4K HDR. Is it worth the investment?

I recently purchased a 4K 10bit HDR Monitor, the Acer ET430K, and without a doubt it’s lovely in 4K. But this week saw a much needed update to VideoLan (VLC), it now finally supports 4K and 8K hardware playback, something severely lacking in previous releases, even 4K playback was tricky and I used MPC-HC for that, now VLC also supports HDR too.

When I bought the monitor I also dropped £50 on a new BDXL drive (Asus BW-16D1HT), this will let me rip UHD movies to my WD EX4100 and play them back anywhere. I was initially surprised by the file size, they’re big, but only twice the size of a bluray at 1080p, yet they contain  four times the resolution, 10 bit colour (instead of 8 bit) and for the most part improved audio with more channels and higher resolution.

So I went to my local CEX and bought some UHD movies, The Hateful Eight, The Martian, Logan, and Alien Covenant, and after watching them initially in 4K SDR or 8bit colour I was a little unimpressed, but I was using MPC-HC to play them back, MPC-HC has hardware playback but no support for HDR, and at the time VLC didn’t. My initial misgivings were found-less, once VLC 3.0 launched I immediately saw the difference that HDR gives. I will say that 4K is very nice, but to be honest, it’s the difference with HDR that you’ll immediately notice. And all I can say is WOW. It’s HDR that will sell more TV’s and monitors than 4K alone.

Here are some screenshots from these films, sadly you really won’t be able to enjoy them as they are… you’ll need a 4K HDR screen.

What is HDR? Basically HDR (High Dynamic Range) means richer colours, more contrast and brightness this gives a scene better definition without losing details like increasing brightness and contrast will. It’s one thing that’s hard to quantify, but once you’ve seen it you’ll know it.

So does 4K 10bit HDR make a real difference… OH HELL YES it does. Be warned though, there are many 4K 8bit HDR screens out there, and they use software to push this to 10bit, they are severely lacking, they cannot and never will render 10bit properly. So be warned… don’t be duped into buying an 8bit screen, insist on HDMI 2.0 (this meets the bandwidth requirements of 4K HDR @ 50hz) and you should be ok, though always check with the internet before buying.

So is it worth the investment? For gaming on the PS4 and PC, yes it’s worth the entry fee alone. As for movies? HELL YES.

Another thing to consider, if you don’t use the TV’s built-in tuner or smart services then why bother with a TV, get a monitor instead. Monitors don’t have this stuff and as a result you should get a better image from it than a similar priced TV.

Western Digital EX4100 Cloud Server Review

I recently sold my desktop PC, but before I did I needed a place to store my 2x4TB HDD’s and 2x2TB HDD’s. I had a huge amount of data on them and I did NOT want to lose it all.

So I purchased this cloud server with the intention of

  1. having a network share available anywhere in the world
  2. having somewhere to put my drives

I’d looked at various cloud servers for a couple of years and even considered building a PC with the intention of just being a file server, but to be honest at £330 it was a good price, considering I’d seen much more expensive systems, ranging from £400-£900, they were overkill, and this just fit my budget and needs perfectly.

 

First up, when you get the device you need to install the drives, but before you do BE WARNED… all the data is lost as this uses Linux file systems and cannot read and write NTFS, so the drives are formatted before it can use them. So backup first. I started messing with the web interface.

I like the GUI, it’s clean and simple, everything is tabulated and well laid out, home shows the above screen, users will let you add/remove/modify users and their access to various drives and folders, shares lets you control what is available and to whom, apps will let you install remote cloud service providers such as Amazon S3, Elephant drive, Dropbox and what files and folders get synced to these providers, cloud access is for setting up phones and tablets and what they can have access too, backups will let you create backup profiles for remote servers (FTP to this site and download the files) backup files internally to a drive, or backup to a USB drive (USB 3). Storage is where you setup a drive for the first time and settings is where you configure things like time and date, server name energy saving and time machine backups (OS X).

I’ve had this box of tricks now for a couple of weeks and I’m impressed, I have access to my Mac Mini, another desktop PC, my iPhone and iPad all without any fuss or pain… it just worked straight away with no problems.

I’m pleasantly surprised with the number of apps available for installation too, there’s WordPress, PHPbb, anti-virus, DVBlink for capturing TV to the cloud server, Joomla, Plex media server and more. While things like WordPress could be cool for personal use, for a small company or team it’s a great way to read up and projects and development. Same with PHPbb, only PHPbb is a little more interactive. You also have e-mule (does anyone actually use it anymore?) and even a torrent client for downloading straight to an internal drive.

Media streaming. While it does have the option to add Plex media server, it’s not something you’ll want to use, the internal CPU is very underpowered for transcoding video, it’ll try to do it, but more often than not it’ll fail. But if you just want to use plex for music or audiobooks, then it’ll play that all day long.

Around the back you have 2 x 1 Gbit ethernet ports that will link to create a 2 gbit port or allow synchronous read write from different sources at the same time, in other words, it shouldn’t choke with data traffic across a network, though if you have a large team all accessing at the same time, then it’ll be the drives slowing down and not the network. But to be honest, it’s absolutely fine for personal use, it’ll never be an issue. You also have the option of adding 2 x USB drives for either backup purposes or just increasing space, the front USB will also do the same.

 

Overall my impressions of the hardware is excellent, it’s well put together, it’s clean and simple, it’s low noise, it’s constantly self monitoring and goes into power saving mode when not in use. I just like it, for me to be able to stash 4 hard drives and then share the data to any user and device I allow and do it seamlessly is just incredible.