zotac solution is using the same technology then all I can say is wow. The device that connects to the monitor or TV is giving the performance of the GPU that is on the PC side. Too bad that it was not show to the public.

This is not anything like VNC, it is truly un-noticeable latency. I saw HD video clips running, standard workstation style applications. You can move the mouse and interact and feel no lag whatsoever. Plus it worked with the standard GPU in the system. Remoted web video in SD and HD also (could only get Vimeo) to work as CEBIT internet in Dell booth in Intel stand didn't allow BBC IPLAYER or other country specific contents. You could not get any content to fail! Dell person said it had a PC over IP chip in the monitor side device and a similar chip in the host system, so fully hardware encode and decode of video. I did see on the Dell system that they had a standard USB keyboard and mouse - the playing around the Dell person let me do did show no special drivers needed, looks like PC over IP does a USB extension that the OS doesn't see. Dell person did mention it can support all USB devices, but I did not have anything to try on it.

From what I saw it had no distance limitation as you could use a standard switch between the host side and monitor device side. So this is not like the CAT5 products extending DVI - as I recall they have some 100 meter distance limation. The Dell person showed that any monitor side device could connect to the host - so it's possible then to access one gaming style PC from maybe multiple locations in the house! The PC over IP can use any existing networking you have. Would be nice if WiFi was supported but I can assume that will make latency a problem.

Now can we get this beyond a trade fair demonstration to an actual product. I could easily keep my gaming system on a monitor in another room but have it connect to by HDTV - the wife does not want a media or gaming PC near the TV ever again.
in concept it seems great and something I would definately shell out upto Ā£200 for.

To be able to use my gaming rig (located in my office room upstairs) on my TV screen downstairs would be awesome! especially without having to have loads of extra bulky hardware in the living room. BUT - the mere mention of lag would put a gamer off - if I want to strafe right, fire, and duck at the same time it has to be instantaneous otherwise its appeal is lost for any hardened gamer (that this would be aimed at I assume).

There was no mention of being able to connect a keyboard and mouse upto it aswell - I presume thats a given? otherwise it would be quite useless as just a TV sender.

Any hardened gamer would not rely on wifi links to avoid lag, and if Zotac concentrated on the CAT5 side of it that would suit the likes of techno geeks like me down to a tee (having a 1GB network spanning the house ;) )