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Testing tool helps evaluate high-end displays

CNET Labs acquires the Kramer VM-2DVI to accurately and efficiently test 30-inch displays

Eric Franklin Former Editorial Director
Eric Franklin led the CNET Tech team as Editorial Director. A 20-plus-year industry veteran, Eric began his tech journey testing computers in the CNET Labs. When not at work he can usually be found at the gym, chauffeuring his kids around town, or absorbing every motivational book he can get his hands on.
Expertise Graphics and display technology. Credentials
  • Once wrote 50 articles in one month.
Eric Franklin
2 min read
The Kramer VM-2DVI Kramer Electronics

A couple months back I attempted to test two 30-inch displays--the Samsung SyncMaster 305T and the Gateway XHD3000 Extreme HD-- at the same time using CNET Labs' current distribution amplifier (DA), the Extron Electronics D2 DA4 DVI D2 DA4 DVI. This device allows up to four displays to simultaneously view the same video signal from one system. For years we've used this device to not only speed up testing, but to do accurate direct comparisons as well. Unfortunately the native resolution for the aforementioned 30-inchers is 2,560x1,600, and the maximum resolution the Extron supports is only 1,920x1,200. So, without a means to test them simultaneously at their native resolutions I was stuck in a bind. I could have tested them one at a time, but since our testing--which includes DisplayMate--has a high level of subjectivity to it, it's always best to do direct simultaneous comparisons, instead of testing one display today and then waiting a couple days to test the next. Testing them simultaneously allows you to see the exact differences between the displays.

So I delayed the testing and the review for a few weeks. In the meantime I got in touch with a colleague at DisplayMate, Ray Soneira. He put me in contact with a company called Kramer. Kramer manufactures a number of distribution amplifiers including the Kramer VM-2DVI. This particular DA is Dual Link compatible and supports each 30-inch display's 2560x1600 resolution. So now I could test both 30-inch displays simultaneously at their native resolutions in DisplayMate and in our current games test, World of Warcraft. However whenever I attempted to run either our Kill Bill Vol. 1 DVD or our Swordfish BD on both displays at the same time, the DRM gods reared their ugly heads and denied me salvation. So when testing how each display handles disc-based movies, I was forced to evaluate each display one at a time. The Kramer VM-2DVI is not advanced enough to circumvent DRM tomfoolery, unfortunately. That said, we're still very pleased that the VM-2DVI allowed us to do the bulk of our testing as fairly and accurately as possible.

The issue of not being able to view certain disc-based movies simultaneously on two or more displays may not be an issue for long, as CNET Labs is considering moving away from using movies--and even games-- to evaluate the quality of a display. The reason being that video images generally move too quickly to do a picture quality comparison, whereas static images such as high-quality photos can be studied as long as necessary in order to examine their quality. No decision has been made as yet, though, but look for more on this in a future Inside CNET Labs post.