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Pertelian X2040 LCD

Pertelian LCD display

Introduction

ForeSight Systems LLC… ever heard of them? Nor me, but today I have their Pertelian X2040 LCD display designed for the lazy end user who doesn’t want to do through the modding process of using, say, a Matrix Orbital. Hopefully their display will improve on others in the market.

About ForeSight Systems LLC

A small company founded in December 2004, based in California, ForeSight Systems LLC were the first to bring out a LCD display of this sort. Dedicated to design, manufacture and marketing of its sole product; the X2040

Specs

Features

* POP email checking and reading email headers
* Unique IM interface to reply to messages while inside a game or other application
* Full control of supported media applications plus:
o Sophisticated song search by title, artist, or track number for supported media applications
o UltraSeek feature which automatically previews tracks in the middle of the song

* Audio volume adjustment for system and supported media applications
* Sports Scores– giving you real time sports scores
* RSS feed aggregate
* TeamSpeak Support – Finally see who’s talking
* Real-Time Stock Ticker with detailed stock information
* Real-Time Network bandwidth usage
* Expansive system information (CPU usage/Memory usage/IP information/Disk drive usage/Processes and thread usage/Uptime, and TONS more)
* World-wide weather information and 10-day forcast
* Quick Memo
* Pertelian Monitor for eBay – Auction Monitor
* Forum Watcher
* IRC Support
* Customizable hotkeys for quick and easy control

Supported Media and Communication Software

* Winamp 2
* WInamp 5
* Apple Itunes 6
* Windows Media Player 10
* AOL Instant Messenger 5.9
* Yahoo Messenger 7.0
* GAIM 2.0

General Requirements

* Windows 2000 or Windows XP
* Internet Explorer 5.0 or later
* USB 1.0+ port
* RAM 64 Megabytes (MB)
* Free Hard Drive Space 10 MB
* Microsoft .NET Runtime 2.0 or later
* Super VGA 800×600 or greater screen resolution

Hardware

* Hitachi HD44780 based LCD character display
* LCD inside a compact 4.5″ x 2.5″ x 0.85″ enclosure
* New larger LCD display sporting 20 columns by 4 lines text display with font size 5×7 dots
* Built in characters plus 8 user defined characters
* Electroluminescent light green backlight
* Also includes Velcro attachment
* Includes custom stand
* USB 1.0+ interface
* Communicate over USB interface with attached 6′ cable

The X2040

Pertelian LCD display
Pertelian LCD display
Pertelian LCD display

We received the Pertelian packed in its retail packaging, with a nice note from the manufacturer. Whilst the box has a high quality feel to it, the graphics design need a little more effort. It looks like someone has sat down for 20 minutes with Photoshop going crazy with bevel. The pictures used aren’t high resolution and hence look a little pixely. The stock photography of the Pertelian itself isn’t fantastic and could be better. They even use Times New Roman for some of the text, which just reminds me of Windows 98.

If you were to see this product on the shelf, there isn’t enough to capture your interest. From a distance the front looks great, but closer up, the Pertelian photo has artefacts. I personally think that a little more money spent in the design department could really boost sales, especially in an arena where eye-catching semi-naked girls are rife on packaging.

Pertelian LCD display

Once out of the box, you’ll find the LCD display itself, some self-adhesive Velcro, a small stand and a setup CD; everything you need to get started.

The small stand allows you to mount the display on your desk, or you can alternatively use the Velcro to attach the X2040 to anything you like.

The display connects to your PC using a standard USB plug, with a fairly lengthy 6 foot (1.8m) cable, and – as its USB – you could even extend the cable further.

Pertelian LCD display
Pertelian LCD display

The X2040 is quite thick and has a large border around the screen. It looks a little outdated so far as styling goes but is made of high quality plastic that feels sturdy and strong.

Installation

Installation requires you to read the informative yet unprofessional looking PDF supplied on the CD. The whole product feels like it has been designed by a couple of guys (which it has) who have designed everything and hence it doesn’t have that infallible corporation feel to it.

Anyway, once I had read the manual, I was ready to install the Pertelian which was quick and easy to accomplish.

Testing

I mainly tested the Pertelian on my PCG-FR415B Sony Vaio laptop. It has 512mb RAM and a 2.8Ghz P4 Celeron. It’s hardly a power house but it should easily be able to handle the Pertelian.

The first thing that I noticed was the constant 7-10% CPU usage that the Pertelian was using to run the display. This increased when using the Winamp as the Pertelian software was constantly polling Winamp about song length, name etc. It also used ~28mb of file page, which isn’t great. Considering as this display is meant to be targeted at gamers, a loss of both RAM and CPU cycles isn’t going to appeal greatly.

When using a more powerful computer, the Pertelian software used less than 1% CPU but was intent on using over 40mb of memory.

Pertelian LCD display

The display lags when scrolling text which ends up making the entire text unreadable at higher refresh rates. Turning off the included backlight helps with the refresh rate, but then makes the screen useless at night or in a dark room.

Pertelian LCD display
Pertelian LCD display

The software looks quite nice but isn’t laid out in the most sensible fashion. As there is a plugin section – allowing the community to add their own extras – it would make sense to put every option in there, allowing you to turn off the ones that you don’t want/need. For example, there is a feature that checks your POP email account for new emails which instead of being a plugin, is given its own section.

Pertelian LCD display
Click to enlarge

Speaking of the POP email checker, I wouldn’t advice using it with an IMAP account like I tried. I access my email using IMAP, but I can also use POP to retrieve them. I entered in all of the correct information and then waited for the software to do its magic. Unfortunately, there are over 3000 emails in my inbox of which only 10 are new at any one time. However, the Pertelian decided to download them all (AVG anti-virus was sat checking email for a while) and then see which are new. This would be fine if it did it once, but it continued to check the whole lot again as soon as the last scan had finished.

Using a native POP account worked better, but it still has to check all of the emails before deciding which are new, which means that your anti-virus software will pop up telling you that its scanning emails. In a game this would get very annoying and hence this feature is pretty pointless unless a workaround is coded.

Pertelian LCD display
Pertelian LCD display

The included media player feature is also ‘hard coded’ into the software rather than being a plugin. Whilst a satisfactory solution to viewing your playing media, it only uses one line which constantly scrolls which makes it difficult to see the song name. Fortunately there is community plugin which looks a lot better and is a lot more user friendly as it uses all four line to show song information.

Pertelian LCD display
Click to enlarge

I then tried to use the eBay plugin which constantly crashed whenever I tried to configure it to the correct auction. The plugin works insomuch as it shows on the X2040 ‘* Auction Monitor’.

Pertelian LCD display

Using a separate computer, after fiddling around with the correct USB COM port number I was able to get the eBay monitor working. After registering the Pertelian with eBay and getting my ‘token’ I was able to monitor my selling items. The plugin tells you all the useful information, and also allows you to open your browser and go directly to the item you are watching. I found myself using this function the most to check on my selling items without having to open Firefox everytime.

Pertelian LCD display

The Pertelian can also display system stats which is probably one of the more interesting/useful features allowing you to keep a close eye on your CPU usage or core temperature.

There are several nice little features that I can see being useful, for one, there is an option called UltraSeek. This rather over the top name refers to a feature that goes through your playlist and plays a user-defined length of music from the middle of the track allowing you to choose the next song you want to listen to.

There are numerous other useful features such as the RSS reader, forum checker, weather reports, TeamSpeak, IRC, stocks and sports score to mention a few. I have no real use for these but I’m sure that they would come in handy for someone who needs the latest sports score or to keep track of their stocks.

The TeamSpeak option seems to be quite useful, allowing you to change/view TeamSpeak whilst in game.

Song search is a great plugin which allows you to search for your favourite song and play it without stopping what you are doing. It works well and is a useful feature for anyone who has thousands of legally downloaded music tracks on their PC.

The notes plugin, which allows you to read and add notes on the fly seems a little unnecessary and simply there to make up the feature list. However it might be useful to someone how doesn’t like PostIt’s littering their desk.

The software, in my mind, is very uncustomisable and I feel you have to put up with things that you don’t like. Its almost an effort to make the X2040 personal to you. I would like to have seen something like LCD Smartie which allows you to display anything that you like on the screen and isn’t confined by community plugins. LCD Smartie should work with the Pertelian display as it uses an industry standard Hitachi HD44780 controller. However, there is a USB to serial converter which makes this a little harder to control. With a little work, I’m sure someone would be able to code a plugin for LCD Smartie to use the display.

Pertelian LCD display
Click to enlarge

The bundled software is very buggy, with some plugins bringing up an ‘unhandled exception’ every time they are clicked. The default shortcut keys are reasonably secure and all used Ctrl + Alt. You would think that they wouldn’t interact with other programs but Word uses them and at one point I managed to shutdown my PC (I slipped off the Alt key hitting the Windows key).

The USB connection is essential for this product to be used in today’s market. Unlike previous years when parallel ports were standard on motherboards, they are now a distant memory meaning that the XS-PC LCD display can’t be used with many modern computers. While that display was open source it wasn’t universally useable, which is where the Pertelian comes in.

Conclusion

I’ve centred this review on the software, which I feel still needs a lot of work. If this display was open source and controllable by free LCD software then this display would be perfect. User friendly, simply connectivity without the need for an external power source, and fully cased.

Until then this display is far from finished. The software needs polishing/rewriting to get rid of the bugs and to make all features into plugins. The bundled software has potential that I think is yet to be tapped. I would like to score this nice little LCD display higher but the drivers are a thorn in its foot.

ProsCons

Convenience

Drivers are unfinished
Fully cased
USB connectivity

I’d like to thank Pertelian for providing us with the display.

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