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HP’s DreamColor display – ‘simply’ awesome

Video editors and graphics artists have always relied on a monitor to help them achieve their vision.  Years ago, it was the size of the monitor that mattered.  It was also the refresh rates available.  Then came LCD’s but they weren’t black enough or fast enough.  Fast forward a few years and now we’re dumping CRTs at the local recycling center and LCD’s are the standard – the black and speed issues largely overcome.  Well, I’ve seen the future (at least the near future) and it’s the DreamColor LP2480zx professional display.  Read on for some more.

I’ve been the beneficiary of Adobe’s relationship with HP for many years.  Simply put, HP wants to show how their hardware can really help artists using creative software to get more done quickly.  In the same manner, Adobe wants to have terrific new hardware to show off how Creative Suite and how it’s innovative features can help creatives get more done quickly.  See, a match made in heaven.

Well some time ago, I got a DreamColor display.  This display is different on a couple of levels.  For one, it purports to have BILLIONS of colors instead of 16.7 million.  Pretty special if you can see them – and it turns out you can.  The next thing that is perhaps not revolutionary but nice nonetheless, is the DisplayPort input in addition to DVI.

At first, I was like, ‘okay, not bad, nice monitor.’  I don’t know what it was that I did, whether it was loading the right drivers, connecting it to a Vista 64 computer, using the nvidia Quadro CX or connecting via the DisplayPort, but the end result was quite impressive.  Perhaps it was a culmination of all of the above. 

Here’s the deal – you really do have to see the DreamColor to understand how good the picture really is.  I know, it’s been said before for a million different things, but that’s the best way for me to describe it.  The colors are vibrant and just seem to pop out.  The image is beyond sharp.  Superlatives aside, this is one incredible monitor.

I also got the calibration device to really get this puppy set up right.  The calibration software setup was straightforward and fast.  It didn’t dramatically change the color.  In fact, I would guess that it was about 2-3% total.  However, if you’re a graphics professional and you want that 234,2,0 RGB value to be true while you’re working – it’s great to know that your monitor is correctly displaying the color you’ve chosen.  I’m not a print guy, but it’s got to be frustrating when your work doesn’t look the way you thought it did when you had it proofed. The closest analogy I can offer is when I’ve ordered prints of my photos and they come back slightly different – it’s because what I’m seeing on my Mac (GAMMA!!!) is different than the actual values that are in the photo.

When I talked to some of the folks at nvidia, I got some additional information and it sounds like the DisplayPort along with 30-bits is a big part of what makes this monitor look so good.  Turns out that the DisplayPort allows the 30-bits to travel to the display thru the GPU without any compression.  They tell me that this translates into better gradient, shadow and highlight transitions along with better detail in those regions.

Those extra bits give you exponentially more colors to work with.  With 8-bit color you only have a palette of 256 colors – hardly something you’re going to edit a photo with – you simply don’t have enough colors.  16-bit color has 65536 colors (I even had that number memorized – sad I know) and while you think that seems like a good number of colors for photo or video editing, the truth is that it isn’t.  What you and I see most often is 24-bit color or 16.7 million colors.  There’s no denying that 24-bit color is adequate, perhaps more than adequate… that is until you see 30-bit.

Lest you think this is some HP DreamColor ‘love-fest’, let me mention some of the negatives from my perspective.  These are mostly pet peeves and perhaps some of them could be alleviated through a little investigation.  Case in point: Every time I fire up the monitor, it displays a dialog box with the input being used, the time since the last calibration, etc.  Not a big deal per se, but it gets annoying if you’re booting it up every morning, or switching between inputs ala a KVM switch.

At one point, Vista 64 came up looking kind of funky and pulling the DisplayPort cable out and putting back in, didn’t fix the problem.  A restart fixed it right up, but I can’t figure out why it did it, so I note it here for you.

The price – at $1999.00 list, this is not a monitor for everyone.  I mean, you can buy an HP workstation and LCD panel to run CS4 for that kind of money.  Still, if you can swing it, there is no doubt that you will have a fine appreciation of what you’ve purchased.  In many ways, the price is like the Wacom Cintiq monitor – it’s pricey but most people that have it, love it.

As cool and practical as the 24" model is, once you’ve done some work on a 30" and have the proper distance (i.e. – not 12-24" away but 36-60"), you want to edit/create on little else.  I’d love to see a 30" model for about the same price. In my opinion, that would be a sweet spot for HP and a real justification a good chunk of the professional market to embrace it.

Perhaps the biggest request I’d put in for the ‘next’ DreamColor would be a HD-SDI video input. It’s got such vibrant colors, you naturally would like to see how hi-def footage would play out from Premiere Pro.  There is an HDMI input, but then you require some sort of video card with an HDMI output to be able to utilize it.  On the other side, you could use the HP LP2480zx monitor as a secondary monitor and drive the output directly from Premiere Pro.  I may have to give that a try myself and report on my findings. That brings up a thought – imagine two of these in tandem: one driving Premiere Pro and one driving your output? Schaaweeet!

And finally as an annoying aside – what’s with all of the contraction and captilization inside of the word?  DisplayPort?  DreamColor?  Oh wait, Adobe OnLocation… 😉

One part that I haven’t mentioned much is the Quadro CX card. Look for an upcoming post with a little more detail on it in the near future.

In conclusion, this monitor rocks and I can see it being the new standard in the creative space as we continue to see more monitors like this become available.  If you get a chance to see one in action, don’t pass up the chance.  And if by chance you have a few dollars burning a hole in your pocket, I would nominate this to adorn your monitor space – it’s really that nice.


Uha, it seems you´re doing the maths instead of talking about important features of this screen. Is it even? how will it separate highlight detail? is it completely neutral gray? no crossover magenta green all the way from shadows to highlight? A specific color is never in RGB (its a relative, device-specific colorspace), they are always in LAB. The gamut of this screen theoretically looks good, but how good is it really when you dim it down to a usable 100 cd? will you still get the gamut you bought in the first place?

the bit-depth of the technology and the LUTs is always a frameset for true, achieved bit-depth and gamut. Very often will a 16bit file format only hold max 12 bits of capture , bc no ccd in cameras today are capable of rendering more variations due to production inaccuraties, optic quality and computation power onboard the chip.

i think you make it clear that you like the monitor, but your review is so biased and not really talking about whats important with a screen at all, so i suggest you keep on working on you laptop screen and stop reviewing things you don´t know [deleted] about.

[DR – my my Andre, you certainly are passionate about your opinions. You’re right that my opinion is biased and very unscientific. However, this is a blog and mine is about such things as I care to write about. Hopefully, I’m providing a service and valuable information to many people. I guess in this instance I failed with you.

From a technology view, I think the thing to take away is that display technology is improving and the HP monitor is a very tangible piece of evidence to that. I don’t think you can argue with that.

Finally, let me apply an old adage to you – you get more bees with honey… I don’t have to allow your comments to post my friend so perhaps a gentler attitude would be appropriate. This is a PG blog after all.. ;-)]

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