As a PC maker and gamer, I find it fun and incredibly interesting tinkering with my setup, whether it's buying a new graphics card to improve the speed, messing around with the cooling to make sure everything runs smoothly, or overclock to squeeze out a little more power. I monitor a lot of things, from the temperature of my CPU and its fan speed, to the frames per second and GPU load in games, to see how capable my PC really is.
I usually use a number of programs to monitor all of these statistics, including SpeedFan and Fraps, and to gather information about pop-ups or windows on a second monitor. Then I received an LCDSysInfo – a small 2.8 inch LCD device that can be configured to show various statistics – and monitoring my PC became a lot easier.
If you haven't heard of LCDSysInfo, don't be surprised, it is the relatively underdeveloped project by a Hong Kong-based hardware development team (ColdTears Electronics) and software developer Ezequiel Gonzalez. Originally, the device was only sold to developers for various purposes, even though Gonzalez wanted to display game statistics on it, so he started his own side project. The GOverlay software turned the system into a remarkably practical game companion, and after doing enough work, the team decided to sell this version to the general public.
The device itself is pretty simple: it's made of a bent piece of plastic that has a 2.8-inch display and logic board attached to it. The only port is a mini-USB port on the left, which connects to your PC using an included cable to provide power and data. The entire device is built quite rudimentary, but works as desired. When you set it up, you don't really have to touch it later.
Regarding the display, the LCDSysInfo has a 2.8-inch TFT-LCD with 320 x 240 pixels and 262K colors. As you can see, this is not the best display and there is significant backlighting and low contrast when in use. Fortunately, the screen doesn't have to be fantastic as, unlike photos and other graphics, only static devices are displayed and the cost can be kept low by not using premium components.
Setting up the device is definitely not for the faint of heart. First of all, you will need a number of third-party applications to get the most out of GOverlay software as it not only uses its own plugins but also pulls data from other sources. As recommended, in addition to GOverlay, I installed Open Hardware Monitor, which provides a range of PC statistics, as well as the Rivatuner Statistics Server (RTSS), which offers an FPS counter and automatic game recognition. By installing and configuring all three of these programs, LCDSysInfo can use a wide variety of data. While GOverlay can be used by itself, it is third party applications that enhance the package.
LCDSysInfo shows the data collected by GOverlay via widgets. You can save two widget configurations – one for games and one for general PC use – that will automatically switch between each other (provided you have RTSS installed). In the configuration window, select widgets in the right-hand area that will be added to an area in the middle that corresponds to the area of the LCDSysInfo display that they occupy. You can configure and move any of these widgets as you wish. Once you click Save and Apply, the LCD panel will be updated with your new setup.
The configuration settings have their advantages and disadvantages. LCDSysInfo is highly customizable and you will likely spend hours tweaking your setup to get it just right. Information is collected from anywhere and any widget, chart or graph can be edited to your liking. However, the process is cumbersome and can be complicated. So if you want a visually appealing configuration, you should spend a lot of time perfecting the look by changing smaller elements. GOverlay also guides you little through the process of configuring widgets and leaves a lot to trying and guessing.
Despite the complications of setting up and configuring LCDSysInfo, the end results are exactly as I hoped they would be. Information on CPU and GPU temperatures, load and fan speeds; RAM and hard drive usage; and (in games) a frames per second counter can be seen at a glance. I can easily ensure that my PC's temperatures are within a safe range at all times when overclocking, and I can see how smoothly my games are running. The device is perfect for the task and a great companion for the avid PC gamer.
It's also good to know that the system still receives regular attention from developers, as it has been updated countless times since it was first introduced a few months ago. In the time since I had the device, I've updated the software five times and seen a major UI overhaul, new features like plug-in support (which extends customizability for dedicated developers), and stability improvements. In addition, Gonzalez promises that support for special widgets for racing games is currently being tested, among other things.
While the package is a bit rough around the edges, the $ 32 you pay for LCDSysInfo for GOverlay is a feature-rich device and plenty of potential for even greater applications. It was designed for the enthusiast and needs to be configured by an enthusiast. However, once the setup is spot on, it provides players with useful information at a glance.
Advantages: Provides quick information at a glance, which is highly customizable via widgets and plugins and is constantly being developed. Oh, and it's $ 32!
Disadvantage: It is complicated and time consuming to configure a rudimentary construction from somewhat cheap components