the business of cad
Issue #786 | August 6, 2013
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In This Issue
1. Can a monitor be too big? (hardware review of Lenovo ThinkVision LT3053p)
- The Bad and The Good
- Multi-workstation Function
- Why 2560x1600?
2. Out of the Inbox, and our other regular columns.
From the editor: No upFront.eZine next week, because I will be on vacation. Look for the next issue of upFront.eZine on August 19. In the meantime, enjoy below the many letters I received about the Siggraph coverage.
Can a monitor be too big?
Hardware review of Lenovo ThinkVision LT3053p
Robert Scoble used to insist that having two 30" monitors was the only way to be truly productive. I don't know whether he still feels this way, but I am pretty happy with my desktop setup: a 23" 2048x1152 screen as the main monitor and an 18" 1360x768 secondary one. I find the low resolution monitor handy for viewing email and other apps where high resolution is a disadvantage. A third 22" monitor is ready to be plugged in when the writing gets intense.
So when Lenovo asked if I wished to review their "first 30-inch workstation-grade monitor," I was intrigued. Would I love the huge size, as Mr Scoble promised? The monster arrived and I decided to use it for at least two weeks before forming an opinion, pro or con. Taking it out of the box, I assembled the base to the monitor easily, as the three-part instructions come pasted to the base.
The Bad and The Good
I figure that it's better to hear the bad news first, so that the subsequent good news soothes. Initially, I found the 25-pound unit big and heavy to move, but once on my desktop it was fine. The built-in tilt, pivot, and swivel mechanisms work smoothly -- although I have it at its shortest setting, because the monitor's center point is higher with this large screen.
The screen is super bright, so bright that it hurt my eyes. After my eyes hurt for long enough, I fumbled my way to the brightness control and reduced it to 30%. Should the super brightness not be sufficient, then this monitor comes with a three-part hood that shields the screen from extraneous light beams. See figure 1.
Figure 1: Lenovo's 30" monitor with its light hood.
Speaking of controls, they are as dreadful as on all other monitors: a group of five small buttons that touch each other, each labeled with an icon colored in dark gray, which we have to see against the bright white screen. With them, we are expected to change all settings. Yeh, as if. I don't understand why monitor manufacturers cannot provide a utility program that lets us change monitor settings with a mouse interface. (The enclosed CD has a user manual and drivers for Windows Vista/7/8. I found driver installation difficult, as Windows would not accept the driver until after I rebooted it.)
The bezel is not particularly narrow, so if we have two of these monitors next to each other, there will be a 2" gap between the images.
The final sad news is the price: $1,500 -- about 10x more than what we expect to pay today for a 21" hi-def monitor (1920x1080).
With most of the bad news behind me, let me start describing at the good parts.
The native resolution is 2560x1600, giving a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.6 (or 16:10 for the TV-minded folks.) Now, high resolutions, they give and they take. They let us see more at a time (think of more rows of a spreadsheet) but also they make everything smaller (think of tiny icons and even tinier text).
There are, of course, workarounds to the size problem: hold down the Ctrl-key and zoom the body of the program, such as of Web pages and documents. Set the Large Toolbar option. Use Windows to scale all UI elements by 150%. All of these solutions, however, defeat the purpose of employing an ultra-high resolution monitor. (By now you might be sensing the purpose of me having a second, lower-resolution monitor.) So, it's not great for Web browsing, email handling, or word processing; as for viewing movies, this activity benefits only from the large screen size.
After the initial set of irritations, however, I began in the second week to appreciate the high resolution for applications that benefit from it. Spreadsheets show many more rows and columns. CAD programs show more detail at a given level of zoom. Image editing displays the image larger while making the UI smaller. Desktop publishing (InDesign) makes the palettes move off the pages. (I usually have the palettes on the second monitor so they don't obscure the pages I am working on.) And Google Maps shows a whole lot more map!
Another benefit is the plethora of ports, which I have sorted into two categories.
Easy to access (these are easy to access, because they are located on the side of the monitor):
Hard to access: (these are hard to access, because they are underneath the monitor, where we cannot look to see what we are inserting where. Monitor makers put the connectors underneath on the off-chance we might mount the screen on a wall, and so in this way the ports are still "accessible." Why not have them all on the side, like the three USB 3 ports?):
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Hardware review, continued....
The monitor comes with a multi-workstation function that works like this: plug a keyboard and a mouse into the back of the monitor. Then run cables from the monitor to two workstations. Pressing a button at the front of the monitor switches the KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) between the two computers. I did not try this out, although I have a similar arrangement between my touchscreen all-in-one Windows computer and Mac mini.
A related function lets us view two inputs at the same time. Pressing the correct sequence of buttons makes the monitor display images from both computers. Now this I had to try, and it turns out there are two modes:
In the end, however, I did not find PIP or PBP useful. I am a full-screen kind of guy, and so if I want to see a second image, I'll just use a second monitor. I was not able to take screen grab to show you what pip/pbp looks like (after all, they are inputs from two different Windows computers), so I simulated the PBP 3:1 effect in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Displaying inputs from two computers, side by side on the large monitor
While trying to attach the second video cable underneath the monitor, I hit upon a partial solution to the access problem: tilt the monitor upwards to see the connectors and their icon labels. Later, I found a better way: rotate the monitor by 90 degrees
Tip: DisplayPort adapters have a button we have to press before they connect properly. And before they disconnect.
We hear of Android and Apple tablets with much higher resolutions than this monitor; as I write this, word is that Dell will this fall ship a new laptop workstation whose screen displays 3200x1800.
So why does this monitor display only 2560x1600? Because this is the highest per-monitor resolution interfaces like DisplayPort can handle. To go higher, those other devices -- tablets, laptops -- use GPUs adapted specifically to the higher resolution. Speaking of resolution, this is the first monitor I've seen in which displaying a lower resolution looks just fine.
Finally, I tested the monitor with my Mac mini. Lenovo does not have drivers for OS X, and so I wondered how the Apple product would react. It reacted by displaying resolution at 1920x1080. But, as I noted above, the image looks just fine, even if it is not a pixel-for-pixel match. The same would be true of Linux computers.
So, would I buy this monitor? No. I can't justify $1,500 when $150 monitors are sufficient to my needs.
Should you buy this monitor? I have no experience with other 30" models on the market, although I see that HP's ZR30w has somewhat lower specs at a somewhat lower price, and so $1000-plus seems to be the going price. I suppose if you need to see a lot of drawing in accurate colors, then you might be able to justify this ThinkVision to your boss.
Model ThinkVision LT3053p
Screen 30" (diagonal) AH-IPS (advanced high-performance in-plane switching)
Adobe RGB 99% color gamut; displays 1.07 billion colors (10-bit color).
[Disclosure: Lenovo provided me with the monitor and paid for the return shipping. No, I didn't get to keep it.]
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Out of the Inbox
CIMdata in their comprehensive report on the PLM industry says it grew 11.6% to $33.4 billion in 2102, but that "PLM leaders" moderated in 2012. Report is available in modules to members of http://www.cimdata.com
Graebert GmbH appoints Surya Sarda as director of marketing and business development for its new Graebert India division, which will lease licenses of ARES at Rs2500 (a mere $41) /user/year. The company plans to introduce a mobile version in early 2014.
A group of CAD and CAM engeers with 20+ years of experience formed GO2cam International in France. Their project: move CAM from where the aim is primarily tool path calculation, to something that is independent of the type of machine tool and reduces NC programming. GO2cam is an open CAM solution compatible with all major CAD software. http://www.go2cam.net
Rand Worldwide updates its collection of utilities for Civil 3D 2014. New are Import from Google Utility, and Point Station and Offset Report Utility; enhanced is AutoOffset. Standalone is $345; free to those who purchase an Autodesk subscription with IMAGINiT Technologies. http://imaginit.com/software-solutions/civil-engineering/imaginit-utilities-for-civil-3d
BTW, overheard at a trade show: in the end, there will be just three Autodesk resellers for all of North America.
Dassault Systemes' V6R2014 release makes the IFWE Compass navigation interface consistent on all software. There is a video about it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7myZ4SiS_Hw&list=UUNGW_S871w3akMVcCd0wAbQ&feature=player_detailpage . Skip ahead to 1:40 to bypass the initial marketing-speak section about "business leaders worldwide."
In other Dassault news, its Q2 revenues reached e522 million (roughly US$710 million).
Autodesk is creative-commons'ing all its documentation, starting with its Media & Entertainment division, in which 20,000 pages of documentation, 70 videos, and 140 downloadable 3D files can be re-purposed without lawyers worrying about copyright restrictions. As well, Autodesk hopes users will take over tasks it used to have to pay for, like "a Finnish translation of new Maya software features." The Autodesk Open Learning Initiative will extend eventually to all divisions. Modify, remix, and shared globally at http://area.autodesk.com/creativecommons
And finally, HP has new models in its Z series, such as the Z22i ($239), Z23i ($259), and Z24i ($399) IPS displays that are 25% more power efficient than the previous models. (The numbers refer to the monitor size; all are 1920 x 1080 resolution.) http://www8.hp.com/us/en/campaigns/workstations/zdisplays.html
The desktop Z230 ($999 and up) workstation is available in two sizes, compact-expandable and small-form-factor, and supports six monitors. http://www8.hp.com/us/en/campaigns/workstations/z230.html
On the Blog
Here are items that appeared on the WorldCAD Access blog in recent weeks at http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com:
Letters to the Editor
Re: Report from Siggraph 2013 in Anaheim
"I was reading your report on Dell and their upcoming 4K monitor. I noticed that you had 3840x2860 resolution listed, but I'm pretty sure that 4K is 3840x2160.
"And your suggestion to the Dell representative of a $1,500 for the price-point of the big monitor cracked me up! I'll bet he was aghast, what with the Sharp PN-K321 32" 4K monitor running at $5,000, and the ASUS PQ321Q 31.5" 4K monitor at $3,500."
- Ron Keeley, NPI project management
The editor replies: "I rechecked the specs to find that you are correct. It is 3840 x 2160 pixels; I write down the number incorrectly. ('4K' is not four thousand, but 4x HD, so 4 x 1920 x 1080 = 3840x2160.)
"Thank you for helping with the pricing. I looked around briefly Monday morning, but could not find anything similar quickly enough. The following article, however, suggests even higher prices: '[The Dell 32"] is likely to fall somewhere between the $4,000 Asus PQ321 and the $7,000 Sharp PN-K321.' See http://www.digitalversus.com/lcd-monitor/ultrasharp-32-p16889/dell-presents-ultrasharp-32-ultra-hd-monitor-n30551.html ."
Mr Keekley responds: "Perhaps a $1,500 price for the big monitor isn't so far off. At https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4K_resolution, it says, 'As of June 2013, 4K-compatible televisions are under the $1000 barrier.' I see that Seiki has a 50-inch 4K TV for $1,299 -- or at Amazon for $1,092.61 with 2% back in rewards, low-price guarantee, free shipping, and enhanced delivery. Crazy."
"RTT DeltaGen had a presence in Siggraph booths all over the floor, including at nVIDIA, Christie, Canon, Vicon, SuperMicro, ARM, and at The Limelight event. But no mention?"
- Hillary Forsythe, marketing director
RTT USA, Inc.
The editor replies: 'I visited only with companies who contacted me ahead of time. I had no extra time to make spontaneous visits; sorry about that!"
"I always find it fascinating, the things they are cooking up in technical-land."
- Ron Powell
The editor replies: "I was stunned at how little coverage tech publiations like Engadget and TechCrunch gave the Siggraph. It seems to me that they think 'Verizon launches LTE version of old cell phone' is more important news than 'Thinkbox aims to model all 300 billion cells of the human body."
"No kidding: '...Hollywood is in trouble...'. We don't watch much of the new stuff, because it's filled with gratuitous violence, promotes the mass-murder and mass-destruction through police-state imperialist NWO [new world order] take-over schemes -- and there isn't any dialogue or story line.
"Let Hollywood revisit the old black-white movies and see what acting is all about. They can even learn from the silent movies, which aptly expressed the story line with no words at all -- and little to no violence, I might add."
The editor replies: "It is hypocritical of actors to make public service videos protesting gun use in the USA, seeings how much they enjoy blowing up people in movies. Money speaks louder than actions."
"I wanted to thank you for taking time to visit with AMD and spend time in the booth talking about AMD's support for 4K displays and OpenCL. I look forward to your future articles."
- John Swinimer, pr manager of professional graphics
AMD Global Communications
"Good one, Ralph."
- Jon Peddie
Still chasing pixels
"I quite enjoyed your recent CAD Insider post on Thinkbox at SIGGRAPH, though I wanted to clarify some of the numbers mentioned:
"While Thinkbox has received customer feedback noting its software is orders of magnitude faster than competing tools, the 37,000-value doesn't really factor in here."
- Frances Ratliff
RAZ Public Relations
The editor replies: "Thanks for the corrections. Ceo Chris Bond rattled off many numbers, so it was hard to keep track. But I did capture his claim of 37,000-times-faster in my notes."
"You're asking how would we react to a strategy to go to a ratable model, but we haven't actually haven't declared a strategy to go to a ratable model, so it's hard to answer that question."
- James E. Heppelmann, ceo, PTC
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Entire contents copyright 2013 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $840. All trademarks belong to their respective holders. "upFront.eZine," "The Business of CAD," and "WorldCAD Access" are trademarks of upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. Letters to the editor may be edited for clarity and brevity. Translations and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.