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                     Review: Picasso IV Graphics Card
  Darren Eveland                                            darren@mgl.ca
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PRODUCT NAME

Picasso IV graphics card. Board Revision 1.2


BRIEF DESCRIPTION

High resolution graphics card for Zorro II/III Amigas.  Integrated flicker
fixer, PCI bus, 4 megabytes of 45ns EDO ram.  Optional modules: Pablo II
video encoder, MPEG-1 Decoder, 3D module, PowerPC module, 16-bit Sound
module,TV-Tuner module.  Includes Picasso 96 RTG software. 


AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

Name:Village Tronic Marketing GmbH
Address:Wellweg 95
             D-31157 Sarstedt
             Germany
Telephone:+49(0)50 66 / 70 13-0
FAX:+49(0)50 66 / 70 13-49

E-mail:support@village.de
World Wide Web:http://wwwcip.rus.uni-stuttgart.de/~etk10317/etc/Picasso96.html


LIST PRICE

$439.00 US


DEMO VERSION

Picasso 96 software may be used on other graphics cards.  It is available
on Aminet (ftp.wustl.edu) or on the Picasso 96 home page:
http://wwwcip.rus.uni-stuttgart.de/~etk10317/etc/Picasso96.html


SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS

Zorro II or III Amiga
Amiga OS/ROMS Version 3.1
68020 or better CPU

Also recommended:

Hard disk
extra RAM
Multisync Monitor


COPY PROTECTION

 None.

MACHINE USED FOR TESTING

Amiga Technologies A4000T
68040 25Mhz, 18 meg ram
Kickstart 40.70, Workbench 40.42 (3.1)
1.0 Gig hard disk
Nanao T2-17TS 17" monitor (30-86Khz)
Picasso IV and Picasso 96 version 1.8


INSTALLATION

Before you install the card you must install the supplied Picasso 96
software.  (note it is recommended that you download the latest Picsaso 96
software from Aminet).  The installer program prompts you through the
installation.

Also, remove Multiscan and the dbl monitor files from DEVS:Monitors and put
them in SYS:Storage/Monitors.  Open screenmode preferences and save your
screenmode to a NTSC or PAL mode. 

Open up your amiga and install the Picasso IV into an empty Zorro/Video
slot (in-line).  A2000 users must use the supplied cables since the video
slot is not in-line on that Amiga.  You must FIRMLY push the Picasso IV
into the slot.  In my A4000T I had to use almost all my weight to get the
card fully seated.

Put the case back on your amiga, connect your monitor to the Picasso IV's
15-pin connector, and reboot your Amiga.  All 15Khz NTSC/PAL modes now be
30Khz due to the built in flicker fixer.  Open up screenmode preferences
and you should have the Picasso IV screenmodes available. 


REVIEW

The card itself is well designed - no last minute "fixes" can be seen. 
Theres are lots of connectors and jumpers, but I did not have to touch any
of them.  It is packaged in a plain white box with the big letters "Picasso
IV" written on the top.  No fancy package cover like they had for Picasso
II! 

The Picasso 96 software is still in beta status, but it does work very well
and is easy to use.  It includes drivers for: ShapeShifter, AdPro,
Photogenics, and XiPaint.  A replacement "picture.dataype" is included so
that programs that support datatypes can use a 16 or 24-bit display.
Picasso 96 is also compatible with programs written for CyberGraphX.  For
example Photoalbum and Cybershow will work on 16 and 24-bit screens. 

So far I have tested the following software: MUI, MagicWB, Miami, Digital
Quill, Voyager, AmIRC, AmTelnet, AmFTP, Aweb, YAM, ShapeShifter, CyberShow,
Photoalbum, and Ibrowse.  All work without problems! 

I now regularily use a 1024x768x16-bit workbench - quite fast for everyday
use.  Even though I have the crippled A3640 card, the Picasso IV is still
much faster than an AGA 8-bit workbench.  Voyager is excellent on this
workbench.  Fast scrolling.  Great pictures at 16-bit.  The difference
between this and an AGA amiga is night and day.  The Picasso IV really
breathes live into the Amiga!

Graphics card speed and also CPU speed are critical factors.  If you were
to put a 040 or 060 accelerator inside your Amiga it would considerably
speed up access to the Picasso IV.


DOCUMENTATION

Documentation is supplied via a 38 page German manual!  I have been told
that the English manual has just been completed, and this will ship with
all future Picasso IV's to all English speaking countries.  In the mean
time, there is lots of information available via the Picasso mailing list,
and the World Wide Web to help you get started.  The English version of the
manual is even available for download.


LIKES

The Picasso IV hardware is very versitle - many optional modules are
planned.  The Picasso 96 software itself is very simple to install and use.
In fact you hardly know it is there!  It seamlessly integrates into the
Amiga Operating system.  There is also 2 options for screenmode
configuration.  The supplied PicassoMode 96 or the newer PicassoMode96 NG
"Next Generation".  The NG version will automatically make many of the
adjustments necessary when configurating screenmodes.

The card seems to be FAST in 16 and 24-bit modes.  I cannot see much if any
slow down from 8 to 16 to 24-bit.  Yes there is some, but the 16 and 24-bit
modes are fast enough for everyday use.  In comparison they are about as
fast as a 4 or 8 colour workbench on an AGA Amiga!

Screen swapping is EXTREMELY fast on this card.  Just as fast as an AGA
Amiga! 


DISLIKES AND SUGGESTIONS

The flicker fixer does not "pass-thru" Multiscan and dbl modes.  I wish
Village Tronic would have allowed for this.

The card has a bandwidth limitation of 85Mhz in all 16 and 24-bit modes.
So for example a mode of 1280x1024x16-bit @ 75Hz refresh is NOT possible. 
If you wish to use this mode on the Picasso IV you would have to settle
with a 46Hz refresh rate.  Interlace modes, however, are available. 

I would recommend 1024x768x16 or 24 @ 80Hz refresh.  This is a nice size
for a 17" monitor, and provides a very flicker free screen.

There is no screen dragging available in Picasso 96.

I suggest you visit the following WWW sites for some excellent information
on Picasso IV:

http://www.vgr.com/picassoiv                    (thanks to Robert Reiswig)
http://ftp.tu-dresden.de/~deck/pic96/index.html (thanks to Jens Langner)


COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS

I have owned the GVP Spectrum, Cybervision 64, and now the Picasso IV.  The
Picasso IV can be compared closely with the CyberVision 64 (no longer
available) from phase 5 digital products.

VS. GVP Spectrum...

The Picasso IV is much faster than the GVP spectrum in 16 24-bit modes. 
Due to the 4 megabytes of EDO video memory, it can also have 16 and 24-bit
colour depths at higher resolution (for example 24-bit at 1024x768 at 80Hz
refresh non-interlaced!).  In these higher depth modes the card is still
very fast. 

VS. CyberVision 64...

In comparison to the original CyberVision 64, the Picasso IV seems again to
be faster in 16 and 24-bit modes.  However, the mature CyberGraphics
software seems to be more optimized in some specific operations.  Both
cards provide fast, high resolution workbenches.  The Picasso IV has a
built in flicker fixer, whereas the CyberVision 64 has a "pass-thru" that
leaves Amiga-generated video modes untouched.  Both cards are excellent.
The Picasso IV should soon have the optional modules released (Pablo II,
TV-Tuner, etc...) The CyberVision 64 also boasted optional modules, but the
support for these was dropped by S3, so phase 5 did not release them. 


BUGS

Surprisingly, I did not find much in the way of bugs.  The Picasso 96
software is extremely stable, even at this early stage.  However, it is
clear the software can be optimized (for example front/back movement of
windows is slow).


VENDOR SUPPORT

I have not had to contact the Vendor.


WARRANTY

Unknown, but probably 90 days.


CONCLUSIONS

Excellent high resolution/colour depth card for Zorro II/III Amigas.  If
you are looking for a fast 16 or 24-bit workbench at high resolution,
expansion potential through additional modules and a built in flicker
fixer, then the Picasso IV is right for you.

One thing I find quite excellent about this board, even early on, is the
tremendous support available for it on the internet.  There are already
several Web pages dedicated to this card.  Picasso 96 software is also
frequently updated by its authors. 


COPYRIGHT NOTICE

Copyright 1997 Darren Eveland  darren@mgl.ca
      The author's QuikPak 68060 Support Page is at--
      http://www.mgl.ca/~darren/68060.html