At A Glance: Matrox MXO2 Mini

On average, professional HD studio monitors used in postproduction can run anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 on the low end to nearly $20,000 on the high end. With the popularity of laptop editing, which gives filmmakers the opportunity to edit their projects in any environment, Matrox has released a great new product, the MXO2 Mini, which not only can input and export HD and SD video, but also provides a cost-effective HD monitoring solution. Although you wouldn’t be able to tell by its unassuming looks, the compact Matrox MXO2 Mini (6.5×1.5×4.5 inches, 9.9 ounces) is a powerful device that gives an editor or a colorist multiple features, and can function as a high-quality capture card and a breakout box in one affordable package. Perhaps the key feature on the MXO2 Mini is that it can turn an HDMI-enabled HDTV screen into a professional-grade video monitor with color-calibration tools, including blue-only.

I tested the MXO2 with my MacBook Pro. (Make sure you have the MacBook Pro that still has an ExpressCard/34 slot, since the 17-inch unit is the only MacBook Pro to currently ship with one.) The first thing you need to do is download the most current software from Matrox’s support site (www.matrox.com/video/en/support/downloads/). Once installed, I just plugged in the power supply and then the card into my MacBook’s ExpressCard/34 slot. I connected an HDMI cable to my HDMI-enabled Sony LCD TV to the MXO2 Mini’s HDMI output. Once I started to play the ProRes files in my timeline, presto, the images and sound now were being played on my 42-inch high-def monitor. Pretty simple.

The other big feature is the inclusion of MAX Technology (sold as an option), which implements faster-than-real-time H.264 encoding. Let’s be honest, encoding your project to H.264 is kind of like watching paint dry. But in today’s workflow, there’s really no getting around it since H.264 is now the de facto delivery format for Blu-ray and the web (YouTube and Vimeo), and viewing content on mobile devices (iPhone and iPad) has grown in popularity. With MAX Technology installed, the MXO2 Mini uses a dedicated hardware processor to accelerate the creation of H.264 files, and has direct integration with Final Cut Studio’s Compressor program. Matrox claims it delivers H.264 video up to 500% faster. I found the encoding process less intuitive than monitoring my footage, but once I found the Matrox MAX H.264 Compressor settings, it all seemed to fall into place. I also didn’t get the sense that it was faster than real-time, but that may have something to do with the length of your project. (I only tested a two-minute sequence.)

At this year’s NAB, when Avid announced that it would be supporting the Matrox MXO2 Mini with Media Composer 5, Avid users at the show were blown away because it marked the first third-party product with which Avid would collaborate. Along with Media Composer 5, the MXO2 Mini also can support other popular nonlinear-editing systems and effects programs, such as Final Cut Pro, Apple Color, Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro, etc.

In terms of system compatibility, the MXO2 Mini will run on Intel-based Mac Pro and MacBook Pros running Mac OS X 10.5.6 or higher and PCs running Windows 7 (64-bit), Windows Vista (32- and 64-bit) and Windows XP (32-bit). The Matrox MXO2 Mini has an estimated retail price of $449. With the MAX Technology option, the unit sells for $849. If you have a long project or numerous projects and clients, the MAX option is definitely worth it because, in the postproduction world, time is money.

Contact: Matrox, (800) 361-4903, www.matrox.com.

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