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Black Box Explains... Plasma vs. LCD Screens

When deciding whether to use plasma or liquid crystal diode (LCD) displays for your applications, you need to consider many factors. Both provide brilliant color, sharp text contrast, and crystal-clear... more/see it nowimages. But the way in which plasma and LCD screens process and display incoming video/computer signals is markedly different.

Compare and contrast.
Both plasma and LCD technology provide stark enough contrasts to make displays sharp and pleasing. But when it comes to contrast output, plasma technology outperforms LCD screens. Some plasma displays have a 3000:1 contrast ratio, which is the measure of the blackest black compared to the whitest white. LCDs use electric charges to untwist liquid crystals, thereby blocking light and emitting darker pixels. Despite this process, LCD displays don’t produce more than a 1000:1 contrast ratio.

Clarity that’s light waves ahead.
Pixels contain enough information to produce every color in the spectrum. Because plasmas use each and every pixel on their screens, color information is reproduced more accurately. Plasma screens display moving images with remarkable clarity, though burn-in can be an issue. For displays with lots of light and dark imagery, plasma panels provide excellent performance with their high-contrast levels, color saturation, and overall brightness.

LCD displays, on the other hand, manipulate light waves and reproduce colors by subtracting colors from white light. Though this makes it more difficult to maintain color accuracy and vibrancy compared to plasma screens, LCDs have an advantage with their higher-than-average number of pixels per square inch. These additional pixels make LCD technology better at displaying static images from computers or VGA sources in full-color detail. Plus, there’s no flicker and very little screen burn-in.

Applications with large amounts of data—such as those found on spreadsheets—display particularly well on LCD monitors.

Brilliant displays that go on and on.
With LCD screens, there are essentially no parts to wear out. LCD screens last as long as their backlights do, with displays lasting, on average, 50,000–75,000 hours. That’s why LCD screens are especially good for long-term applications, such as digital signage or displays that require around-the-clock use.

Plasma screens, however, use a combination of electric currents and noble gases (argon, neon, and xenon) to produce a glow, which in turn yields brilliant color. The half-life of these gases, however, is only around 25,000 hours. The glow they produce grows dimmer over time.

The right angle can make all the difference.
Plasmas light every pixel on the screen, making the brightness on the screen consistent and giving plasmas the edge when it comes to viewing angles. In fact, plasma screens have as much as a 160° viewing angle compared to LCDs. This makes viewing the images on the screen easier to see from a variety of angles. In doing so, however, plasmas consume much more power.

LCDs display at 130–140° angles, but their use of fluorescent backlighting requires much less power to operate than plasmas. This also makes LCDs less prone to burn-in or ghosting of images.

Black Box Explains...Digital Visual Interface (DVI) and other digital display interfaces.

There are three main types of digital video interfaces: P&D, DFP, and DVI. P&D (Plug & Display, also known as EVC), the earliest of these technologies, supports both digital and... more/see it nowanalog RGB connections and is now used primarily on projectors. DFP (Digital Flat-Panel Port) was the first digital-only connector on displays and graphics cards; it’s being phased out.

There are different types of DVI connectors: DVI-D, DVI-I, DVI-A, DFP, and EVC.

DVI-D is a digital-only connector. DVI-I supports both digital and analog RGB connections. Some manufacturers are offering the DVI-I connector type on their products instead of separate analog and digital connectors. DVI-A is used to carry an analog DVI signal to a VGA device, such as a display. DFP, like DVI-D, was an early digital-only connector used on some displays; it’s being phased out. EVC (also known as P&D) is similar to DVI-I only it’s slightly larger in size. It also handles digital and analog connections, and it’s used primarily on projectors.

All these standards are based on transition-minimized differential signaling (TMDS). In a typical single-line digital signal, voltage is raised to a high level and decreased to a low level to create transitions that convey data. TMDS uses a pair of signal wires to minimize the number of transitions needed to transfer data. When one wire goes to a high-voltage state, the other goes to a low-voltage state. This balance increases the data-transfer rate and improves accuracy. collapse

Black Box Explains...UTP cable and color drift.

UTP cable is often used with video or KVM extenders to extend the reach of a video signal. It’s popular for this application because it’s lightweight, easy to handle, and... more/see it nowinexpensive. But when you transmit video over long stretches of twisted-pair cable, you sometimes run into a phenomenon called color drift or color split.

Color drift shows up as that annoying colored shadow you occasionally see around objects on a video screen. It sometimes happens with UTP cable because the pairs of wire in the cable are twisted at slightly different rates to reduce crosstalk between pairs. Because of these differences between wire pairs, video signals for different colors often travel different distances before they reach the remote receiver. When one color signal arrives behind the others because its wire is longer, you get that red, green, or blue shadow around the objects on your video screen.

UTP cable varies widely by manufacturer, so before installing video extenders, it’s difficult to determine whether or not you’re going to have a color drift problem. You’re more likely to experience color drift with higher grades (CAT5e or CAT6) of cable, on longer cable runs, and on high-resolution screens.

If you experience color drift, there are several possible solutions. You can use a shorter length of cable, switch from CAT5e or CAT6 cable to CAT5 cable, use a lower screen resolution, or use a video skew compensator.

A video skew compensator removes color drift by delaying some color signals to compensate for differences in wire pairs. collapse

Black Box Explains... KVM IP gateways

Just as a gate serves as an entry or exit point to a property, a gateway serves the same purpose in the networking world. It’s the device that acts as... more/see it nowa network entrance or go-between for two or more networks.

There are different types of gateways, depending on the network.

An application gateway converts data or commands from one format to another. A VoIP gateway converts analog voice calls into VoIP packets. An IP gateway is like a media gateway, translating data from one telecommunications device to another.

Gateways often include other features and devices, such as protocol converters, routers, firewalls, encryption, voice compression, etc. Although a gateway is an essential feature of most routers, other devices, such as a PC or server, can also function as a gateway.

A KVMoIP switch contains an IP gateway, which is the pathway the KVM signals use to travel from the IP network to an existing non-IP KVM switch. It converts and directs the KVM signals, giving a user access to and control of an existing non-IP KVM switch over the Internet. collapse

Black Box Explains...The 13W3 connector.

The 13W3 connector, also called a 13C3 or DB13W3 connector, is an unusual connector that combines a 10-pin D-shell with three analog video conductors. It supports very-high-resolution analog video signals... more/see it nowand has been used by Sun Microsystems®, SGI, NeXt, Intergraph, and other manufacturers. Although 13W3 connectors from different manufacturers look the same, they may be pinned differently.

Pinning for a standard Sun® 13W3 connector:
A1: Red
A2: Green/Gray
A3: Blue
1: Ground*
2: Vertical Sync*
3: Sense 2
4: Sense Ground
5: Composite Sync 
6: Horizontal Sync*
7: Ground*
8: Sense 1
9: Sense 0
10: Composite Ground

* Considered obsolete; may not be connected. collapse

Black Box Explains...Stream mode vs. burst mode/prompt mode.

Computers and mice must communicate with each other in order to operate properly. Most computers and mice communicate via a method called “stream mode”—as a mouse is being moved, it... more/see it nowsends the coordinates of its new position in a constant stream of information.

However, some computers communicate via a method known as “burst” or “prompt” mode. With this method, the mouse holds its data until the CPU sends a request (or “prompt”) for it. This mode of communication presents a problem for many KVM switches, as they normally pass along mouse coordinates in a stream mode. This results in a CPU receiving data when it isn’t expecting it, and the mouse simply won’t function properly.

All ServSwitch™ products contain support for stream-mode CPUs, and several ServSwitch products support both stream and burst/prompt modes. Call our FREE Tech Support about requirements for your application. collapse

Black Box Explains…HDMI

The High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI®) is the first digital interface to combine uncompressed high-definition video, up to eight channels of uncompressed digital audio, and intelligent format and command data in... more/see it nowa single cable. It is now the de facto standard for consumer electronics and high-definition video and is gaining ground in the PC world.

HDMI supports standard, enhanced, and high-definition video. It can carry video signals at resolutions beyond 1080p at 60 Hz (Full HD) up to 4K x 2K (4096 x 2160) as well as 3D TV.

HDMI also provides superior audio clarity. It supports multiple audio formats from standard stereo to multichannel surround sound.

HDMI offers an easy, standardized way to set up home theaters and AV equipment over one cable. Use it to connect audio/video equipment, such as DVD players, set-top boxes, and A/V receivers with an audio and/or video equipment, such as a digital TVs, PCs, cameras, and camcorders. It also supports multiple audio formats from standard stereo to multichannel surround sound. Plus it provides two-way communications between the video source and the digital TV, enabling simple remote, point-and-click configurations.

NOTE: HDMI also supports HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), which prevents the copying of digital audio and video content transmitted over HDMI able. If you have a device between the source and the display that supports HDMI but not HDCP, your transmission won't work, even over an HDMI cable.

HDMI offers significant benefits over older analog A/V connections. It's backward compatible with DVI equipment, such as PCs. TVs, and other electronic devices using the DVI standard. A DVI-to-HDMI adapter can be used without a loss of video quality. Because DVI only supports video signals, no audio, the DVI device simply ignores the extra audio data.

HDMI standards
The HDMI standard was introduced in December 2002. Since then, there have been a number of versions with increasing bandwidth and/or transmission capabilities.

With the introduction of HDMI (June 2006), more than doubled the bandwidth from 4.95 Gbps to 10.2 Gbps (340 MHz). It offers support for 16-bit color, increased refresh rates, and added support for 1440p WQXGA. It also added support for xvYCC color space and Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio standards. Plus it added features to automatically correct audio video synchronization. Finally, it added a mini connector.

HDMI 1.3a (November 2006), HDMI 1.3b (March 2007, HDMI 1.3b1 (November 2007), and 1.3c (August 2008) added termination recommendations, control commands, and other specification for testing, etc.

HDMI 1.4 (May 2009) increased the maximum resolution to 4Kx 2K (3840 x 2160 p/24/25/30 Hz). It added an HDMI Ethernet channel for a 100-Mbps connection between two HDMI devices. Other advancements include: an Audio Return Channel, stereoscopic 3D over HDMI (HDMI 1.3 devices will only support this for 1080i), an automotive connection system, and the micro HDMI connector.

HDMI 1.4a (March 2010) adds two additional 3D formats for broadcast content.

HDMI 2.0 (August 2013), which is backwards compatible with earlier versions of the HDMI specification, significantly increases bandwidth up to 18 Gbps and adds key enhancements to support market requirements for enhancing the consumer video and audio experience.

HDMI 2.0 also includes the following advanced features:

  • Resolutions up to 4K@50/60 (2160p), which is four times the clarity of 1080p/60 video resolution, for the ultimate video experience.
  • Up to 32 audio channels for a multi-dimensional immersive audio experience.
  • Up to 1536Hz audio sample frequency for the highest audio fidelity.
  • Simultaneous delivery of dual video streams to multiple users on the same screen.
  • Simultaneous delivery of multi-stream audio to multiple users (up to four).
  • Support for the wide angle theatrical 21:9 video aspect ratio.
  • Dynamic synchronization of video and audio streams.
  • CEC extensions provide more expanded command and control of consumer electronics devices through a single control point.

  • HDMI Cables
  • Standard HDMI Cable: 1080i and 720p
  • Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet
  • Automotive HDMI Cable
  • High Speed HDMI Cable: 1080p, 4K, 3D and Deep Color
  • High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet

  • HDMI connectors
    There are four HDMI connector types.
    Type A: 19 pins. It supports all SDTV, EDTV, and HDTV modes. It is electrically compatible with single-link DVI-D. HDMI 1.0 specification.

    Type B: 29 pins. Offers double the video bandwidth of Type A. Use for very high-resolution displays such as WQUXGA. It's electronically compatible with dual-link DVI-D. HDMI 1.0 specification.

    Type C Mini: 19 pins. This mini connector is intended for portable devices. It is smaller than Type A but has the same pin configuration and can be connected to Type A cable via an adapter or adapter cable. Type C is defined in HDMI 1.3.

    Type D Micro: 19 pins. This also has the 19-pin configuration of Type A but is about the size of a micro-USB connector. Type D is defined in HDMI 1.4.

    HDMI cable
    Recently, HDMI Licensing, LLC announced that all able would be tested as either Standard or High-Speed cables. Referring to cables based on HDMI standard (e.g. 1.2, 1.3 etc.) is no longer allowed.

    Standard HDMI cable is designed for use with digital broadcast TV, cable TV, satellites TV, Blu-ray, and upscale DVD payers to reliably transmit up to 1080i or 720p video (or the equivalent of 75 MHz or up to 2.25 Gbps).

    High-Speed HDMI reliably transmits video resolutions of 1080p and beyond, including advanced display technologies such as 4K, 3D, and Deep Color. High-Speed HDMI is the recommended cable for 1080p video. It will perform at speeds of 600 MHz or up to 18 Gbps, the highest bandwidth urgently available over an HDMI cable.

    HDCP copy protection
    HDMI also supports High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), which prevents the copying of content transmitted over HDMI cable. If you have a device between the source and the display that supports HDMI but not HDCP, your transmission won’t work, even over an HDMI cable. Additional resources and licensing information is available at HDMI.org.


    Black Box Explains... Using fiber optics for KVM extension.

    If you‘re sending KVM signals between buildings for an extended distance, in areas supplied by different power sources, in an electrically noisy environment, or where data security is a big... more/see it nowconcern, you need to use a fiber optic-based KVM extender.

    Optical fiber is an ideal transmission medium not only for backbone and horizontal connection, but also for workstation-to-backracked CPU or server links. It works very well in applications where you need to transfer large, bandwidth-consuming data files over long distances, and where you require immunity from electrical interference or data theft.

    The choice for extraordinary reach.
    Fiber doesn’t have the 100-meter (328-ft.) distance limitation that UTP copper without a booster does. Fiber distances can range from 300 meters (984.2 ft.) to 70 kilometers (24.8 mi.), depending on the cable, wavelength, and network. With fiber-based KVM extenders, the transmitter converts conventional data signals into a modulated light beam, then transports the beam via the fiber to a receiver, which converts the light back into electrical signals.

    Many newer fiber-based KVM extenders support both analog and digital transmission. Often, they work by digitizing video output from a local CPU, then sending it across fiber link to a remote unit, which converts it back to the original analog signal. In many cases, one fiber of the fiber pair transmits monitor video serially and the second fiber sends remote mouse and keyboard information back to the local CPU.

    The choice for ensuring signal integrity.
    Because fiber is made of glass, which is an insulator, no electric current can flow through. It’s immune to electromagnetic interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI), crosstalk, impedance problems, and more. This is why fiber-based KVM extenders are beneficial to users in process control, engineering, utility, and factory automation applications. The users need to keep critical information safe and secure off the factory floor but be able to access that data from workstations and control consoles within the harsh environments. Plus, fiber is also less susceptible to temperature fluctuations than copper is, and it can be submerged ?in water.

    The choice for greater signal fidelity.
    Fiber-based KVM extenders can carry more information with greater fidelity than copper-based ones can. For this reason, they’re ideal for high-data-rate systems in which multimedia workstations are used.

    Newer KVM extenders enable you to send both DVI and keyboard and mouse signals over the same fiber cable, transmitting video digitally for zero signal loss. This way, you can get HD-quality resolution even at very long distances from the source. Users in university or government R&D, broadcasting, healthcare—basically anyone who depends on detailed image rendering—can benefit from this technology.

    The choice for data security.
    Plus, your data is safe when using fiber to connect a workstation with a CPU or server under lock and key. It doesn’t radiate signals and is extremely difficult to tap. If the cable is tapped, it’s very easy to monitor because the cable leaks light, causing the entire system to fail. If an attempt is made to break the physical security of your fiber system, you’ll know it.

    Many IT managers in military, government, finance, and healthcare choose fiber-based KVM extenders for this very reason. Plus corporations, aware of rising data privacy concerns over customer billing information and the need to protect intellectual property, use this type of extension technology in their offices, too.

    Considerations for fiber-based KVM extension.
    Before selecting a fiber-based KVM extender, it’s important to know the limitations of your system. You need to know where couplers, links, interconnect equipment, and other devices are going to be placed. If it’s a longer run, you have to determine whether multimode or single-mode fiber cable is needed.

    The most important consideration in planning cabling for fiber-based KVM extension is the power budget specification of device connection. The receiver at the remote end has to receive the light signal at a certain level. This value, called the loss budget, tells you the amount of loss in decibels (dB) that can be present in the link between the two devices before the units fail to perform properly.

    Specifically, this value takes the fiber type (multimode or single-mode) and wavelength you intend to use—and the amount of expected in-line attenuation—into consideration. This is the decrease of signal strength as it travels through the fiber cable. In the budget loss calculation, you also have to account for splices, patch panels, and connectors, where additional dBs may lost in the entire end-to-end fiber extension. If the measured loss is less than the number calculated by your loss budget, your installation is good.

    Testers are available to determine if the fiber cabling supports your intended application. You can measure how much light is going to the other end of the cable. Generally, these testers give you the results in dB lost, which you then compare to the loss budget to determine your link loss margin.

    Also, in some instances, particularly when using single-mode fiber to drive the signal farther, the signal may be too strong between connected devices. This causes the light signal to reflect back down the fiber cable, which can corrupt data, result in a faulty transmission, and even damage equipment. To prevent this, use fiber attenuators. They’re used with ?single-mode fiber optic devices and cable to filter the strength of the fiber optic signal from the transmitter’s LED output so it doesn’t overwhelm the receiver. Depending on the type of attenuator attached to the devices at each end of the link, you can diminish the strength of the light signal a variable amount by a certain number of decibels.

    Need help calculating your budget loss? Call our FREE Tech Support. If necessary, they can even recommend a fusion splicing fiber kit, a fiber tester, or a signal attenuator for your specific requirements. collapse

    Black Box Explains... Matrix video switches.

    Matrix switches enable computers to mix and match the output of multiple PCs on multiple video monitors.

    For instance, if your operation has four PCs and you want to display the... more/see it nowvideo on one monitor to the other three monitors, a matrix video switch is what you need to handle the job. Use matrix switches for:
    • Trade shows—Set up a wall of video to wow the senses of attendees.
    • Transportation schedules—Provide real-time updates of flights or deliveries on multiple screens.
    • Training demonstrations—Control each screen’s video to focus everyone’s attention on what’s important. collapse

    Black Box Explains...KVMoIP access technology.

    KVMoIP access technology extends keyboard, video, and mouse (KVM) signals from any computer or server over TCP/IP via a LAN, WAN, or Internet connection. Through this KVM over IP (KVMoIP)... more/see it nowconnection, remote users can access and control a number of servers simultaneously from wherever they are, inside or outside the organization, and anywhere in the world. This technology works in diverse hardware environments and is ideal for managing multilocation data centers and branch offices.

    These capabilities translate into real savings for companies having to deal with the proliferation of servers in many offices, particularly for corporations and government agencies required to deliver 24/7 uptime and real-time access to mission-critical servers 365 days a year.

    KVMoIP products combine the advantages of remote access software with the benefits of KVM switching technology. Like most KVM switches, KVMoIP products don’t require any software to be loaded on the host computers. They interface directly with the keyboard, monitor, and mouse connectors of the host computer or KVM switch. Circuitry within the KVMoIP device digitizes the incoming video signal and processes it into digital data that is communicated to a viewer program running on a remote client computer over a LAN/WAN or the public Internet.

    By addressing network issues from a remote location, you can simply manage issues from your desk, or even save yourself the hassle of traveling to a site in the middle of the night. Use a browser-based connection, even a cell phone or PDA, to reboot or administer a roomful of servers remotely—a real convenience.

    KVMoIP products that feature virtual media technology take that convenience further. They enable a remote user to effortlessly move files from a mass storage device—a USB flash drive or CD-ROM drive, for instance—from your location to the computer on which you’re working. Cost savings are realized through reduced downtime and less travel. Plus, in some cases, there‘s no to need replace existing KVM switches with proprietary ones to get a KVMoIP server-control solution.

    The Black Box difference
    Black Box® ServSwitch™ KVMoIP solutions go further than many other KVMoIP products on the market. They not only enable you to access remote servers, but they do this at the BIOS level—important when you go need to troubleshoot from off-site and don’t want to a dispatch a technician. Install or recover software applications and install OS patches from your location anywhere in the world. Plus, this BIOS-level control is possible regardless of the server’s brand or model and even works if the operating system is down.

    The ServReach™ system is also designed for IT managers seeking global centralized KVM management in a world of mushrooming servers and complexity. This global platform works by consolidating all server access and devices via locally connected KVMoIP devices. All this hardware is then united under a single management appliance or software “umbrella” providing global, yet fully secure, out-of-band control.

    The ServReach system works seamlessly with more than 500 variations of analog KVM switches from a multitude of vendors and manufacturers. Because it’s vendor independent, you don’t need to replace your data center’s entire KVM infrastructure. ServReach simply grafts global centralized KVM management onto the existing server room/data center, aligning with third-party KVM switches already in place. This is done with the ServReach KVMGate (KVIP1000A), an IP gateway device designed to connect to each of the legacy KVM devices to provide global centralized KVM management for a fraction of the cost of competitive systems, ensuring a faster and greater ROI.

    If you’re planning on opening or acquiring a new data center or a large number of new servers, the ServReach KVManager (KVMGR) is the answer. It can provide any-by-any access via the ServReach KVMCube (KVIP1001A), a compact, rackmountable, digital matrix IP device that gives fully secure, non-blocking access for any of the users to any of the servers simultaneously.

    In addition, the servers controlled by legacy KVM switches via KVMGate can still be managed by the ServReach KVManager at the same time as the new servers controlled through a gateway. With all the servers under the same KVManager umbrella, data centers can now easily acquire new servers and devices without having to worry about how to incorporate the new infrastructure with the old. For more information on Black Box KVMoIP solutions, visit blackbox.com/go/ServReach. Find out more by watching a KVMoIP demo and accessing related white papers. collapse

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