Editor's Choice Award
Our Editor's Choice award goes to products that dramatically exceed expectations for performance, value, or cutting-edge design.
- Frame-by-frame HDR dynamic tone mapping
- MotionAI frame interpolation
- Instant aspect ratio control, black bar detection, and non-linear stretch
- Scaling up to 8K resolution
- Subtitle management
- Geometry correction
- HDMI 2.1 output and zero-latency pass-through
- Extremely accurate calibration via large 1D and 3D LUTs
- Web-based firmware updates and remote technical assistance
- Intuitive, easy-to-use menu system
- Easy back-up and restore
- Updated IR/RF remote
- Paid hardware upgrades for Extreme models
- Multiple additional algorithms to tailor picture to liking
- 5-year warranty (parts and labor)
- Very large footprint
- No HDMI 2.1 Input
The madVR Envy video processors provide a robust feature set that continues to grow and move this very small segment of the industry forward to keep up with today’s needs in video, while also setting madVR apart from the competition with their forward-looking outlook and approach to what today's video processor can be and should be.
Video Processors are not a new concept and have been around for over 20 years, going back to the Faroudja DVP 3000, Runco PFP, and others from the days of CRT televisions and projectors. For those not familiar with what a video processor actually is and does, the simplest way of describing it is a purpose-built device made to offload and handle nearly all aspects of video signal processing and take those functions away from the display, regardless if it's a television or projector. Thus, it turns the display device into simply just a display device. These offloaded processing features can include but are not limited to digital-to-analog conversion, YC delay, noise reduction, deinterlacing, chroma resampling, scaling, and the list goes on. Some of these things I listed are utilized with legacy devices and don't really have a place in today's digital displays.
As always, technology advances, display devices get better as does their own internal processing, but the need for video processors remains. A current display device may be "capable" of performing said feature, though that doesn't mean it does it well, while some devices may not be capable at all. This is when purpose-built devices become necessary. They fix a deficiency and provide a solution for a problem you may have, or maybe a problem you have but don't know you do.
Fast forward to CEDIA 2019, and in enters madVR with its first Envy video processor, a purpose-built consumer product derived from the DNA of madVR rendering software, which had been around for years. madVR had garnered a healthy following in the Home Theater PC (HTPC) space after its development by Mathias Rauen, the "madScientist" behind the company and a co-founder alongside Richard Litofsky, who serves as CEO. As video technology and standards evolve, video processing needs to move forward with those advancements. Rauen and Litofsky saw this need and charged forward to meet it quite successfully.
Which brings us to today, with the newest iteration, the madVR Envy Extreme MK2. The original Envy Extreme (now designated the MK1) introduced a number of sophisticated features that have been brought along, including class leading frame-by-frame dynamic tone mapping for HDR, scaling, high-precision color calibration, and a wealth of others discussed below. The MK2 is most critically a hardware upgrade that will allow for further expansion of new features and let madVR evolve their offering going forward with increasingly sophisticated and resource-intensive software. It includes a new Nvidia 4080 GPU offering a notable increase in power and headroom, a Glacier X2 cooling system, a redesigned custom case that is not just an aesthetic upgrade but a functional change to assist in cooling, MotionAI frame interpolation (which will be available on all Extreme models MK1 and MK2 when released), and a new premium backlit remote (which was not yet available at time of review). There's also a new five-year warranty.
All of this, though, does come with a steep price tag. In the U.S., the Envy Extreme MK2 is priced at $15,995, while the Envy Pro MK2 step-down model comes in at $9,495. To clarify the differences: Both the Extreme MK2 (available now) and upcoming Pro MK2 (scheduled for release this summer) feature the same redesigned case and Glacier X2 cooling system, though the Pro MK2 will use a different, less powerful Nvidia 4000-series GPU yet to be announced instead of the 4080 found in the Extreme. The Extreme is eligible for paid hardware upgrades in the future, while the Pro MK2, like the existing Pro, is not.
Furthermore, while several of the most desirable and popular features as described below appear on both models, some that are either currently available or in development will only appear on the Extreme variants. These include MotionAI frame interpolation for smooth motion up to 4K/120 Hz (in the MK2), upscaling to 8K and 5K for compatible displays, geometry control, and what madVR refers to as other "AI-based algorithms" being considered for the future.
Eligible Extreme MK1 owners do have the option to trade in their unit and pay an upgrade fee to move up to the MK2, and the trade-in units will also be made available to new customers at a discount, and with a two-year warranty, through the company's official pre-owned program. So, let's dive in and see what it is you are getting with a madVR Envy Extreme MK2.
Extreme MK2 Case and Cooling
The Extreme MK2 has seen a redesign from its predecessor in terms of components as well as aesthetics. The MK1 was essentially housed inside of a Silverstone Grandia GD07B HTPC case, which is a quality case, and I liked the minimalistic look it has with the simple madVR emblem on it. However, the MK2 has a custom designed, all aluminum body, with a gun metal brushed aluminum face. Initially looking at the renders I wasn't sure if I liked the change in case, but after seeing it in person it definitely swayed me. It has a very premium, high-end look and appeal, very attractive and much preferred over the MK1, and the included rack ears and mounting hardware are very much appreciated.
The new case is not just for aesthetics, either. It was engineered to provide airflow channels which act as a conduit to help cool warm-running components such as the HDMI input card and the GPU. madVR has paired the case design with three 140mm fans and two 120mm fans that increase airflow by approximately 50% compared to the MK1, as well as larger heat sinks and the new, more efficient GPU that utilizes less power. All of this contributes to keeping the overall unit cooler, which in turn helps keep fan speeds down and the unit quieter overall.
To assess the new design's cooling function I ran various tests for extended periods of time. With the MK2 placed in an enclosed rack, while adhering to the recommended space above and below the unit, the MK2 did fantastic. I did not start logging the temperatures until after 3-4 hours of prolonged use playing HDR content, with all algorithms running at their maximum settings. Furthermore, I utilized the Geometry Correction feature, the current prototype version of Motion AI, and anything else I could turn on to tax the unit as much as possible so that I could see temperatures rise.
For reference, I researched a small sample size of temperatures recorded for the earlier MK1, which can exhibit temps as high as 78 degrees Celsius on the GPU, low 70's C on the HDMI input card, mid 60's C on the CPU, and in the low 50's C on the main board. With the current feature set, the MK2 never once exceeded 63 C on the GPU and that was while using the lowest available fan curve setting with the highest level of performance selected. (Operating temps could rise later as new features tap more of the GPU's power reserves, madVR says.) When using the unit's "Rack" fan curve, the GPU would average around 56 C with the highest level of performance selected. The CPU and HDMI input averaged a steady 49-51 C, while the main board would stay steady at 43-45 C. This was tested using every possible combination of pre-defined fan curves and performance levels.
So again, this is not just an aesthetic change, it actually serves a purpose and performs very well in that regard, and on average results in roughly a 19% to 23% increase in cooling efficiency depending on scenario. Another benefit of the new cooling arrangement is that it should allow use in less well-ventilated racks or spaces that could be problematic for the original MK1. Finally, it is also important to note that the Extreme MK2 is extremely quiet. I could only hear the unit if I was standing right next to it and putting my ear near it. In fact, my JVC projector running on its mid-laser brightness setting was louder than the MK2.
Lastly for the case, the back panel I/O has been redesigned and has a cover to show only what you need. So, it's streamlined and very clean with the HDMI 2.0 input and HDMI 2.1 output, and HDMI 2.0 zero-latency pass-through output. I did test the latter and confirmed it truly adds zero latency, at least to my measurement capabilities (see numbers in the review appendix). The LAN port is used for firmware updates (which can take less than 4 seconds to download and install), remote access for assistance from dealers or customer support, IP control to allow backups and restores, and controlling the unit itself. Four USB 3.0 ports are labeled for their intended use of IR and RF control, and two additional USB ports are for accessories such as a USB keyboard or powering an active fiber HDMI cable if needed.
Additionally, those familiar with the MK1 Envy models may recall it had a dial near the power button that allowed for dimming or turning off the light for the power. The MK2 now has a button on the bottom of the unit near the power button that is simply on or off, so the ability to dim the power light ring is not available. However, those who opt to leave it on should not find it overly bright, so even if left on it likely won't interfere with your viewing.
Extreme MK2 Components
The Envy Extreme MK2 has also received upgraded components, most significantly an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 graphics processor, while its predecessor the Extreme MK1 contained either a 2080 in the initial release or a 3080 in later-released units. The 4080 as a whole is a more efficient card that is capable of running at higher frequencies, making it 40-50% faster than a 3080 while running cooler and utilizing less power, as has been reported when the two cards have been benchmarked against each other in PC builds. However, due to the Envy Extreme MK2's improved cooling, madVR was able to crank up the power utilization compared to the Extreme MK1 version with the 3080 card. The end result allows them to see up to 100% more GPU computational power in the Extreme MK2 vs. the Extreme MK1.
The combination of new graphics card and revamped cooling contributes to the temperatures I logged when testing as well as the lower noise level the unit generates. Earlier cards such as the 3080 tend to have their fans spin up higher once they reach 60 C, while a 4080 can reach performance levels equal to or higher than a 3080 at a lower frequency, which generates less heat, which in turn keeps the fans operating at a lower speed. This provides the Envy MK2 with additional headroom, allowing for more algorithms to run at the same time at higher quality levels. It is important to note again that the 4080 GPU is only found in the Extreme MK2, though the Pro MK2 will also receive an upgraded and as yet unspecified Nvidia 4000-series GPU.
Both the Extreme and Pro MK2 have been outfitted with ECC (Error Correction Code) RAM. This is not the normal memory that you would commonly find in your laptop or desktop PC. ECC RAM is most commonly used in enterprise level applications due to its ability to detect and correct byte/bit errors, essentially making it so the data that's passed through comes out unchanged. When bit errors occur it can have disastrous effects such as data corruption, system crashes, or sending data that executes incorrect code, which is why this type of memory is used in enterprise solutions such as servers, high level workstations, etc. It has the ability to detect and recover data errors, has an extremely high reliability rate, and is made to allow use 24/7. So, seeing this RAM used in the unit is rather surprising as it is not commonly found in consumer products, though it is nice to see and to be able to take comfort that what goes in is what comes out. Additional component upgrades include more SSD storage, new CPUs, and a new power supply.
The MK2 units will also have a new premium backlit remote as well. Unfortunately, it was not available at the time of this review but it looks to fix several things I would have liked to see changed from the original remote. These include backlit buttons, a dedicated Back button, a few extra buttons to map user-defined options, and either an accelerometer or gyro to wake the remote when moved or picked up. The original remote goes to sleep too quickly and requires one button press to wake up and then another to do what you want. Thankfully the new remote (shown in the accompanying image) will address all of these things while having an updated look with an aluminum faceplate, a backlight with a battery-saving function for adjusting backlight duration, two additional user-assignable buttons, dedicated Back and Info buttons, and a wake-up sensor for when it's picked up. Users who purchase an MK2 will receive the MK2 remote for free once it starts shipping if the MK2 unit they received shipped with the original remote.
Extreme Exclusive Features/Functionality (MK1/MK2)
The madVR Envy family of processors has a robust set of features, several of which are exclusive to the Extreme model. During my time with the Extreme MK2 I was fortunate enough to have the ability to test the Extreme specific features in my theater as well as in a secondary setup. The primary testing setup consisted of a JVC DLA-NZ8 projector, 130-inch 2.35:1 Stewart Studiotek 130 G4, a Panamorph Paladin DCR anamorphic lens, Kaleidescape movie server, Oppo UDP-203 UHD Blu-ray player, and Apple TV 4K 2023, all run through a Trinnov Altitude 16 prepro. The secondary setup consisted of an LG G2 OLED, Kaleidescape, Apple TV 4K 2023, and a Lyngdorf MP60 2.1 audio processor. Lastly a Sony A90J OLED was used as reference for motion comparisons.
MotionAI. MotionAI is madVR's new implementation of motion/frame interpolation, which is still currently in alpha test phase. Frame interpolation has been around for a while and is commonly used to match the input frame rate of content to the display's output frame rate and insert predicted intermediary frames between the real frames to provide a smoother motion. Almost every display manufacturer offers some sort of frame interpolation-based motion feature and has their own naming convention such as TruMotion, Motionflow, Clear Motion Drive, etc. Each also has some sort of implementation to assist with improving clarity of moving objects or reduce judder on 24 Hz content, such as using 3:2, or 4:4 pulldown. The main issue with most implementations is they lack the granularity needed to get the ideal motion one is looking for. As an example, a user may only have three options such as Low, Med, or High to choose from, and in some cases Off may not actually be Off and still apply some type of motion processing. This results in either just missing the mark or overshooting where you want to be, which results in a SOE (Soap Opera Effect) video look because too much smoothing is being applied and interfering with the look we typically associate with film-based 24-frame content.
Despite the prevalence of motion features on displays, however, it is not generally found in today's standalone video processors, at least until now with MotionAI planned for all Envy Extreme MK1 and MK2 units. MotionAI currently works with native 23.976 and 24 Hz content and outputs 60 Hz to the display device; other input and output resolutions are said to be planned. madVR says they are continuing to evolve the MotionAI control options, but on my sample, once the feature is enabled the user is presented with three levels of Blur that increase in strength as well as the ability to disable Blur completely. There was also a MotionAI Strength control which provided eight levels of granularity from 1-7 and FULL to help in reducing judder—while exhibiting some of the least detectable SOE I've seen on any display device. These options provide users with the ability to subjectively fine tune the motion to their liking.
Many videophiles hold Sony's motion processing in fairly high regard, and rightfully so as it's very good—to the point where it's viewed somewhat as a gold standard. During my audition I watched multiple pieces of content on the Extreme MK2 and compared its motion processing directly with that of the Sony A90J, and I'm glad to say that in most cases the MotionAI was right on the heels of Sony's motion handling, or met it equally, or at times even exceeded it. Even in this early stage of its development, MotionAI was able to impart smooth, clean and very sharp motion resolution to images while adding little to no motion artifacts. The most impressive part to me was how little SOE there was, and therefore how well the MotionAI was able to improve clarity without losing that film-like look.
As stated previously, MotionAI is still in alpha and there were some scenes that had issues, but considering it's still in early testing it's very, very, promising. It became even more evident how effective MotionAI was when I utilized the Envy's split screen modes. These modes split the screen in half and display the entire scene with Motion AI off on the right side and active on the left side, or it can be displayed with 50% of the images on the left hand side of the screen duplicated on both sides, or mirroring the middle of the screen to allow viewing of something that may be in the center of the screen.
MotionAI really is one of the better implementations I've seen of motion interpolation. It even corrected the menu navigation on Apple TV and Kaleidescape, which I set in both devices to output at 23.976 Hz, resulting in menus that have a choppy look during navigation. With MotionAI, those menus looked as clean and smooth as when they are set to 60 Hz.
Geometry Correction. The Envy Extreme's Geometry Correction feature was originally developed to help users perfectly fill a curved screen. It is said to differ from most geometry correction schemes in that the algorithm takes efforts to preserve pixel sharpness prior to applying the correction vs. doing it later and thereby softening the image. It's probably used more commonly today by users who utilize an anamorphic lens and suffer from either pincushion or barrel distortion. Traditionally, anamorphic users had few options for correcting this. One is to increase your throw distance by moving your projector further away, however that is not always possible. Another option is to use a 16:9 screen, or don't use a lens for your 'Scope screen and just use zoom memory to fill the 'Scope format of 2.35:1, 2.39:1, etc. The most common suggestion is to zoom the image out into the screen's black borders to hide it.
In my case I have a JVC NZ8 with a Paladin DCR lens attached, using a 130-inch, 2.35:1 Stewart Filmscreen. I have a small amount of barrel distortion and the only way to fix it would be to zoom it into the boarders to hide it or move my projector back, and while I have about a foot of room to play with that would involve a decent amount of work due to my installation and it might not fix it anyway. It's one of those things that I know is there, and no one really notices it, but it drives me crazy.
The Envy Extreme fixes this by providing control over the entire image with no clearly detectable artifacts or downside if used conservatively. This is done by setting anchor points on screen that allow for manipulation of the image and not just the edges and corners. It's the entire screen, so if you move an edge and it looks to warp the image you are able to go into a grid point near it to attempt to correct it. It can allow for you to get a nearly perfect fit to your screen. As always, any manipulation to an image can impact its overall integrity, however the geometry correction here is so fine it's something I would use without hesitation.
8K and 5K Upscaling. Users of projectors such as the newer JVC DLA-NZ8 and NZ9 have the ability to input 7680x4320, which is 8K resolution. The JVC's will accept that signal and, with pixel-shifting, display individually addressable pixels. Similarly, users of several Barco home cinema projectors can output 5K resolution. In most instances outside of a PC there really isn't a way to send these resolutions to those display devices. However, the Envy Extreme does allow for setting the output resolution to one that will trigger these projectors to display in these resolutions. Granted, the content is still in its lower native resolution (typically 4K), though having the option is nice. Though it's not something I would personally use, it provides a very sharp and clean image, especially on close-ups of faces.
Additionally, the Envy Extreme does have a few extra options for additional quality levels for Highlight and Shadow Detail Recovery, and well as slightly better performance in a few algorithms when 60hz is being utilized.
General Envy Features (Pro/Extreme)
Outside of the above features that are exclusive to the Extreme models of the Envy, the Pro and the Extreme share mostly similar performance that is only limited in some scenarios by the Pro's more limited headroom. This allows users who don't need the above features to get the same or nearly same performance for the remaining key features at a reduced cost. These features include but are not limited to Frame-by-Frame Dynamic Tone Mapping (DTM) for HDR, Instant Aspect Ratio, Instant Black Bar Detection, Non-Linear Stretch, Subtitle Management, Profiles, 1D and 3D LUT calibration, and much more.
HDR Dynamic Tone Mapping (DTM 2.0). The Envy's HDR DTM 2.0 is a frame-by-frame tone mapping solution that optimizes the image based on the peak nit output of the connected display device. The Envy allows for additional algorithms to be utilized on top of DTM 2.0, such as Highlight Recovery, Contrast Recovery, Shadow Detail Recovery, color tweaks for fire, as well as changing the overall base look.
All displays generally have some form of tone mapping either static, dynamic, or both, but the issue is that most displays, mainly projectors and less bright direct-view displays such as OLEDs, just do not have the peak nit output to properly show HDR. Tone mapping is then implemented to solve this issue. This implementation results in a few different outcomes. One possibility is that anything over a specific nit level is clipped and just not displayed, which results in those areas showing as blown-out highlights that won't show the detail in that part of the scene. Another scenario is that the tone mapping has an early roll-off and the image appears dimmer in order to resolve the content that would normally be clipped in the first scenario—so the user can see the detail that was previously thrown out, but at an overall lower APL (Average Picture Level) that makes everything appear dimmer. Projectors tend to suffer more with management of HDR content because not many manufactures do frame-by-frame tone mapping that adjusts the image dynamically based on the content, and they just do not generally have the light output to properly do HDR. Ultimately the device is "capable" of displaying HDR but not doing it well.
This is where the madVR Envy comes into play. All that's needed is to simply tell the processor the peak nit level of the connected display device—the brightest output it can hit for highlights. That's it. The Envy monitors each scene in real time and makes adjustments accordingly, it doesn't utilize any of the metadata associated with the content outside of using it to display it as information. The DTM that the Envy performs is some of the best I've seen. Regardless if the content is mastered with a maximum peak of 10,000, 4,000, or 1,000 nits, it's displayed with a high APL while resolving detail that would normally be clipped if using a display's own tone-mapping solution.
This is also true when using the Envy for direct view displays such as an LED or OLED. I tested this against a LG G2 using various settings on the tone curves, such as the options for allowing the default roll-off for each nit level and also hard-clipping each nit level. I watched the demo montage from the Spears and Munsil UHD Benchmark, which allows you to select the peak nit limit of the content from 1,000 nits all the way up to the 10,000 nits. Specifically, the challenging scene with the horses in the snow field produced a dimmer overall image while using the G2's default tone mapping with the 10,000-nit version; when I had the nit levels hard clipped (an option in the G2 settings) the overall APL was high and I had a brighter image, but the detail was gone. When connecting the Envy to the display and setting the peak nit level to 10,000 nits, I not only got a brighter higher APL picture, it also resolved the detail that was previously clipped.
This was the experience for everything I watched using the Envy regardless if it was with a projector or TV. Those familiar or curious about Envy may have seen various videos of scenes from Harry Potter when he was fighting Voldemort alongside the ghosts of his parents in The Goblet of Fire, or shots from Aquaman when Aquaman is chained before his brother that show the detail in the window behind the throne. All of those impressive demos are legit; the Envy really does resolve all of that detail while keeping the picture bright and vibrant. The Envy's DTM 2.0 solution is extremely impressive and is some of the best tone-mapping I've seen.
Instant Aspect Ratio Control and NLS+. Aspects Ratios come in many flavors in different content, including but not limited to 1.78, 1.85, 2.00, 2.20, 2.35, 2.39 and many, many others. Each aspect ratio comes with its own challenges depending on the screen and display it's shown on. So, users of a 16:9 screen will generally favor 1.78:1 since it will fill their screen while users of 'Scope screens will generally favor 2.35:1 and 2.39:1 as that will fill their screens. The Envy's Instant Aspect Ratio and Non-Linear Stretch features can help address situations where, for example, the image is switched back and forth between a 16:9 menu on a source device and widescreen content from a 'Scope movie. There is also one universal issue shared among each user regardless of their preference, and that issue is variable aspect ratio movies—movies such as Interstellar, Top Gun: Maverick, Tron Legacy, etc. These movies all have multiple aspect ratios that shift during the film and display an aspect of the director's vision/choosing for certain scenes.
Many viewers have a personal stance on this and some prefer to have a constant image width (CIW) and constant image height (CIH) which in turn they would opt to lock the aspect ratio to match their screen, while others prefer not to change the integrity of the image and have it displayed in the manner it was meant to be seen. Doing this however is not something a display device is generally capable of on its own. The Envy is capable of solving these issues using Instant Aspect Ratio Control and Non-Linear Stretch+ (NLS+).
Instant Aspect Ratio control truly is instant, and this is in part thanks to the delay that's built into the Envy, which is approximately a 5-6 frame buffer. This allows enough time for the incoming video content to be analyzed to determine the aspect ratio and switch it. So, in a movie such as Tron Legacy, where Sam is coming out of Flynn's just before he is apprehended by the programs, the scene is initially in 2.35:1 and then switches to the aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and the transition is seamless, with each aspect ratio correctly displayed. There is no visible lag in the switch—it truly is instant. This is also configurable within the Black Bar Configuration menu where it can be selected how fast you want it to occur, how to handle quick back and forth changes when black bars are detected, if you want the Envy to choose a custom zoom that will work for all aspect ratios seen, or if you want it to change just once and stay fixed to the new aspect ratio. This provides a very high level of configuration options to the user.
Users who would prefer to have a CIH or CIW have the ability to utilize NLS+, which allows users to crop and stretch the image as needed in order to fill their screen. The setup of this is actually quite nice as well. During the setup the user is presented with an image that is in the native aspect ratio for the aspect ratio being edited. So if a 1.78:1 (that is, 16:9) aspect ratio is being edited, you'll see a test image in 1.78:1. The user then can focus on how much cropping and vertical compression and horizontal stretching they would like to use to achieve their goal while using the on-screen guides to dial in the image to their liking. You can focus on what geometry you most want to preserve, such as the center of the image, and adjust the sides to reduce the amount of stretch seen or how much cropping you want to allow. This is available for every aspect ratio, and can also be done while playing content.
Additionally, CIW is available to allow shifting of the image to the top or to the bottom of the screen entirely. This would likely come in most handy for users with 16:9 screens who, while viewing a movie in a 2.35:1 or other widescreen aspect ratio with letterbox bars, want to shift the active part of the image up (or down) to improve the line of sight. Testing this on my LG G2 proved effective, so a user with a very large 16:9 projection screen and possibly multiple rows of seating may see a benefit in its use.
Subtitle Management. Subtitle management is handled very well with the Envy and is very much designed for users with 'Scope screens. In many cases, movies with subtitles have the text appear in the letterboxing of the video, which is problematic if a user is zooming the image all the way out to fill the screen or using an anamorphic lens and the subtitles end up being in the non-visible area. Envy's subtitle handling resolves this issue by allowing just enough black bar to display briefly behind the subtitles to make them readable. The system will automatically detect if it is a two-line subtitle, three-line subtitle, etc., and provide a box that's large enough. An extra layer of control is provided to allow "stickiness" of the black bar that is displayed, from as briefly as no stickiness (where the subtitle clears and the black bar disappears), or 5 seconds up to 90 minutes, or leaving it until the end of the movie. This is not only available for the bottom but also the top where contextual subtitles appear such as "music playing", "knock on door," etc. Additionally, a user is able to ignore subtitles completely or show them with a small amount of extra padding. As someone who watches a lot of content with subtitles, I appreciate this approach.
LUT Calibrations. The Envy is capable of insanely large LUT (look-up table) calibrations allowing for interpolated 2563 3D LUTs (16.7 million points) and 4,096-point 1D LUTs. The process is quick and produces outstanding results. The processor offers integration with Portrait Display's Calman calibration software and the Light Illusions ColourSpace calibration software as well as others.
During my time with the Envy, I performed multiple calibrations with both Calman and ColourSpace. Calman just recently implemented integration with the Envy so I definitely wanted to test the process. The results were good overall, though there were some issues that I encountered, which I should emphasize were issues with Calman, not issues with the Envy. madVR Labs has created a guide and walkthrough for this process and I would suggest those not extremely familiar with calibration or Calman utilize it for their first few attempts. What I found was that during various points in the process Calman would change selections I'd made back to default values on its own, so it requires double checking multiple times. Also, at times when the 1D LUT should have been committed and being utilized, I'd find that even though it was uploaded to the Envy, Calman was not using it —this despite it being selected by default after it was uploaded. This required disabling it in Calman and re-checking Enable. Lastly, on occasion an error message would also occur in Calman when creating a meter profile from my Colorimetry Research CR-250 spectroradiometer to my CR-100 colorimeter. I also felt the 1D LUT that was created wasn't as tight as I personally would've liked to see.
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While that was my experience utilizing Calman, my experience utilizing ColourSpace was the exact opposite. It was extremely straight forward and everything you need in terms of configuration was right there on the hardware section when connecting the Envy. I encountered no issues creating probe matches, or any issues throughout the process at all. This includes enabling and disabling LUTs, selecting slots, or uploading and renaming LUTs. Furthermore, I had the ability to do 1D+3D, Front 1D, Back 1D, 3D only, as well as LUT manipulation if needed. The 1D LUT was extremely tight and exactly what I was expecting to see.
Ultimately a user is very unlikely to get a bad calibration out of either of these software programs, though I do feel the 1D LUT produced in ColourSpace is a little tighter. But at the end of the day, both will result in a reference level calibration and Portrait Display is actively improving its Calman integration with the Envy video processors.
Profiles. Another feature the Envy has that's done very, very well is Profiles, which is part of an overall system that helps you customize the exact settings you want for different sources, signal types, or other scenarios. The ability to save multiple profiles or memories with your preferred settings is not uncommon to many displays or other devices, though in many of those instances you are required to configure the entire menu to be set up how you would like. The approach used in the Envy takes only what you want to alter from the default settings and applies it to what you already have selected.
To explain how this works, you start out with what is considered your Base. These are settings that are just used across the board for everything and you configure this how you want. Once this is set, you may have a specific scenario where you want to change something like Highlight Recovery from Off to Medium. When that change is made, it is held temporarily until a signal change happens or an HDMI handshake occurs with the switching of a source, after which the settings revert back to your Base. If you want to keep that change you made temporarily you can save it to your Base, which would then apply to all scenarios. Or, you can save it to a Profile. Calling up the stored Profile will then prioritize just those saved settings over whatever is stored in your Base for those menu options, while continuing to use the Base settings for everything else. So, there is never a need to configure a settings memory from scratch because the Profile saves what you changed on top of what you already have in your Base.
What makes this even stronger is you can choose to save these types of Profiles to be triggered by flags. A flag can be considered a specific resolution, or dynamic range such as SDR or HDR, or almost anything. A good example would be if you wanted to use a specific 3D LUT for a specific source. That LUT can be saved to a Profile and associated with that source flag. Having the ability to save a Profile and associate it with a flag that is activated off a specific incoming resolution, frame rate, source device, display, bit depth, variable aspect ratio, etc., provides a massive amount of depth. This makes Profiles extremely strong and offers a level of customization that's hard to beat. You can read more about how Profiles work in two guides available in the Download's section of the madVR Envy website.
The madVR Envy Extreme MK2 as well as the Pro MK2, and the current MK1 models, offer much more than the few items I highlighted above. I didn't even touch on features such as Convergence Correction, EDID management, Dithering, Deinterlacing, artifact removal for banding, Grain, Sharpening, histograms, etc. It really is a fully fleshed-out unit. It's very well designed in all aspects from build quality to the user experience with its UI. There's a reason you see an Envy paired with so many brands at tradeshows. There's a reason it has garnered so many accolades in the short time it's been in the market. It really is a great product. When looking at the big picture of what it offers now and will offer in the future, such as MotionAI and other upcoming features being developed by madVR, it's understandable why it receives the praise it does.
The company has also worked hard to refine the user experience. It might seem small but it's a very valuable asset, and it's comprised of multiple things. To begin with, the menu system is laid out very well, broken into a system level menu for things such as display configuration, black bar detection, custom zoom, etc. Within these menus you'll find that a lot of these features have an integrated assistant that helps you get it set up, for example, on screen framing and zones or real images to see how your change will impact the picture. Then there's another menu that offers more focus on picture settings. What's nice about this is that you're not seeing a bunch of menus for stuff unrelated to what you're trying to do. There is also a Help function on screen with a brief description of what you have highlighted. So, for an installer who may not be very experienced with Envy, that's useful. And you have full flexibility to map various functions to the flex keys on the remote to pretty much anything you want.
Even the product's online firmware updates take mere seconds; rollbacks on firmware, if needed, take seconds. If assistance is needed from a dealer, installer, or even madVR themselves they can (with the user's permission) remote in and control the unit. Nor do you have to look much further than the new five-year parts-and-labor warranty on the Envy Extreme and Pro MK2 units (up from three-years and two-years, respectively in the MK1 models) to see proof of the company's commitment to consumers and dealers. I believe that is unmatched for a product like this.
Now, a video processor is not a magic wand. No video processor is going to make your projector that can barely cover DCI-P3 suddenly cover 120% of BT.2020. That's just not what they do. What it can do, and what the Envy does very well, is help fix or mitigate issues you have in your setup. If you have a display that has poor CMS controls for calibrating color points, Envy fixes that. You have a display that cannot properly handle color space selections, Envy fixes that. You have barrel distortion from an anamorphic lens, Envy will fix that along with the poor tone mapping for HDR done by the display, or poor motion handling. So, while few people need a video processor, if you care deeply about video image quality and the viewing experience there is a very strong argument for having one, especially when its one that is so thoughtful in its design, features, and offerings.
Of course, all of this does come with a hefty price, and the Envy Extreme MK2's price tag can be somewhat polarizing. For some people, if a product does one thing that they want and they have the budget for it, it's worth the cost. For others, it may have to do that one thing and ten other things on top of it. Some people, even those for whom money is no object, may never feel they can justify a purchase like this. None of these people are wrong because value is so subjective. But know that this is similar to other premium/luxury products in the sense that it's hard to understand until you can either use one or see it in use, and then it clicks and you get what it's all about.
If someone has an expensive, premium projector such as a Christie, Barco, or Sony GTZ-380, they should probably already have one of these units to extract the very best performance from these displays. The same goes for the higher end JVCs and Sonys that collectively represent today's state-of-the-art. Fortunately, the Envy, especially with its constantly evolving feature set, will likely outlive anything in your theater and serve you well into your next projector. Honestly, it's one of those items that you buy once and you don't plan on replacing for a long time. For all of these reasons—it's impeccable engineering, superb build quality, future-focused features that truly enhance the viewing experience, and excellent customer support, it easily adds the ProjectorCentral Editor's Choice award to its long list of accolades.
Temperatures (degrees Celsius)
|Performance: Green||Silent||Balanced||Rack (Loud)|
|Performance: Go Nuts|
* Tests ran with all algos run at max settings while playing HDR content.
** Unit located inside rack with 1RU above and below, door closed.
Input Latency (Pass-Through)
|Envy Latency (Passthrough)||48ms||14ms||5ms|
- HDMI 2.1 Output (HDCP 2.3)
- HDMI 2.0b (x2; HDCP 2.3)
- RJ45 Lan
- USB 3.0 Type A (x4)