Jam!! Low resolution graphics onto your monitor!
Jam!! is an interesting new device that allows you to hook up videogame systems
to your computer monitor. It is a fully functional product, and a useful one
to boot, but unfortunately it doesn't live up to what it says on the box - "the
best gaming experience possible."
One of the big promises is that Jam!! will allow your high-resolution monitor
to enhance the resolution of games that don't look very good on a TV. Unfortunately,
this is not the case. By putting games on a monitor, it does reveal how crappy
TV resolution is - but it does nothing to fix it. While the edges are sharper,
games designed for play on a TV look more blocky than ever, and that's only
the beginning of the problems.
Because Jam!! uses a pass through cable as a go between from the computer
to the unit, some picture quality is lost on the screen when you are using your
computer. You see, every time you go through another piece of hardware (Jam!!,
a videocard, etc) your image passes through a filter. The more filters your
image passes through, the crappier the end product gets. In conjunction with
a Voodoo 2, which also uses a passthrough cable (that's three levels of abstraction
for those who are counting), my 2D image quality has become horribly blurry.
Another problem that is fairly annoying is the fact that some colors appear
differently on a monitor than they do on a TV. This is bizarre - when playing
Gran Turisimo you may
be distracted by a green sky rather than a blue one.
Jam!! is chock full of video problems and they don't end yet. If your monitor
isn't top of the line, the refresh rate used by Jam!! may make some of the graphics
bounce up and down erratically because your monitor cannot draw fast enough.
While testing I saw this happen many times in various different games when text
was on the screen, but it doesn't occur only with text, I've also seen it happen
in the health meters in Tekken
Sound is another problem. You can plug headphones into Jam!!, but honestly,
who wouldn't rather use the $150+ speakers they bought for their PC? Jam!! can
use those speakers, but your going to have to go out and buy some cable. I went
down to Radio Shack and bought the "stereo-stereo" converter that the manual
suggested, plugged it into my sound cards line in and into Jam!!, but for some
reason it only comes out of one speaker - unless I force my speakers into mono
(for those who are wondering I have some Bose speakers, a massive subwoofer,
and a quality stereo receiver). The whole point of Jam!! sound-wise was to be
able to hear games in stereo, which you are unable to do on most mono TV's.
Even this didn't work.
On the plus side, it does get rid of the need for a TV, and if you're reading
this you obviously already have a monitor. One of the cool things that Aims
Labs did right was detection of the video signal coming from the game system.
Simply turn on your Playstation, Nintendo 64, or Saturn and it takes over your
monitor. Turn the game off and it comes back to your PC.
Another bonus is that Jam!! will conceivably work with future game consoles
as well. On a side note, this may not affect many people, but I personally own
a Yaroze (the black programmers PlayStation). With Jam!!, I don't need a TV
set up next to my computer - I can simply turn Jam!! off, write the program,
then turn Jam!! on and see it on the Playstation. Much more convenient than
having a massive TV taking up my limited desk space.
All in all, Jam!! is a very cool product, but it doesn't quuite live up to
what it says it does. There are tons of video and sound problems (although I'm
not sure if the cable Radio Shack sold me was faulty). Still, I often find it
infinitely more convenient to be able to play on my monitor, and I think that
was the point of the Jam!! in the first place.