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CrystalFontz 20x4 LCD Display Review

Former staff writer    -   May 25, 2001
Category: Monitors
Price: N/A


Introduction

The last time I reviewed an LCD display was on the 24th of May, last year. I reviewed the Matrix-Orbital LCD, and I was fairly happy with it, up until till it broke. I sent it back for repairs and they wanted about $60 bucks to fix it! What kind of warranty is that? I hope things go better with this CrystalFontz display. This display is a 20x4 display, which means it can have 4 lines with 20 characters across each line. It's fairly large, large enough to take up two 5.25" bays!
Who needs any LCD? Any hardcore overclocker, case modding fanatic, or geek. LCD's can display vital system information such as, tempetures of your cpu(s), video card, case, fan speeds, voltages, ect.. It can display anything that MBM (Motherboard Monitor) can display plus more!

Features

From the CrystalFontz website:
  • The LCD material is now FSTN (Film compensated Super Twisted Nematic) instead of STN. FSTN gives better contrast, faster response and makes an all-around more readable display.
  • The display now has the ability to store a customized boot screen of your design in its EEPROM. All features of the display are controlled: characters displayed, user-definable characters, backlight setting, contrast setting, cursor position, cursor style, wrap setting, scroll setting, and even the scrolling marquee.
  • The baud rates supported are now 19200, 9600, 4800 and 2400 baud. 1200 baud is no longer supported.
  • The PCB silkscreen has an abbreviated jumper setting table, so all the jumper settings are always in easy reference.
  • The CGROM is an enhanced version with many more useful characters: numeric superscripts, icons, mathematical symbols, some fractions, a great variety of arrows, many currency symbols, and more.
  • The processor's reset circuit has been improved to handle a wider range of slow-turn-on power supply conditions.

    Installation

    The installation of the LCD was fairly simple. One of the things I do not like about the LCD, is the serial cable that plugs in to your serial port in the back of your computer. CrystalFontz should have included a slot cover, one similar to the one below.



    Unfortunately this one was still too small for the cable to go thru. I had to come up with another way of neatly running the cable to the back of my computer. I could of spliced the cable and ran it thru, then soldered it back together. However, I didn't want to put that much time and trouble into it. So, the idea I came up with, was to feed the cable thru a unused gameport hole (see pic below).



    In order to get the plug thru the hole, I had to take the two screws out of it. Then after about 5 mins of forcing it, I finally got it thru. Look's like a car ran over it, eh? :)



    Next, I put the screws back in, and plugged it into my serial port on my motherboard.



    On the other end of the cable, you simply plug into the back of the LCD.

    Lastly, you mount the LCD display in "two" available 5.25" bays. Fasten the LCD by using the provided screws, and plug the power cable in.



    Software
    Looking for software? Well, it comes with none! It's up to you, to find the software or make the software you want. If you can program in VB, C, C+, C++, ect.. then you've got it made! You can simply make your LCD do whatever you want it to! If your not a programer, then you will have to beg one of your friends that's a programer to make you a program for your LCD. You could always search google.com for some LCD programs, as well. I'm going to show you a few programs that I found. This one program is the very best LCD program that I have ever found. It's one of those "All-in-one" kinda of deals.

    LCDCenter :: Homepage :: Download

    The program is called LCDCenter. So what can this program do? Below is a list of a few:

  • temperature and fan monitoring
  • voltage monitoring
  • uptime
  • date&time
  • cpu load
  • memory usage
  • diskspace usage
  • network traffic monitoring
  • new email notification
  • winamp support

    It does a ton of things, as you can see! It not only supports this LCD display but supports many other LCD's as well. Here is a list of what it supports:

  • any Matrix Orbital unit
  • other units supported by Lcdriver (such as our CrystalFontz display)
  • HD44780 units connected on LPT - &h378 (requires PORT95NT!)

    I think pictures speak louder than words: (Click on pictures to enlarge)


    The configuration screen











    Just about all LCD programs require something called, LCDriver. LCDriver is used by many programs to display news, stats, animations, and other things to a variety of LCD and VFD displays on a Windows PC. When you download this program and install it, the installation will install a shortcut (icon) in your Control Panel of windows. When you double click on the icon, a screen like this will popup:



    You have to scroll thru the list of LCD's and choose the LCD you have. This one is the, 20x4 blacklit model. Next, you choose what serial port your LCD is plugged in to, mine was com 1. Then, choose the baud rate (speed) of the LCD, which is 19200. You can adjust how bright the LCD and charcters are also. I set both of the settings to 52%. Lastly, click the test button and see if the settings work. I have found that if you want to use LCDCenter, you have to open LCDriver and click the "Unlock" button in order for LCDCenter to work. Not really a big deal, I have gotten use to doing it as soon as windows boot's up. Plus, I don't reboot often and it stay's "Unlocked" until you reboot your computer.


    I was searching google and came across a few more cool LCD programs. (All programs are available in the OCC Download Center)

    LCD Smartie :: Homepage :: Download

    This program is very much like LCDCenter, but with a few more cool things! This program can scroll, CNN news, stock quotes, half-life and quake game server info, weather reports, your seti@home and RC5 stats, and it also has better winamp functions built in. It's a little more advance, configuration, than LCDCenter. However, it is a must have program just like LCDCenter!

    Winamp Plugin :: Homepage :: Download

    This isn't an all-in-one program, but it does have a lot to offer. If your big into mp3's and winamp you'll want this program. It has many configuration options, from spectrum analyzers to WinLIRC support.

    Ultimate Info Center :: Homepage :: Download

    Ultimate Info Center is another all-in-one display program. It has a lot of the options LCDCenter has and it is easier to configure and has a much better GUI than LCDCenter. However, no Windows XP support! :/

    LCDStockTicker :: Homepage :: Download

    LCDStockTicker retrieves delayed stock quotes from the Web and scrolls selected quotes on the top two lines of the LCD. Information for each stock can include last price, price change, percentage change, last time, volume. The two lines can be set to scroll at different speeds.

    LCDTime :: Homepage :: Download



    This is one of my favorite programs to run on an LCD. This program displays the current time on the LCD in, standard and military time, normal, bold, and LARGE fonts.

    LCDUMeter :: Homepage :: Download



    A basic program that will display your network transfer over the last minute as a graph and the current transfer in KB/sec. I like it.



    What about linux users? Well, you can also benefit from having this LCD display. As with Windows, there is a special lcd module you must install. I found a site on google that shows you how to install the module and also has a few links to other sites with programs you can download. The site is: http://www.linuxnetmag.com/en/issue5/m5lcd1.html.



    Conclusion
    This is an awesome LCD! The only negative remarks I have about it is, them not including a slot cover, and it's kind of pricey. If you got the money and want to add a unique item to your case to show off at lan party's, get one of these LCD's. There really isn't a huge advantage of having an LCD display. Unless you want to closly monitor your CPU temps, while gaming or if you have a server with no monitor plugged up to it, this would be great advantage! I just like it to show off to people, and for a nightlight at night time :)

    I'd like to thank CrystalFontz.com for providing this product for us to review.


    Pros:
    • Easy to install
    • Crisp and clear text
    • Very cool looking!

    Cons:
    • Need a slot cover
    • Expensive







    1. CrystalFontz 20x4 LCD Display
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