DVDO AVLab TPG 4K Test Pattern Generator Reviewed

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AVLab_TPG_2-Top[1].jpgNow let's talk about those patterns. There are over 100 patterns in all, the majority of which are grayscale and color patterns at different brightness levels, designed to aid in the calibration process. As I write this, 65 patterns are directly accessible via the onscreen menu, 55 can be scrolled through using the hard button on the TPG itself, and some are only accessible through the remote's TPG Cycle buttons. DVDO continues to add patterns based on feedback from users, so those numbers will likely change. Of course, if you're using the TPG in tandem with calibration software, the software will automatically cue up the correct patterns, based on the parameters you set. All of the patterns I use to perform a full calibration through the ISF workflow in CalMAN were available.

To connect the AVLab TPG to your computer in order to run calibration software, you need to load the supplied drivers, which come on a USB flash drive along with the owner's manual. When I originally received my review sample, those supplied drivers were unsigned drivers, which requires Windows 8/8.1 users like myself to disable the signed driver requirement on the computer in order to load them. Just as I completed the review, DVDO introduced signed drivers, so this is no longer an issue. Once the drivers were installed, my Windows 8 Lenovo laptop had no issue communicating with the AVLab TPG and recognizing it within the CalMAN software.

I ran through the ISF calibration workflow with the new generator in place, and the AVLab TPG's speed and responsiveness were excellent. You can set the pattern window size at 2%, 5%, 10%, 18%, 25%, 50%, 100%, just as you can with the iScan Duo. To set dynamic range, the AVLab TPG offers a combined brightness/contrast pattern, as well as new ISF black and white PLUGE patterns that allow for more precise adjustment. DVDO released a firmware update (v01.02) right near the completion of my review that added more patterns and introduced a new set of serial commands designed to speed up the workflow and provide even more accuracy for pattern generation.

Since this is a 4K test pattern generator, it stands to reason that there are some valuable 4K patterns - most notably, 1-Pixel Checkerboard, 1-Pixel Vertical Line, and 1-Pixel Horizontal Line patterns that confirm whether or not a display is showing the full 4K resolution. Samsung's UN65HU8550 showed all three of these patterns correctly, while (not surprisingly) JVC's DLA-X500R e-ehift3 projector did not, since the e-shift3 technology does not produce a true 4K resolution.

High Points
• The AVLab TPG can output test patterns at up to a 4K/60 resolution and automatically control calibration software like CalMANS via USB.
• The unit includes over 100 test patterns, including helpful 4K resolution patterns.
• DVDO is good about listening to users and consistently updating firmware to add helpful tools.
• You can connect the AVLab TPG directly to the TV (without a computer and software program) to perform basic adjustments.
• The unit is small and light, and it can be powered via USB.
• The remote control includes buttons to directly access a number of important patterns. 

Low Points
• Power was not reliable through the USB cable that came with my review sample. A wiggle of the cable often caused the device to lose power. When I tried a different USB cable, I got a perfectly steady power supply.
• A minor quibble, but the remote's Exit button doesn't take you completely out of the onscreen menu system; rather, it moves you back through layers. So, there's no one-button way to make the interface disappear.
• The remote control lacks backlighting.
• The supplied carrying pouch is too small to hold the remote.

Competition and Comparison
There's not much in the way of 4K pattern generators at this early stage in the 4K game, and none that rival the DVDO's $1,299 asking price. Quantum Data's portable, battery-powered 780 Series 4K generator costs $3,500, while the newer, larger, rack-mountable 804A costs $5,995. The AVFoundry VideoForge 4K that SpectraCal promotes through its website carries an asking price of $4,995.

A 4K test pattern generator may not be an essential tool of the trade for calibrators just yet. The question is, do you want to be ahead of the curve or behind it? Higher-end clients - the ones who are more likely to invest in professional video calibration - are also the ones more likely to spend more on an Ultra HD TV right now. If you want to be certain that you're setting up their new TV as accurately as possible, factoring in any potential nuances regarding 4K content, then the AVLab TPG is a valuable tool that, while not cheap, is much less expensive than the other options that are currently available. And hey, 4K aside, if you're just looking for a smaller, more portable, more responsive pattern generator with lots of patterns and convenient features, that's another reason to give the AVLab TPG a serious look.

Additional Resources
• New 4K Upscaler From DVDO at HomeTheaterReview.com
• DVDO Introduces Matrix Switcher With Support for 4K Ultra HD Streaming and MHL Connectivity at HomeTheaterReview.com

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HTR Product Rating for DVDO AVLab TPG 4K Test Pattern Generator

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