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HP revitalizes DreamColor universe with 2 new models

The new pro DreamColor monitor is larger, can accept 4K, and has many other improvements.

By Allan Tépper | April 14, 2014

At NAB 2014 in Las Vegas, HP showed two new DreamColor monitors with plenty to write home about! The new “pro” Z27X model has a larger 27“ diagonal panel, accepts up to a 4K signal, and costs substantially less than the original DreamColor monitor. Ahead I’ll explain many of its other improvements, together with some details on the new Z24X 24” “little brother” model, which is now the entry-level DreamColor monitor.

DreamColor monitor model numbers

Since 2009, I have published over a dozen articles about the original LP2480zx DreamColor and its proper integration in a video production system. That original LP2480zx DreamColor monitor has a long and difficult model number to remember. The two new models are much simpler to recall:

  • The new Z27X, which is the professional 27" model which can even accept 4K video signals (plus more other new benefits) and has an official price of US$1499
  • The new Z24X, which is the new entry-level 24" model (details ahead in this article) and has an official price of US$599

Over 1 billion colors (in US nomenclature)

Like the original LP2480zx DreamColor, both of the new models have 10-bit (aka 30-bit) panels, which means that they can display 1.07 billion colors, or more precisely 1,073,741,824 colors. How did we come up with that number?

Each pixel in any color LCD monitor contains three subpixels. Each subpixel corresponds with one of the three primary video colors: red, green, and blue. The bit-precision of the display determines how many levels of brightness can be shown for each primary color. A 6-bit monitor offers 64 (26) levels from darkest to brightest for each primary color. An 8-bit monitor offers 256 (228) levels for each primary color. The bit-precision is determined by the electronics which control the liquid crystal cells in the panel. Since there are three subpixels, the maximum number of colors that a pixel can display is 2n x 2n x 2n where n is the bit-precision of a subpixel. Therefore, an 8-bit panel offers 28 x 28 x 28 = 16,777,216 colors (which is often rounded as 16.7 million). Many consumer LCD monitors have inexpensive 18-bit panels (6-bit per subpixel x3). Most professional LCD monitors have 24-bit panels (8-bit per subpixel x3). Only a very few high-end LCD models have 30-bit panels (10-bit per subpixel x3). Since the DreamColor LP2480zx, Z24Z, and Z27X all have a 10-bit panel design, they can all display a simultaneous palette of 210 x 210 x 210 = 1,073,741,824 colors which is often rounded to 1.07 billion colors… but be careful of the billion term, as explained ahead:

Beware the term billion in international circles

That number you just read is expressed with the US billion nomenclature. In European English, that number would be written and spoken as 1,07 thousand million (except for those Europeans who have adopted the US billion)! Castilian readers should interpret it as 1,07 mil millones... or 1,07 millardos if they use very modern terminology. Both in European English and in Castilian, the term billion (or billón) is a much bigger number, with 12 zeros instead of 9.

 

What’s new (and good) in both new DreamColor monitors?

  • Unlike the original LP2480zx DreamColor monitor, which has absolutely no audio connections, both of the new DreamColor models, the Z24X and Z27X, fortunately have an onboard audio DAC (digital-to-analog converter) output to connect your audio amplifier or active speakers, and they will be in sync with the video being monitored. This is vital if your professional video interface only offers combined digital audio/video over HDMI, and no analog audio output. The analog audio output of the Z24X and Z27X is unbalanced 3.5 mm TRS stereo, according to HP. That is good to keep in mind when choosing cables to run from the new DreamColor monitor to your powered speakers or amplifier.
  • Unlike the original LP2480zx DreamColor monitor, whose DreamColor Engine absolutely demands both RGB and true progressive (no PsF or interlaced video is allowed), both of the new models, the Z24X and Z27X, can now accept interlaced video or progressive, and it can be component or RGB. (RGB is still preferred for grading if your system offers that option, but it is no longer a requirement for the DreamColor Engine. In upcoming articles, I’ll cover in what cases Blackmagic interface users will be able to remove the “Band-Aid”, and and what cases they may want to keep it for the moment, even with the new DreamColor monitors, and why.) Details about interlaced video with each new model, ahead in this article.

What’s new (and good) in the Z27X, the new pro model?

This is only a a partial listing for this “first look” article, and is in addition to the benefits already covered above:

  • The new US$1499 Z27X can now receive up to 4K video over HDMI or DisplayPort input, although the panel’s native resolution is 2560 x 1440. We have several options, from seeing the entire 4K or Ultra HD signal mapped to the panel, seeing it 1:1, and several other options I’ll cover in my upcoming review.
  • The Z27X no longer requires absolutely any external computer to be calibrated. Instead, you simply plug any of the supported colorimiters directly into the Z27X and let the inboard DreamColor Engine perform and save the profile. I have been awaiting this capability for a long time!
  • Unlike the original LP2480zx DreamColor monitor, which unfortunately rounds non-integer source framerates like 23.976, 29.97 and 59.94 to the closest integer when reporting it on screen, according to HP’s DreamColor architect Greg Staten, the Z27X now fortunately displays them appropriately to that level of accuracy: 23.976, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50, 59.94 or 60, depending upon the source. I was not able to see that during the press event at NAB or make any screenshots, since the only source was exactly 24, but I will do that once I receive a review unit. This was the primary pet peeve I had with the original LP2480zx DreamColor monitor, and I am delighted to hear that it has been improved, since I believe that any good critical video monitor should be able to do that, in order to help the operator determine that everything is properly adjusted in the system, and with that level of accuracy, be it for video editing or grading.
  • As stated previously, the Z27X can handle progressive or interlaced video without its DreamColor Engine going on strike (as happens with the original LP2480zx). That’s because both the Z27X and the Z24X feature an advanced motion adaptive per pixel de-interlacer. However, only the Z27X has the capability of disabling that de-interlacer, which is what I would do if working on progressive projects with that model.
  • The Z27X has even better off-axis viewing than the original LP2480zx.

What we know so far about the Z24X

  • The US$599 Z24X does not accept 4K video.
  • The Z24X still requires a computer with Windows to be calibrated, although (like the original LP2480zx) the Z24X fortunately still stores the profile in its inboard DreamColor Engine, at least when being calibrated in pro video mode. At publication time of this article, there is no Mac calibration software to calibrate the Z24X, and there is no plan to create one. HP recommends the Z27X for Mac users. I’ll test calibrating Z24X with Mac and Boot Camp and with at least one emulation once I receive a review unit.)
  • It is still unconfirmed whether the Z24X displays non-integer source framerates as accurately as 23.976, 29.97, and 59.94, or whether it rounds them to the closest integer, as the original LP2480zx does. I’ll test that once I receive a review unit.
  • The Z24X has inferior off-axis performance compared with the Z27X and the original LP2480zx.
  • The Z24X does not support DCI, although it does support 709.

Upcoming reviews of the Z24X and Z27X

After I receive the Z24X and Z27X review units, I’ll review them and publish my results.

Upcoming articles, reviews, and books

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Allan Tépper’s books, consulting, articles, seminars & audio programs

Contact Allan Tépper for consulting, or find a full listing of his books, articles, and upcoming seminars and webinars at AllanTepper.com.

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No manufacturer is specifically paying Allan Tépper or TecnoTur LLC to write this article or the mentioned books. Some of the other manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. Many of the manufacturers listed above have sent Allan Tépper review units. So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur programs, although they are welcome to do so, and some are, may be (or may have been) sponsors of ProVideo Coalition magazine. Some links to third parties listed in this article and/or on this web page may indirectly benefit TecnoTur LLC via affiliate programs.

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Comments

frnz: | April, 21, 2014

Awesome article! The YUV issue has been bugging me, as I’ve talked with at least 8 different people at HP over phone and chat and no one can direct me to the appropriate representative to answer this. Where did you see/hear that the monitors now support YUV without disabling the color engine? I have a UltraStudio Mini Monitor and want to make sure I will be able to use it with this monitor before I buy.

Allan Tépper: | April, 22, 2014

Hi Frnz,

Thanks for reading and commenting!
The one who shared that information from Hewlett Packard was Greg Staten, the DreamColor architect. That happened during the DreamColor press event which took place on Sunday, April 8th in the Wynn Hotel’s Lafite Ballroom 1, 3131 South Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, NV 89109, United States, between 3pm and 4pm local Las Vegas time. Greg Staten also reviewed my article for technical accuracy and approved it.

Allan Tépper

Esteban Aguilera: | April, 23, 2014

As always a real pleasure to read your articles!

Ancious to read you reviews, you are waiting xD

In color accuracy, what do you think really about the two new models vs LP2480zx ?
I know you have to review it wink

frnz: | April, 23, 2014

Great, thank you so much Allan! If you are in close contact with any of the DreamColor team maybe you could suggest they include some more technical information on their spec sheet? I hope they make a whitepaper aimed at video professionals like they did with the previous model.

One last thing: do you know if this is shipping yet? I see B&H doesn’t have it yet but it looks like you can buy direct from HP. Do you know of any resellers that have this in stock and offer financing?

Allan Tépper: | April, 26, 2014

FRNZ:
See my most recent article here:
http://provideocoalition.com/atepper/story/aja-converts-psf-to-progressive-with-new-hi5-plus-converter

Esteban:
Everything I know so far in terms of what is better is already written in this article, and the one I just mentioned above to FRNZ. The rest, I will know when I found out. Stay tuned to my articles

Allan Tépper

ilya_marcus: | May, 04, 2014

First thanks for this article its really a glass of water in the HP information desert.

I wanted to buy 2 z24x for my Mac one to be connected via GPU and the other via Blackmagic micro monitor, was at first thinking about calibrating the one connected with the GPU with vm ware and the second on to “offline it” then connect it to the Blackmagic card.
then i started to wonder…..
1. Would the Mac color management not “add” a correction on top of the one the will go into the monitor while calibrating it?
2. Even with the z27x how do i know that when switching to my Mac the color profiler wont change the values going to the monitor.
3. Was trying to understand how detail are the knobs in this monitor if i want to calibrate it just like the rest of my BVM’s and so on?

Not sure if you have any answers, but ATM im torn if to buy 2 z24x or one z27x (its for my personal use so the budget is tight), so any information would be awesome!

Thanks,

Ilya Marcus

Quentin Brown: | June, 03, 2014

I am looking forward to your reviews as soon as you get the sample units in to test.
I have been considering buying the new Dreamcolors myself but info is so sparse and with no reviews yet I don’t want to pull the trigger just yet. If the problems of poor uniformity and too blue backlight perist from the previous generation then I might go for an Eizo instead. (Same backlight problem but at least the uniformity is improved with compensation and they take full 3D LUTS) The Eizo’s are considerably more expensive though…

From the quick specs on HP’s site it seems the z24x doesn’t have any native VESA modes other than 60Hz but the panel supports a wider range and there are custom modes mentioned. I wonder if those custom modes allow you to work at 23.976Hz, 24Hz, 25Hz, 29.976HZ etc and whether you can do that when connected to a Mac directly or if you’ll be stuck with 60Hz as is often the case with OSX’s limited support for aleternative refresh rates on third party panels. Any light you can shed on this would be much appreciated.

Thanks,

Quentin Brown

Allan Tépper: | June, 03, 2014

Ilya,
The signal that go through the AJA, Blackmagic, or Matrox device via Thunderbolt won’t be affected by any Mac correct. The one that you connect to the Mac as a GPU monitor will —or won’t— depending upon how you set the settings on the Mac. I really prefer the Z27X not only for the inboard calibration but also because the improved off-axis performance. That is based upon what I saw at NAB. I still haven’t received my review units.
Allan Tépper

Allan Tépper: | June, 03, 2014

Quentin,
The original DreamColor Monitor was unfortunately limited to 60Hz when connected directly to a Mac, unless you installed and used SwitchResX, which is not for the faint of heart. That’s one of the several reasons to use a professional interface with the original DreamColor. When I receive the new ones, that will be one of the first things I’ll test. As stated in other articles, when connecting consumer multi-standard HDTV sets directly to the Mac, I have been given the choice of 24, 25, 50, and 60.
23.976, 29.97, and 59.94 were still missing, and that’s why I requested the non-integer framerates from Apple in this open letter:
http://provideocoalition.com/atepper/story/why-does-the-mac-still-deal-with-connected-hdtv-monitors-haphazardly
Perhaps it will come with 10.10 Yosemite smile
Allan Tépper

mrak1979: | June, 07, 2014

The answer to this question can probably be inferred or assumed from the contents of this article but I’ll go ahead and ask anyways just to have it clear on official record:

Can the DreamColor engine be activated by either an hdmi signal from mac thunderbolt to Blackmagic UltraStudio Mini Monitor to DreamColor?

btw, Great Article! Your articles are always great reads!

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