Good ol’ Fashioned Crestron Smoke and Mirrors
By Andrew Edwards
We’ve seen plenty of underhanded stunts from Crestron before – some aimed at us, some aimed at other manufacturers. But this one is over the top. This one demands a response.
We heard from our customers that Crestron had posted a video on their Web site comparing the switching speed of an Extron DXP HDMI matrix switcher to a Crestron HDMI matrix. Also, AV industry news commentator Gary Kayye recently posted the Crestron video on his Web site asking the market to comment on the validity of the demo. Naturally we were curious, so we found the video and took a look. We were shocked by what we saw.
The video Crestron presents as a fair comparison is in fact a highly edited and rigged demonstration. In a blatant attempt to convince our customers to purchase Crestron products instead of Extron products, Crestron completely misrepresents the switching performance of the Extron DXP HDMI matrix switcher. We believe this to be Crestron's reaction to our announcement that delivery of our XTP scaling receivers, analog video input boards and wallplate transmitters is imminent.
Rather than sue Crestron for unfair business practices and for misrepresenting the performance of our product, I have decided to take them on in the court of public opinion.
At Extron we have over 300 product design engineers and I’m fortunate to work with some of the finest video engineers in the world. I asked my technical team to review and evaluate the Crestron video. Here is what they found.
The Crestron video is hosted by Justin Kennington, Crestron’s Technology Manager for the Digital Media product line. During his introduction Mr. Kennington states, “So what we have set up here today are two identical switching systems.” Mr. Kennington goes on to say each system uses three sources; a Panasonic Blu-ray player, a Western Digital media player, and a Quantum Data 882 HDMI video test pattern generator. We noticed Crestron was using independent sources for each system and it made us immediately suspicious. Remember, Extron was the company chosen by InfoComm to organize and run the Projection Shootout from 1992 until its retirement in 2001. Extron’s Vice President of Engineering, Steve Somers, served as InfoComm Projection Shootout Committee Chairman for 5 years. At Extron, we know something about conducting a proper shootout comparison. And the first rule of a shootout is: you don’t use different sources for each system. The right way to do a shootout is to have one set of sources and distribute them equally to each system. If you use independent sources for each system, there is the possibility of configuring them differently and thereby skewing the test. And that’s exactly what Crestron did.
Crestron configured the sources differently
Click to enlarge
The Sony monitor tells the truth about each source's output at 1080i vs. 1080p and 720p.
As you watch the video, you can see the Sony monitor has an on-screen display, and it shows the resolution of the video signal in the upper left corner of the screen. If you look closely, it is clear that Crestron set up their Panasonic Blu-ray player and their Western Digital media player to both output 1080p, the native resolution of the Sony monitor. However, with the Extron system, the Panasonic Blu-ray player is set to 1080i and the Western Digital media player is set to 720p. Crestron optimized their HD sources for the Sony monitor and did not do the same for the Extron system. As Mr. Kennington himself says later in the video, “A lot of what drives switching time is the display itself. In order to improve switching time, it helps to add a scaler so that the display's lock time is removed from the equation.” By optimizing the sources in the Crestron system to the native resolution of the Sony monitor, Crestron gave themselves a distinct advantage.
Crestron added an unnecessary delay in the Sony monitor
The Sony monitor Crestron chose for the demo has a “Scene Select” function that is intended to optimize video settings depending on the type of content being displayed. The monitor can be locked to a specific “Scene Select” mode, or can be set to an “Auto” mode that evaluates the incoming video signal and determines the correct “Scene Select” mode to use based on the video content type. When set to the “Auto” mode, the Sony monitor delays displaying the new video signal and will occasionally glitch as it determines which “Scene Select” mode to use. If “Scene Select” has been set to a specific mode, there is no delay or glitch. The way to tell if the Sony monitor has been set to the “Auto” “Scene Select” mode is by watching the lower right hand corner of the screen. When in “Auto” mode, a message appears whenever a switch is made from an HD video source to a computer video source or vice-versa. Watch the video closely and you’ll notice that the “Scene Select has been changed” message appears on the monitor in the Extron system with every switch, but never appears on the monitor in the Crestron system. This indicates the Extron monitor had a “Scene Select” delay and occasional glitch that could have been avoided by simply changing the monitor settings.
Crestron did not set the video test pattern generator to 1080p
Crestron used a Quantum Data HDMI video test pattern generator as one of the sources. By setting the Quantum Data video test pattern generator to output an HDMI signal at a resolution of 1024x768, Crestron did not present a “real world” application. Crestron chose to test the switching performance of an HDMI matrix. So why would they set the resolution of an HDMI source to 1024x768? A computer resolution of 1024x768 is found in analog video, not digital HDMI. If a computer has an analog video output, a scaler would be required to convert the video signal to HDMI and a resolution of 1080p would be the obvious choice. A better real world test would have been to set all sources to 1080p and then compare switching performance. When we did so, our tests showed the Extron DXP outperformed the Crestron HDMI matrix every time.
Bogus color space error?
Finally, there is the portion of the video where Mr. Kennington purports to demonstrate an error with the Extron DXP Matrix. He says, “Here we see an example of the kind of mistake a video switch can make. In this case, the switch has confused the display about the color space of the source, and now the display is having trouble decoding the color correctly. Now, this can easily be remedied by simply breaking and remaking the switch. Chances are great that it will get it correct the second time.” Watch this part of the video closely. This “mistake” is demonstrated in a highly edited video clip. You don’t see a correct switch occur before the “mistake”, and you don’t see Mr. Kennington remedy the “mistake” by switching away and back again as he suggests. We believe Crestron manufactured this scenario by purposefully changing the EDID settings of our switcher to force the Blu-ray player to output a color space that was incompatible with the BenQ monitor.
After watching the Crestron video, we decided we needed to set the record straight. We have responded with a video of our own. In our video Extron’s Vice President of Engineering Steve Somers shows the real performance of our DXP HDMI Matrix Switcher, without all the smoke and mirrors. I encourage you to watch our video and decide for yourself how we really compare to Crestron. You’ll notice that our video is shot in one complete take and we arranged the camera so you can see exactly when Steve initiates each switch. The switching demonstration in the Crestron video is heavily edited and the operation of each switcher takes place off camera. In Crestron’s video there is no way to know that Mr. Kennington operated the Extron switcher in a fair and consistent manner.
There is only one reason I can think of that Crestron would put out such a video - Fear. Crestron was quick to put their DM product on the market. Some would say too quick. In doing so, they made unexpected beta-testers out of many customers. More and more of the Extron XTP digital video products are shipping each day. Release of our XTP scaling receivers, analog video input boards and wallplate transmitters is imminent. I’m being told by customers that they are changing designs based on Crestron DM to Extron XTP as our products become available. I’m sure Crestron is hearing the same thing.
You can count on Extron to be honest and straightforward and to tell it like it is. Again, I encourage you to watch our video and see for yourself how our digital video products perform. When you do, write me and let me know your thoughts at email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you.
Andrew C. Edwards
President, Extron Electronics