Over the past weeks, we’ve put a lot of effort into showing you how Spectrum physically comes together. From tooling to assembly, we’ve given you a look behind the scenes in factories and a close-up of the components that make up a monitor. But putting together the right parts is only part of the equation. So to start off the new year, we’ll have a look at firmware: the built-in software that lets the various chips and circuits inside the monitor do their job.
The road ahead
With the hardware in an advanced state, much of the work ahead is in firmware (FW) development. It’s not very glorious; there’s not really anything to see, and if the firmware works as it should, then you’d never even notice it’s there. One of our primary focuses between now and the shipping date is making sure it does indeed work as it should!
What it is
Receiving data- and video signals from the ports, scaling, tuning, adjusting the backlight, and many more such features are controlled by firmware in one way or another. And on top of that, the on-screen display (OSD), both its visual elements and its actual function, is part of the firmware.
Many of the integrated circuits within Spectrum have their own firmware, and because of our unique combination of features, we also have a unique blend of circuitry under the hood. Getting all of these chips to play together nicely is a massive task, and especially considering we are using brand-new chips to enable cutting-edge features like HDMI 2.1, a large portion the development has to be done from the ground up.
Where we’re at
Even though we are making good progress, there are still many things that don’t work – as intended, or at all. As mentioned, we are focused on growing the list of working features and shrinking the list of known issues! Things we are currently working on include:
- Spectrum can’t detect a signal from all compatible devices yet. We keep testing with different source devices such as graphics cards and consoles from different generations and vendors to make sure you won’t have any compatibility issues with your devices when Spectrum ships.
- The USB Type-B port does not yet work with the built-in hub.
- HDMI 2.1 is also not yet active. Though all the components in Spectrum support it, getting the standard implemented seems to be a challenge that not just Eve but all manufacturers face at this time.
- Power regulation is not yet tuned, meaning most components work at full power all the time. This produces extra heat and increases the power draw. As functionality is locked down, their power consumption can be reduced to only what they actually need.
- The USB Type-C port does not yet allow other devices to charge appropriately.
- Spectrum does not go into standby mode just yet. Once you plug it in, it’s Spectrum, all the time!
- Calibration is not yet implemented, so the color performance is good, but not yet great. Changing certain OSD settings may cause the color or contrast to behave abnormally, which throws color accuracy off significantly and will also need to be addressed.
- Brightness cannot yet be properly adjusted.
- Refresh rates cannot yet be set, and variable refresh rate (VRR) is not available yet.
- The OSD does not open when there is no signal on the currently active input, and the OSD may fail to open or freeze after a period of use.
- Many OSD functions are yet to be implemented.
- The look and feel of OSD are based on the reference design from the chip supplier; no custom design has been implemented yet.
So, what is it like to use?
Having used a Spectrum prototype as a daily driver for some time now, I can attest that there is still a lot of work to be done. Any oddities (sudden black flickering across the screen during a gameplay session comes to mind) are immediately documented and forwarded to the firmware developers. Most of the time, the monitor is reasonably well-behaved and a joy to use.
What to expect?
We are aware that the time is limited and will do our best to ensure the final product works flawlessly with all the advertised features. On the positive side, as the firmware is not implemented until the production line, we have until the day of mass production to get these issues sorted and are working tirelessly to do so!
There are now some third-party first impressions out there so you can see what other people think of our progress so far, and of course, we’ll keep you updated on our progress here.