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Limited Edition Matrix Review

Generation E Sports

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Matrix LCD
by Bill Mills
Page 1

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Relatively quickly, the E Matrix has risen from being a fringe paintgun not used by many high profile teams, to being the paintgun of top professional teams including Ironmen, Trauma and New York Xtreme.  While this stems in part from the way it has been marketed, it also was made possible by design improvements from the original slide switch Matrix through the LED Matrix, and eventually the Matrix LCD.

The original limited edition Matrix reviewed on was most easily identified by its slide switch in the rear.  A number of minor production changes came into play between it and the next model, the LED Matrix.  The most immediately recognized change was replacing the slide power switch on the rear of the grip frame with a push button, and power indicator LED.  The cast metal grip panels were also replaced by molded wraparound grips.  Like the slide switch model, dwell time settings on the LED Matrix are adjusted by setting DIP-switches inside the grip frame.

A not so visible change is also in the left hand side gas transfer tube.  In the Matrix body, there are three main internal shafts.  The largest, on top houses the bolt and spool valve assembly.  The two smaller tubes below it on either side, on the original Matrix transferred gas from the front of the gun where it enters, to the back, where it is fed into the spool valve.  On the LED and LCD models of the Matrix, the left transfer tube is unused, left available for use by custom versions of the paintgun. The Freeflow Matrix uses the left transfer tube as a second gas passage, to increase the volume of air available to the spool valve.  The Ironmen Matrix, on the other hand uses it to contain components for an anti-chop eye.  Another difference is the way the main vertical regulator is mounted.  The original Matrix design used a 1/8” NPT threaded fitting to simply screw the top of the regulator into the body.  This ultimately stood as a weak point in the design, with stress from players holding the gun by the lengthy vertical reg, and using it as a foregrip transferred by leverage to that relatively narrow connection.  This was changed over to a vertical ASA connection that mounted in to the existing threaded hole (meaning it could retrofit to earlier receivers.)  The new ASA braces up against the body, protecting against bending stress, and allows the use of a wide variety of aftermarket regulators, as well as what became the new stock regulator, Centerflag’s Hyper Inline.

Then came the LCD, which is the Matrix model seeing use on pro teams.  The in-grip LCD display is the most obvious difference between it and earlier models, but there are two other significant changes as well.  Both of these changes work in tandem to address one of the drawbacks of the LED and slide switch models – low gas efficiency, which restricts the number of shots that can be fired off of each tank fill.

Internally the Matrix has two main gas channels.  They are split by the transfer spool, a component that screws into the receiver just below the breech.  One path is used to charge the dump chamber – the air space that holds the gas that will fire the gun.  The other is fed to a solenoid valve, a small electronically controlled pilot valve that directs air to one of two passages controlling an internal piston arrangement which moves the spool valve back and forth.  The spool valve is the main, functional moving part of the Matrix.  It serves both to close the bolt at its front, and to release gas from the dump chamber into the breech to fire a paintball out of the barrel.

The LED Matrix uses gas of the same pressure for both propelling the paintball, and controlling the spool valve through the solenoid valve.  Because the solenoid valve can only handle a limited amount of pressure, an LED Matrix is fed gas at 150-170 psi.  Pressures above 170 psi risk damaging the solenoid valve.  The LCD Matrix on the other hand features a low-pressure regulator in the front.  The Matrix LPR screws into the receiver in place of the transfer spool.  In fact the rear half of the LPR, which sits inside the receiver looks like a transfer spool.  With the LPR in place, the gas going to the solenoid valve can be limited to under 170 psi, while the pressure setting of the vertical regulator can be increased.

The LPR alone has an additional benefit.  It allows the pressure of the gas controlling the spool valve, and thus the closing force of the bolt to be adjusted.  This pressure can be decreased without effecting velocity, to the point that the Matrix will rarely chop a paintball.  The bolt will instead bounce back off of a partially fed paintball most of the time.

LPRs were one of the earliest modifications available for the Matrix, the first models were simply Autococker style LPRs with a hose running to the left transfer tube, but soon Matrix specific LPRs became available from Shocktech and Aardvark which mounted just like a transfer spool.

The LPR is also important in that it allows the use of the LCD bolt.  The LCD bolt assembly is an newer spool valve and bolt assembly.  While it has some minor differences from the original, like the stop being machined so that it won’t fall off the bolt while assembling the gun, it’s major change is that the volume of air used by the LCD bolt is less than the original bolt.  Reduced volume allows the Matrix to achieve the same velocities with a higher pressure air supply as the LED model does with a higher volume and lower pressure.  Higher pressure gas has more potential energy, and thus helps give the LCD Matrix better gas efficiency.  The LCD bolt also has some minor changes effecting the way it slides forward and how gas flows through it.  These changes, combined with new timing values set into the electronics also increase gas efficiency.  It was discovered with the LED Matrix that the paintball was already out of the barrel while the bolt was forward and gas was still being vented out of the dump chamber.  This gas was wasted.  The LCD Matrix moves the bolt back, and closes the spool valve earlier.  This means that the gas is not wasted, and the dump chamber is already partially full, so it will not take as long to refill for the next shot.  This is important for protection against shoot down at high rates of fire.

The Matrix has also changed hands a number of times.  It was originally produced by Airtech Industries of Canada, and distributed by Diablo Direct.  At nearly the same time that Diablo Direct was purchased by National Paintball Supply, the Matrix was bought by newly formed Generation E Sports.  In the summer of 2003, Generation E sold the rights to the Matrix to DYE Precision in an arrangement that allowed Generation E to still sell the Matrix as well as custom models like the NYX and Trauma editions, while DYE would manufacture and sell the Matrix as well as develop new versions.

The Matrix LCD reviewed was produced by Generation E, and is a standard Matrix LCD.  The Matrix LCD is produced in a variety of colors, the unit reviewed was anodized in a Matte Grey finish. 

While the Matrix is threaded to accept Autococker style barrels, its breech is a removable component.  Custom breeches are available to allow it to accept barrels with other thread standards, which can be a bonus to a player who is upgrading from another paintgun and already has a selection of barrels.  The stock barrel is 12 inches in length with 4 rows of 6 ports each in its last 2-1/4 inches.  The interior has a smooth honed finish, and on the field, it performed well giving new Matrix owners something that is very usable.  The primary reason to switch barrels would be to optimize paint to barrel matching. 

A small knob on the back of the Matrix body is connected to a threaded rod, which runs the length of the gun’s interior.  At the front, it screws into a tab on the bottom of the breech.  This holds the back plate on the rear of the receiver, and locks the breech securely in place.  Three turns are all that is needed to remove the threaded rod.  The breech slides out of the front of the receiver, allowing easy access to its twin rubber ball detents for replacement or cleaning.  The ball detents are one-piece parts that simply push into place on opposite sides of the breech.  They have no springs or ball bearings.

The backplate is a sheet of aluminum approximately 1mm thick.  When removed it exposes the rear cap, which is the rearmost component of the bolt assembly.  Directly below it is the space for the electrical power source of the Matrix, a 9 volt battery.  For review, an 8.4 volt NiMH rechargeable battery, designed to be use in place of a standard 9v was used.  Extracting a used battery can be a little tricky, since there is no access to grab its edges.  A knife tip, or fingernail can be used to dig into the lip on the edge of the battery and slide it out far enough to grasp.

With the new battery in place, the electronics of the Matrix LCD are ready to go.

Pressing and holding the top of the three buttons on the rear of the grip frame turns on the gun.  It will come on in safe mode, and after any button press, the LCD display will be briefly backlit, for visibility, even in dim light.  The LCD display on the Matrix is a generic graphic display.  Some paintguns use custom made LCDs which have predesigned icons and symbols as part of their display.  While this allows for sharper images, it also limits flexibility, as a symbol can only be used in its one location on the display.  In contrast, the display of the Matrix LCD is broken up into small dots, or pixels, similar to a computer monitor.  This allows the complete display to change format, and custom icons to be used. At startup, the LCD will show a battery meter, the current temperature, software version number, the name Matrix, the word SAFE, the default time on the game timer, and the timing values used to control the gun.  FP is the amount of time the solenoid valve is energized to move the bolt forward and fire, and BP is the amount of time the gun must wait before energizing again to fire the next shot.  Both timing values are expressed in milliseconds.  A fourth button lies inside the grip frame, accessible by removing the grip panels.  It is used to adjust settings which are locked out of external access.

A press and hold of the middle button brings the Matrix live, indicated by the word LIVE on the LCD.  It is now ready to fire in the gun’s one mode – semi-automatic.  With the first shot, the game timer will begin counting down.

Each time the gun is fired, the word “POW!” appears in small text just below the battery meter in the display.  This is a helpful troubleshooting feature.  It shows that the circuit board has detected a trigger pull, so if the gun does not fire, the problem must lie either in the gas supply, bolt, or solenoid valve.

Switching back to safe mode by pressing and holding the middle button, one can now cycle through the LCD menus.  The middle and lower button can be used to cycle a highlight over the icons of each of 12 menus, laid out in 2 screens of 6 menus each.  Pressing the top button selects a menu.  Oddly, selection of the menus is slightly counter-intuitive.  Pressing the middle button scrolls down through the icons, while pressing the bottom button scrolls up – opposite of what one would expect.  As each menu icon is highlighted, the name of the menu appears at the top of the screen.

The timer menu, represented by a clock is simple.  The middle button scrolls the time up, and the bottom scrolls down, while, like the rest of the menus, pressing the top button sets the value and exits.  The timer may be set from 1 minute to one hour.  The scrolling buttons change it in one second increments, and roll through the numbers continuously, at a rate of about 6 seconds per minute.

The rate of fire menu, symbolized by the letters ROF displays the maximum rate of fire at which the Matrix has been fired.  This is not continuous rate of fire, but the shortest time between two shots recorded.  It can be reset by pressing and holding one of the two lower scrolling buttons.

The trip counter, is like the trip odometer in a car.  It counts the number of shots fired since it was last reset, and is reset by holding one of the scrolling buttons.  Similarly the total shots counter shows the total number of shots fired on that circuit board.  The total shots counter cannot be user reset.

The vibrate menu is represented by a small solid rectangle with lines progressing out from its corners.  It selects whether or not the grip will vibrate when the game timer runs out.  Similarly be buzzer menu selects whether or not the game timer will sound a buzzer when it elapses.  When the vibrate setting is on, the grip frame will quietly vibrate in short pulses for 10 seconds immediately after the timer hits 1:00 remaining.  Both the timer and buzzer will activate when the timer hits 0:00.

The temperature menu, symbolized by a small thermometer, selects whether the temperature will be shown in Centigrade or Fahrenheit.  The screen contrast is adjustable.  This menu is represented by a half dark circle.  This feature is locked and can not be changed without opening the grip and pressing the lock button.  The reason for this is so that a player will not change a setting, and then turn down the contrast to make the screen unreadable by a referee.  A padlock symbol indicates when this menu is locked.

The serial number menu, shown under the S/N icon gives the serial number of the circuit board.  This number is not normally programmed in at the factory.  Instead it is left at the default value of 1234567890.  Authorized Matrix customizers have the ability to reset the circuit board serial number, and will do so, to indicate that they have made custom modifications to the gun.  For example, serial numbers beginning with TMC mean that has worked on the gun, and will have a service record based on that number.  Below the serial number the version number of the software in the circuit board.  At the time of this writing 1.24 was the most current version.  The serial number menu is also used to test the buzzer and vibrate circuits.  Pressing the middle button causes the vibration motor to run, and pressing the bottom button actuates the buzzer.

The forward and back pulses are represented by small icons of the Matrix with an arrow above it pointing either down the barrel or toward the back of the gun.  These settings also are locked from outside access, indicated by a padlock icon.

For each of the locked modes, changing them requires removing the three screws that hold on the left side of the wraparound grip.  This exposes the Matrix LCD circuit board.  Near the micro-switch in the upper left of the board is a small metallic button.  Lettering on the circuit board labels it as SW4.  The mode to be changed is selected, and then the lock button is pressed.  The padlock icon on the LCD display will change to an open padlock, indicating the mode is unlocked.  As soon as that menu is closed, the mode will once again be locked.  The Matrix LCD software will not allow the controlled menus to be left unlocked for access while the grip is closed.  Since the dwell times of the front and back pulse can effect velocity this feature is designed to protect both player safety and minimize the chance of cheating the chrono in tournament play.

Continued on Page2


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