It's been a while since we last reviewed an LCD offering from Matrix Orbital, oh how things have change since then. Gone are the days where you had to mess around with power connectors and serial cables to get your LCD up and running, now it's just a single cable for both the power and data, a USB cable! In this review i'll be looking at how to set this baby up and taking a look at how the software scene for MO LCDs has changed since I last reviewed one.
Lets have a quick look at the specifications of the unit before we move onward to using it.
Module size: 116.0mm(L) x 37.0mm(W) x 27.5mm(T)
Display size: 82.2mm(L) x 18.2mm(W)
Character size: 3.20 x 5.55mm
20 Column by 2 line alphanumeric display
Built-in font with provision for upto 8 user defined characters
Speeds from 1200bps to 19.2kbps over RS232
Communicate over USB
Use upto 100 modules on the same USB host
Fully buffered so that no delays in transmission are ever necessary
Customisable splash screen
On-board memory saves settings
Software controlled contrast AND backlight brightness
Backlight with a configurable timeout setting
24 key keypad interface
6 General purpose outputs
Horizontal and Vertical bar graphs
Power and data from a single USB cable
The kit I ordered was the MX212. This is an inverse blue USB LCD with white text, mounted in a black PC bay insert with keypad. I recieved the unit 2 days after it was ordered (thanks UPS!), and couldn't wait to take a look at my new toy. Matrix Orbital have got their own printed boxes since last time I recieved a unit from them, a nice touch, don't you think?
Opening the well decorated box reveals the display, carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and surrounded by polystyrene packing. You also get a nice thankyou letter with details of installation, and the 'eCD' which has your LCDC activation code on the front of it and the drivers and further installation instructions on the disc.
The front of the unit has a protective sticker over the display area to prevent any unecessary damage while in transit, it comes off very easily without leaving any sticky residue to reveal a nice clean display. The keypad on the front of the unit is of a matt black colour with a nice textured finish, and the buttons make a satisfying noise when pressed - a sign of quality.
Notice the unit already has a cable attached, saving you from hunting round for one at the last minute because you forgot to place an order for one. Not just an ordinary USB cable at that, its a nice clear one with silver braiding on the inside. It's plugged into the back of the LCD unit, and held on with a cable tie, however, it's not going to be a problem to remove this cable and fit your own if desired - you may want to have a 5 metre usb cable and mount your unit on the other side of the room, one of the many advantages of a USB unit.
On the back of the unit you may notice that there are a lot of other pins. Going from left to right, the 12 pins down the left had side are the general purpose outputs, or GPOs. These are used for powering other devices that you can control via commands to the LCD unit. This unit has two types of GPO, low power and high power. GPOs 1-3 are low powered ones and are capable of 5V @ 20mA, these 3 are outputs via a 240ohm current limiting resistor that you can see to the right of the pins. GPOs 4-6 are not limited with a resistor and will supply 5V if you are only using the USB cable, but if you plug an unmodified floppy drive connector into the white plug at the bottom, GPOs 4-6 will supply 12V. The 4 pins at the top of the unit marked T and R are LED headers. You can connect an LED to each of these headers, the T stands for Transmitting and the R for Receiving, the LEDs will flash accordingly when the unit is sending or receiving data. The 9 pin header at the bottom of the unit in the middle is the keypad interface, in my image it already has a keypad attached, this is the keypad in the PC bay. Then there is the large silver USB socket, and the five pins to the right of that are the alternate USB interface so that you can use some other means of connecting it. From top to bottom these five pins are: GND, N/C, D+, D- and +5V.