The team at Eve is hard at work to get monitors on everyone’s desk. Some of my colleagues are setting up logistics systems to ensure a steady stream of our generally lauded 4K model. Others are arranging tests and certification so that we can bring our new glossy variants to market. Meanwhile, our firmware engineers are hard at work to get our much-anticipated 280Hz model ready for production. Today’s topic will have a closer look at what that last group has been up to…
It will probably come as no surprise that ES07D02 and ES07D03, our Quad-HD 280Hz and 4K UHD 144Hz models respectively, are almost the same. And that is very much intentional: when we set out to create different variants of Spectrum, the goal was for them to be identical except for their display panel and firmware. This way, complex components such as the main logic board only had to be engineered once, and investments such as housing tooling only needed to be made once.
Over time, however, LG Display has made some changes to their panel that have challenged this approach. We’ve mentioned before how they moved a screw hole by just enough to make it incompatible with our existing housing design – a decision they came back on at our request. Similarly, we found that some of the panel’s manufacturing tolerances could cause incompatibility with our housing, and the panel manufacturer once more provided a solution by adjusting their tooling.
When the panel backlight changed from 16 to 32 individual zones, we had to adjust Spectrum’s logic board to facilitate this. The LED controller integrated circuit (IC) we use can only drive up to 16 zones, and we found a way around this limitation by doubling up on these chips: each IC drives half the backlight LEDs.
With our housing still compatible and our electronics adjusted, we confidently entered the engineering validation testing (EVT) phase of the project, where functional prototypes were built and our firmware engineers could get down and dirty with the real deal. Using the same chips in almost the same configuration, the expectations from our manufacturing partner were that (aside from code that dealt directly with resolution or refresh rate) the firmware programming from our 4K model would carry over.
Though this is still true to a large degree, earlier this month we were informed that our engineers ran into problems with two important features. The code for both motion blur reduction and HDR did not take well to the new panel. Instead of tuning and tweaking the existing code to get the most out of our 280Hz panel, our team has been hard at work to get them to work properly at all.
These two issues have eaten up our buffers, and are now affecting our timeline. Apart from requiring additional firmware development time, until we are sure that no hardware changes are required to resolve them we cannot move on to design validation testing (DVT), the next phase in the process.
We can no longer guarantee shipping in April, and since we are still working on the solution, there is no exact estimate on when our next round of prototyping can begin. Consequently we have no clear dates for further testing, adjustment, and mass production. The new estimate for shipping Spectrum model ES07D02 is in Q3 of 2022, though of course we’re doing all that we can to deliver the product sooner rather than later.
Once the current issues are worked out, we can start the DVT phase. A new production run will provide us with samples for a variety of tests to ensure performance, safety, and quality, as well as providing as-good-as-final hardware for further firmware tuning. From there, it’s a matter of preparing the production lines so we can finally get Spectrum on your desks.
Even though one might argue that ‘it’s just a part of creating technology’, it’s always painful to write a development update that includes any kind of delay. We want to get it on your desks as much as you do! Even so, we’ll keep letting you guys know if and when anything changes. Until then, we’ll continue to do all we can to produce another amazing monitor!