- Written by Ofer Laor
- Published on 05 August 2008
Although all HDTVs (flat panels and projectors) have a video processor built-in, they are often not high quality. In these circumstances, purchasing an outboard processor can fix some of the problems. A few years ago, and after a lot of reading, I ended up with the first generation of Lumagen processors. That was my third video processor and by far the most influential on my understanding of how video processing should be done correctly.
What set the Lumagen processors apart was their dedication to excellence – continually evolving the product until it reached 150% of its original specification list.
The company continually updates their products, months even years after production, requiring you to simply own a computer and an RS232 cable and, of course, the hunger to have one more killer feature.
The problem was, with every iteration, the products continually got more complex. Lumagen released the Radiance XD product quite a while ago to beta testers, but I had opted to wait with a review until it reached a certain level of maturity. Whereas others wait to release the product until a large number of features are available, Lumagen had sensed that many of its customers like to experiment and so they have set up a rather unique beta testing system: they release the final hardware and let anyone who wants it to buy the beta product and add their input to the work towards the final product.
This serves both parties well, Lumagen gets a steady stream of customer requests and bug lists, and users get to have a great product long before it officially enters the marketplace.
The idea behind Radiance XD was to separate the parts that make up the unit into several upgradeable boards. Whereas most parts in a processor stay the same (e.g., the scaling, GUI, most of the inputs), some parts need to be upgradeable in order to compete in this fast-paced market. The Radiance can be taken apart and rebuilt based on different specs. You can switch to HDMI 1.3 by replacing the HDMI board, for example. You can switch to another deinterlacing board, etc.
- Design: Outboard Digital HD Video Processor
- Inputs: 18 Video, 18 Audio inputs
- Outputs: 2 Video, 2 Coax Audio
- Output Resolution: 480p, 1080i, 1080p
- 10 bit processing, No Ring Scaling, Per-pixel De-interlacing
- Primary and Secondary Gamut Correction
- Adaptive Diagonal Filtering
- MPEG Mosquito, Block Artifact Reduction, Temporal Noise Reduction
- 2:2,3:2,3:3 Pulldown for SD/HD Film Sources
- Dimensions: 2" H x 14" W x 10" D
- Weight: 6 Pounds
- MSRP: $4,495 USA
The original Radiance was based on an HQV (Silicon Optix) processor, but when the HQV based processors were having long delays and problems, Lumagen quickly switched to a Gennum VXP processor. At first I was personally worried as HQV appeared to be the front runner in the deinterlacing race for the second half of this decade. However, after testing the VXP capabilities I can clearly say that it surpasses the HQV processor in picture quality (but not by much…).
Lumagen does not use the VXP system for everything, as other processors do. Lumagen’s long lived and hailed scaling algorithm has survived the last decade and continually evolved through Lumagen’s various product groups into the Radiance XD. This algorithm is the best scaling algorithm I have seen to date. It has the ability to scale 480i to 1080P with virtually no ringing, an artifact that has become prevalent in today’s processor world.
With displays growing in size and resolution, the coupling of a strong deinterlacer like the Gennum VXP algorithm, with a strong scaling algorithm produces fantastic results.
The Radiance XD works very well in very harsh deinterlacing conditions. My tried & true torture test DVD consists of very difficult to deinterlace sequences, mostly PAL 2:2 and mixed video/2:2 content that is extremely difficult to process both sharply and without combing or other artifacts. The Radiance passes the test to perfection, dropping to video only when necessary and not a second longer. Whereas HQV processors had combed a few times during my testing, the Radiance XD produces perfect scores.
The Radiance XD consists of an endless number of inputs. One of the capabilities of the previous generation of Lumagen products was the ability to configure inputs to behave as different signal types, at the expense of unified standard connections (BNC) for all inputs. However, this had caused some end users to stay away as this required purchasing custom cables (e.g., for SVIDEO), converters and was deemed too professional for the typical end users’ needs.
The back of the Radiance XD is a significant change from previous generation products, using standard RCA and SVIDEO inputs. With 6 HDMI inputs, one must have quite a few devices to hope to use up all of these inputs…
The unit holds two HDMI outputs, which can act as copies of one another – serving two display devices like a flat screen display and a projector (both must have the same resolution, though, and there are no “zones”, so both displays will show the same image). The alternative is to connect the second HDMI output to an AVR for audio processing.
It also supports a large number of analog and digital audio inputs, which can essentially be mapped as one would like (assigned to one or more inputs).
The front is also a step forward for the company. No longer a black box with an etched logo, the Radience XD has a nice grayish and modern design. I would hope that Lumagen adds an LCD (even a color one) to future versions, which would make this an object of envy by practically anyone with eyes on their heads… I understand that a black anodized version of the front panel is also available for purchase directly from Lumagen (Kudos!).
The remote has remained virtually the same since the last Lumagen HDQ/HDP/HDP-Pro line, and it is very simple and convenient. I do miss direct access to some standard output resolutions, which can be useful during initial setup.
The GUI has been completely overhauled from the previous generation and uses a more PC-like but easily learnable drilldown menu structure.