I’m just back from our printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) factory here in Suzhou, where Spectrum’s pilot production run PCB completed their surface-mount technology (SMT) assembly a few hours ago. I was thrilled to learn that not only their operators are super helpful in facilitating me completing the video shoot, but their technicians offered me a detailed, step-by-step explanation of the assembly process and thoroughly answered all questions I came up with along the way. I was inspired by their willingness to cooperate and their non-stoppable quest for higher quality and efficiency in PCBA. Now, supercharged by their generous support, I bring you this summary: where we are at in the project timeline. I’m incredibly excited to write this post up – it’s the first timeline topic where the team does not deliver any timeline adjustment.
We sent out polls through our forums and an external survey site to decide on our next projects. Over two thousand people responded!
Since we cannot have everything without breaking the bank, there are trade-offs with any product. Therefore, which trade-offs were we willing to make? Based on meetings with several manufacturers, we had listed and discussed a variety of available display panels.
We were getting a pretty good handle on the specifications, though many things still needed to be discussed with the manufacturer. Our design partner Propeller had come up with initial design directions, giving the first ideas of what our monitor could look like.
After a period without news, suddenly there were lots! A big announcement revealed the final design, product name, estimated launch dates, launch prices, pre-sales… Oh, and instead of one, there were now three excellent panels to choose from!
A new update showed off the improved design for the 240Hz and 4K models and an updated array of ports for Spectrum. With an updated design and updated features, it was time for an updated FAQ.
The first Spectrum prototype was assembled and turned on for the first time! With a new milestone came an updated array of information about Spectrum: we introduced that the main purpose of having these first prototypes built is to test the industrial design (ID), check color, material, and finish (CMF), and offer a platform for firmware development.
After worked hard behind the scenes, we kicked off the final tooling, developed packaging, and advanced firmware. The first generation of hard tooling was put in use to mold Spectrum’s enclosure. We also teased progress in OSD development and revealed long-lead-time component orders.
After putting the fourth generation of Spectrum tooling into use, we reviewed new development samples. These samples resolved most of the CMF and tolerance imperfections found in previous samples, and we were ready to improve them further based on the new findings. We shipped out a handful of new samples to the press and a few of your favorite reviewers. In addition to that, our China team has expanded and come together to make Spectrum better and offer higher-quality pictures and videos to our community. With in-text images and footage, you can see the mini build in action as the first step to lock down the operators’ procedures.
Third-party hands-on development samples were out! We were glad to have these objective views on our progress so far. We gave our community an in-depth introduction to Spectrum’s firmware and its current status. The team was concentrated on implementing more features and ironing out existing issues. During a factory tour to our stand manufacturer, we put our camera on and went in-depth on the testing equipment and how individual stand parts were put together on the line. Our project report brought an extensive update on the hardware and firmware status. Based on the findings of the mini build, we optimized our monitor assembly line and zoomed into details while Spectrum prototypes were being assembled on the line. We explored various joystick cap directions that will potentially increase its functionality. At the same time, our team paid great attention to meaningful tolerance details and received improvement feedback from our manufacturer. We also asked the community for the inner protective bag folding direction they prefer.
The OSD and firmware received a significant update that implemented many essential features, such as input/output and picture adjustments. As the team shaped up Spectrum’s warranty terms, we had some open questions to our community about the kind of warranty terms they are looking for. While Spectrum passed about half of the planned reliability and endurance tests, On The Line series was concluded by a step-by-step guide of how Spectrum prototypes were tested after the overnight burn-in. With the help of our customers, we made noticeable progress on the localization of our OSD. Additionally, we decided to use the “boilable” Cashew paint for Spectrum’s housing.
Investigating and refurbishing our damaged prototypes improved our box design to make Spectrum safer and breathed new life into these development samples. We showcased the prototype’s ease of repair and made use of them again to take a look at how our updated firmware behaved. To put Spectrum prototypes under the test of a broad range of real-world use cases, we decided to open the entry for community Spectrum testers. We also released preliminary information that brought insight into the payment process, followed by a structured FAQ where we answered our community’s questions regarding the balance payment. Factored in the kind of warranty terms our community was looking for and negotiation with our manufacturing partner, Spectrum’s warranty draft was created.
We were thrilled to have HDMI 2.1 working on our device! It allows Spectrum to be driven at its maximum resolution, frame rate, and color depth without resorting to chroma subsampling or compression. Notable support for variable refresh rates on the latest generation of consoles is another benefit of the new standard. Furthermore, the USB Type-C hub, 100W charging, and user-upgradeable firmware functions were all enabled. Our firmware team was focusing on making sure Spectrum’s Adaptive-Sync functions up to the high standards set by AMD and NVIDIA. We were readying the prototypes to be shipped out for third-party testing, such as Microsoft’s Xbox division and VESA, as well as high-speed tuning by the Blur Busters lab.
Our China team has thoroughly tested Spectrum prototype functions with a wide variety of devices behind the scenes to make sure it does what it is supposed to do, including Delta E measurement to get a good idea of the panel’s color performance before factory white point and Delta E calibrations are applied. We also made good use of our testing time enjoying some Xbox Series X gaming on Spectrum!
When designing the graphics of Spectrum monitor packaging, we created a clean and slick box with a premium black tone and silky smooth feel to the touch. The team traveled to our packaging factory, participated in the print calibration process, and captured the tour to show our community.
Many of our Spectrum community testers have received the prototype! Reading through their first impression, we are delighted to hear that they are very excited to have the prototype on hand, which comes well-protected and has solid construction. It’s an easy setup and benefits immediately from the improvements brought by the user-upgradeable new firmware file. They are amazed by the screen quality and are already doing quite a bit of testing to share their user experience with our community. Some of their dedicated tester topics are already up in Project: Spectrum | Prototypes, and more are coming in the following week! Be sure to check them out and leave your comment; they cannot wait to hear your feedback!
Spectrum community tester @CarlitoPepito
While fully functional user-upgradeable firmware allowed Spectrum’s potential to extend beyond planned features and debugging, most OSD functions made their way to the prototypes.
|LEVEL 1||LEVEL 2||LEVEL 3||IMPLEMENTED|
|Input/Output||Select input source||Select automatically||Y|
|Select USB hub source||USB Type-B||Y|
|HDMI port 1 mode||2.0 compatibility/2.1||Y|
|HDMI port 2 mode||2.0 compatibility/2.1||Y|
|USB-C bandwidth priority||High USB speed||Y|
|High refresh rate||Y|
|Frame rate counter||On/Off||Y|
|Crosshair vertical position||0-100||Y|
|Presets||Load factory defaults||Y|
|Load user preset 1||Y|
|Load user preset 2||Y|
|Load user preset 3||Y|
|Save preset||Save user preset 1||Y|
|Save user preset 2||Y|
|Save user preset 3||Y|
|Color temperature||7504K Cool/6504K Normal/5003K Warm/User defined||Y|
|User defined||Red 0-100||Y|
|Aspect ratio||Pixel perfect||Y|
|Response time overdrive||Off||Y|
|Short pulse width||Y|
|Medium pulse width||Y|
|Long pulse width||Y|
|Indicator Light||On Behavior||Steady||Y|
|On color: Red||0-100||Y|
|On color: Green||0-100||Y|
|On color: Blue||0-100||Y|
We made the firmware even more intelligent: it can now automatically detect and switch between HDR and SDR mode according to the input signal. Its status is always up-to-date up at the top bar of the OSD menu. We found that in addition to reducing signal processing time on the monitor, low-latency mode can be enabled in conjunction with almost all features in the OSD without any drawbacks. Therefore, we made it a default setting for our firmware. Select the USB hub source automatically was the default until we realized that it could lead to data loss or corruption from attached storage devices while the monitor is trying to accommodate a newly plugged USB upstream connector. USB Type-B is the safer default; it’s used by most desktop computers, even in 2021. The user can still enable auto-switching if they are confident about the data security of their storage devices.
To wrap up our project progress so far, here we present: Spectrum pilot production run PCBA SMT footage freshly captured from today’s factory visit.
Spectrum is the combination of all our hard work over the past two years and all the great ideas from our community. We sincerely appreciate your support and are getting Spectrum ready on its every aspect. Stay tuned as we start to ship your Spectrum orders this June!