Month: January 2020

Very expensive monitors

I’ve been waiting to replace an ancient Dell 24" monitor for a few years now. My goal has been to find a 32" 4K display, preferably with a refresh rate higher than 60Hz.

Unfortunately nothing like that has been available, with the monitor industry seeming to decide they’d top out the high refresh 4K displays at 27" - a resolution much better served by a 1440p panel (and there are a lot of excellent reasonably priced monitors to choose from in that space).

That changed today with the announcements from Acer and ASUS of the ‘unicorn’ monitor that checks just about every box: 32", 4K, 144Hz, IPS, NVIDIA G-sync Ultimate, Mini-LED backlight with 1152 local dimming zones, and VESA DisplayHDR 1400. None of your faux HDR400 here.

Perfect! Until you notice the price: US$3600. That’s over $5000 Australian. Ouch.

It’s inexplicable how it could cost (or be worth) that much, especially with LG releasing G-sync compatible variable refresh rates on all their 2019 OLED panels - at around half the price for twice the size. The only disadvantage is OLED currently only comes in 55"+ sizes - not very practical for desktop use.

I do wonder if the release of Apple’s Pro-Display XDR at AU$8500 has emboldened other manufactures to ask for big dollars for their cutting edge models. Hopefully these sell in low numbers to force some sanity to return to pricing.

Don Melton’s video transcoding scripts

Don Melton has updated his very smart video encoding scripts to make them far more automated, and significantly faster too:

…this package automatically selects a platform-specific hardware video encoder rather than relying on a slower software encoder.

Using an encoder built into a CPU or video card means that even Blu-ray Disc-sized media can be transcoded 5 to 10 times faster than its original playback speed, depending on which hardware is available.

Slightly surprisingly (given his Apple background) he recommends Windows as the platform of choice, largely due to to nVidia’s superior NVENC encoder.

Encoding a 30GB BluRay rip of Princess Mononoke took about 15 minutes, which from memory is about half the time taken compared to his older software driven scripts. The resulting file was 6GB which is far more manageable. I haven’t tried a lower bitrate for portable devices yet.

(Tip: The scripts auto-detect any installed hardware encoders and choose the best one, but I had to force it using the —hevc flag. Turns out it was because I hadn’t updated my nVidia drivers to the latest required version, which the script log shows when you use the specific flags. Otherwise it simply falls back to software encoding, which I hadn’t noticed.)

I still struggle slightly with the logic of doing this given the price of storage these days, though it does make sense for Plex streaming efficiency and portability. But it also means you’re watching a lossy source, which seems counter intuitive when we’re all buying 4K OLED screens precisely because of their image quality.

However I suspect it’s like high quality lossy audio - blind testing can’t differentiate there, so hopefully the same thing applies here. I haven’t spent time doing an A/B comparison, but I trust that these scripts are already pretty well tested given their popularity. In any case I think I’ll keep the full fidelity rips somewhere. The ripping process using MakeMKV is pretty slow for BluRay, so it’s not something you would want to repeat.