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%% Usenet Review:  Picasso II                        By Humerto L. Gomez %%
%%                                    (hgomez@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu) %%
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PRODUCT NAME

        Picasso II 24bit retargetable graphics board for Amiga 2000, 3000,
4000.

        [MODERATOR'S NOTE:  Over the years, there has been much discussion
        and debate on USENET about the meaning of the term "retargetable
        graphics" or "RTG".  In this review, Humberto Gomez uses the term
        "RTG" as it is found the Picasso II documentation.  Mr. Gomez
        quotes from their manual:

        "The term RTG means - No more CHIP RAM BLUES.  The Picasso II RTG
        emulator has been designed so that it uses no Chip RAM for its
        emulation.  Following Commodore WB4.0 guidelines, the Picasso II
        on-board blitter which supports drawing speeds up to 30 megabytes per
        second can use the RTG to let programs able themselves to run on the
        board instead of the ECS graphics or AGA."

        Mr. Gomez felt strongly about using the term "RTG" in his review,
        even though its use here may be controversial or disputed, so we
        agreed to leave the review as-is and put this disclaimer at the
        top.  - Dan, Moderator of c.s.a.reviews]


BRIEF DESCRIPTION

        This is a 24-bit graphics board that fits inside an Amiga 2000,
3000, 4000.  It is RTG (Retargetable Graphics), and it is a Zorro II card.


AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

        Name:           Village Tronic/ Expert Services
        Address:        7559 Mall Road
                        Florence, KY 40142
                        USA

        Telephone:      (606) 371-9690
        Fax:            (606) 282-5942


LIST PRICE

        It lists for $599.99 (US).  But most places sell it for $449.99
(1 MB version) and $499.99 (2 MB version).


SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS

        HARDWARE

                At least 2 megs of Fast RAM required.

                Monitor? Well it really helps if you have a MultiSync
                monitor if you do not own a 3000. A 3000 uses the
                deinterlacer and can use all resolutions on a regular SVGA
                Monitor.  You only need one monitor, but it has to be at
                least SVGA... not RGB.

                It works on a 68000, but a faster processor is recommended.

        SOFTWARE

                AmigaDOS 1.3 or higher.  Works with AmigaDOS 2.0 and 3.0.

                Under 3.0 I have experienced some problems.  Screen dragging
                jerks, and then also the pointer sometimes gets stuck on the
                menus.  A call to the company verified some problems with
                3.0 screen drawing routines, and the company is working to
                correct the problem.  These 3.0 problems are very minimal
                and due to software, not hardware.


COPY PROTECTION

        None.


MACHINE USED FOR TESTING

        Amiga 3000, 2 megs Chip RAM, 4 megs Fast RAM
        250 meg hard drive.
        AmigaDOS 2.0 and 3.0.

INSTALLATION

        The board installs in an Amiga Zorro slot.

        [MODERATOR'S NOTE:  If you are not comfortable opening up your
        Amiga, then you should have the work done by an authorized Amiga
        service center.  Opening your Amiga yourself may void your warranty,
        and careless work may even damage the machine.  - Dan]

        The software installs using the Commodore Installer utility.  It is
very easy to do.


REVIEW

        I am very happy with this board.  First of all, it fits into a Zorro
II or Zorro III slot.  The board itself is Zorro II.  The back of the board
contains two 15-pin jacks.  One of these is for the Amiga output that goes
into the card.  The other is for a cable (supplied) going from the card to
the monitor.  Requiring only one monitor, the card auto-switches between its
display modes and the Amiga's.  This switching is transparent to the user.
You just use the Amiga as you would normally do. If an Amiga screen is in
the front and a Picasso screen in the back, then you just use the screen
depth gadget as usual, and the board switches to the Picasso screen.

        All Picasso resolutions are available to all programs that let you
select a screen mode.  For those programs that don't let you select a screen
mode, then the Picasso includes a Change Screen Commodity that goes into the
WBStartup drawer (AmigaDOS 2.0 and higher).  This commodity pops up every
time a program is used that does not use a Picasso resolution.  The commodity
gives you the ability to select a Picasso screen for the program to use.
This is useful for ASDG's Art Department Professional (ADPro) and other program
s
that always appear in lo-res.

        ADPro savers are included, along with other graphic programs so that
you can save your images to the Picasso II board for immediate displaying in
any of the resolutions.

        Resolutions include 640x400 with 16 million colors, 800x600 with 16
million colors (with 2 megs installed), 1280x1024 with 256 colors, and many
others.  Anything higher than 800x600 may be displayed with 256 colors.  But
I noticed in ADPro, all of these resoltuions had the ability to display
64,000 colors with no problem.  Many intermediate resolutions are also
available.


IMPORTANT

        AmigaDOS 3.0 is required to select resolutions that have more than
16 colors.  If you do not have 3.0 ,then this board will only give you the
ability to display up to 16 colors for your programs, unless it is a graphic
program that can dump the image directly to the board like ADPro.  But
ProPage, DPaint IV, and all other programs that let you select screen modes
will give you only up to 16 colors in the resolutions supplied.


ADDED BONUS

        The Picasso turns your pointer into a professional hi-res pointer.
Actually your pointer will reflect the resolution that you select.  So if you
select 800x600, then your pointer resizes for that resolution.


LIKES AND DISLIKES ('+' means like, '-' means dislike)

        + I like the ability to use my Amiga programs using the Picasso II
board resolutions.  Under AmigaDOS 3.0, I opened up a 256-color ProPage
screen at 1280x1024, and it displayed all pictures with their colors
correctly.  Very impressive.

        + You can choose the colors using the Palette Preferences program
supplied by Commodore and see all the colors swirl.

        + Includes a 24-bit screen blanker that draws lines in 16.8 million
colors.

        + The autoswitch feature is really nice.

        + It uses the Picasso memory for displaying Picasso screens, leaving
all of your Chip RAM alone.

        + It includes TV PAINT JR.  Graphic viewers are included for display
GIF, IFF, MPEG, and JPEG pictures using the Picasso board.

        - Minor problems with the screens in 3.0.  They wont drag correctly
and the pointer sometimes gets stuck at the menus.

        - The manual is not user-friendly.  Information is not very clear and
it does not explain things very well.  It looks like it is photocopied, not
professional.

        - Some of the programs supplied are in German, not English.

        - It requires AmigaDOS 3.0 to select more than 16 colors in the
resolutions for programs such as ProPage, DPaint, and others.

        - TV Paint JR always says it does not have enough memory for UNDO
buffer, even if you install a full two megs on the board.

        [MODERATOR'S NOTE:  I suspect that TV Paint Jr. is limited by the
        amount of RAM in the Amiga, not just on the Picasso board.  - Dan]


COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS

        GVP's EGS Spectrum ranks slightly higher in my book.  Although this
board is very hard to find with 1 meg on it, the full two megs gives you
higher resolutions than the Picasso II board does.  It also autosenses
whether you have a ZorroII or Zorro III machine and uses whichever one your
machine has for better throughput.  No problems with AmigaDOS 3.0 experienced
yet with this board.

        Besides that, the boards compare well.  They both autoswitch, and
they both are RTG.  But in my opinion, the EGS is a better board than the
Picasso.  But the EGS Spectrum is also more expensive.


BUGS

        Already mentioned.  Mostly due to software.  The company is working
on an update of its libraries to let them function correctly under AmigaDOS
3.0.


VENDOR SUPPORT

        Although friendly with regards to my question, they seemed
unknowledgeable.  I asked what advantages are there to having 2 megs on the
board and they just did not know.  They did not know of specific AmigaDOS 3.0
problems, just that there were some.  The board packaging also shows an
AmigaDOS 3.0 A3000 Workbench screen with 256 color pictures, but the
representative I spoke with said that 3.0 is not fully supported.


WARRANTY

        Depends where you buy it.  30 days from my sales firm, 1 year from
the company.


CONCLUSIONS

        If you can afford the EGS Spectrum, then buy that board.  But if you
can't then the Picasso II will take you beyond AGA graphics to workstation
resolutions at a minimal price.  It performs fairly well, and updates of the
software are planned so that the bugs with AmigaDOS 3.0 will be resolved.  An
Amiga with a Picasso II outdoes any SVGA 80486's that I have ever seen.  It
outdoes an Amiga 4000 in graphics capabilities, and all the screens can use
the Picasso II board .  It is a very good, highly impressive product.  It is
a must to own one if you want to get out of the old age of Amiga display
capabilities and go forth to the higher, faster, more-color resolutions of
the future and today.


RATING SCALE

        GVP Spectrum:   9.5 out of 10
        Picasso II:     8.5 out of 10