Freelance and Number Nine put to the test – Lotus Development Corp.’s Freelance Graphics for Windows and Number Nine Computer Corp.’s Number Nine Computer #9GXi graphics coprocessor board – Hardware Review

Freelance and Number Nine put to the test – Lotus Development Corp.’s Freelance Graphics for Windows and Number Nine Computer Corp.’s Number Nine Computer #9GXi graphics coprocessor board – Hardware Review – Evaluation

Lynn Greiner

If you’ve seen anything presented lately, chances are some sort of computer graphics were involved. Even mundane text presentations can be jazzed up with pictures and effects, with very little effort.

And, if you were lucky, you saw the show “live” on a high resolution monitor driven by a graphics coprocessor card.

Lotus Freelance Graphics for Windows and Number Nine Computer Inc.’s #9GXi card was the team we tried in our quest for visual pizazz.

One of the most delightful things about Freelance is the ease with which a novice can dive in and create a presentation. The secret is object orientation. When you call up a template, and obey the command “Click here for text”, the template knows all about that text. It understands what size character is suitable for the context, what bullets to use, what colors go best. Certainly, you can change the defaults — I did – but the basic text object exists in a useful form, no talent required.

There are 60 sets of modifiable templates, called Smart-Masters.

An entire presentation is stored in a single file, and may be viewed in a number of ways. You can look at each slide independently, or pop into outline mode and get what looks like a yellow notepad showing all your text, or you can view the entire set of slides on a single screen, for sorting by the drag and drop method.

The selection of graph types is more than ample for the average presenter. You can either enter numbers and text, or slurp them in from another application for display as one of almost 100 graph types and styles.

A clever tutorial walks you through all the options in a logical manner, so learning the basics is painless. In fact, Freelance Graphics for Windows almost makes creating presentations fun.

The product that allowed me to view my presentation in all its glory was the 9GXi graphics coprocessor card. At over $1,500 for the basic model, this is not your everyday VGA card.

As a matter of fact, though it produces creditable VGA images, it’s actually slower than many ordinary VGA adaptors.

But where else can you find a board that will display 16.7 million colors at a resolution of 640 x 480, or 256 colors at 1280 x 1024 (2048 x 2048 using special, bundled software) — or one that has a 32-bit video coprocessor to take the strain off your CPU while you use all that muscle?

The board installed easily, and configuration was simple – but I could only coax it into high resolution TIGA mode on two of the three machines I tried it in.

The local distributor, Forefront Graphics, says that the #9GXi can be a bit cranky about running on some hardware, but Number Nine Computer, through them, works with customers to solve these problems. I give them “A” for effort – though we ultimately gave up the fight on my 386SX. It was due to my time constraints, not because of their unwillingness to continue.

The display was sharp and clear, when it worked, and delightfully fast. Zoom, pan, and scroll allowed me to wander around my ‘virtual desktop’ in Windows quickly.

If you’ve the need – and the budget – this card is well worth a look.

The #9GXi card comes in Windows and CAD versions, and is distributed by Forefront Graphics Corp., 37 Kodiak Cres., Unit 6, Downsview, Ont., M3J 3E5, (416) 636-4444.

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