As many of our readers may know, Ostendo is the company who originally showed their curved display under the Alienware brand back at CES in 2008. This product is known as the CRVD was said to be a very early prototype and was not close to the finished product. It did, however, have so much innovation and create a completely new experience that the media started raving about the product. CRVD even ended up as a runner up for Best of CES 2008 award. During that time, we spoke with Alienware’s CEO and Kevin Kettler, Dell’s CTO and both executives were quite enthused about the technology at hand. As the time went by, we approached 2010.

As you can see, banding is visible in Windows Media Player
As you can see, banding is visible in Windows Media Player

Ostendo has spent the past two years working on this product in order to, they say, make it marketable and saleable. The only problem is that it has some fatal flaws that weren’t fixed from the original debut. Unfortunately, without improving those flaws and the potential rise of the competition, we believe that CVRD is not useless, but it is a technology that could be going the way of do-do birds before it even really arrives.

Why is the Ostendo CRVD so bad? It?s quite simple really – it uses somewhat outdated DLP technology with poorly implemented software in order to provide the customer with what we would consider a beta solution. Ostendo uses a projection system with LEDs to prolong the life of the monitor since all the CRVD really comes down to is a series of four different projectors running off of a DLP chip attempting to work together to provide you with a 2880×900 resolution over a 43" span.

Ostendo is claiming that the CVRD displays 99.3% of Adobe’s RGB Gamut but we had no way of checking it out – as the test system did not have Adobe Photoshop installed. We offered Ostendo to perform an independent 3rd party testing of the device and a subsequent review – however, we were told that we can perform a review in the company premises. Given that the location of our Californian office was something like 14 miles to the south, we have our doubts. Effectively, until we’re able to independently test the display using our licensed Adobe Creative Suite 4 or our copy of Creative Suite 5 Beta, it is impossible for us to evaluate the gamut claim correctly.

The implementation of the four projectors in the back of the screen causes an overlap of the images between the projectors that leaves a visible line between each one. The trick is that this line is only visible with light colors, so if you were to play a game like Crysis with a lot of vegetation you are more inclined to see darker surroundings and therefore miss the dividing lines which are really quite visible. This doesn?t even count the fact that the edges of the screen are also blurred. The blurriness on this display is so bad that I really thought that I needed to adjust the sharpness of the display in order for it to look right. But if you were to look at the center, all is well and sharp. Ostendo claims that this is a result of the fact that they are using a projection technology to allow for the curved display.

While blurriness is not as bad as the one we experienced with ATI’s Eyefinity triple-display setup, it is still nowhere near the crystal clarity offered by nVidia’s 3D Surround and 3D Vision Surround. Coming to nVidia, during the meeting Ostendo reps also mentioned how nVidia approached them for 3D Vision technology. While playing in 3D at this curvature would definitely add an unbelievable experience [even without glasses, there is a sense of depth], the amount of changes needed to put 120Hz display is something Ostendo is currently working on. Can a higher refresh rate solve the issues at hand? Your guess is as good as ours.

Upon hearing some criticism on some of their previous partners, we felt inclined to actually ask our contacts located 436 miles to the north of Ostendo’s HQ in Carlsbad, CA and few thousand miles to the east. We do appreciate our Texas sources replying to us after dinner, but this is what they had to say. In the case of their initial partner, a Dell executive gave an off-the-record comment that Ostendo’s technology "wasn’t ready for prime time and we could not risk customer return on a single mid-four figure component". As you can imagine, this was a confirmation of what we experienced on a warm Thursday afternoon in the office with a view worth a million dollars or more [they have a very nice ocean view from the conference room].

As far as our 3D Vision contact at nVidia, we were told that they were very much interested in Ostendo’s 120Hz development when they come onboard, but for now nVidia’s support is limited through standard driver exposure in OpenGL and DirectX – all applications making standard calls should support Ostendo’s CVRD with no issues at all. If an application makes a non-standard call, you might end with an application incompatibility issue, just like any other unique product on the market. Windows 7 should sort this issue on themselves but ultimately it boils down to Ostendo working with developers if such a situation arises. Given the fact that out of 45 people, company employs 18 Ph.D’s, there is little doubt that they could resolve the matter at hand.

Frankly, we don?t care whether or not this is simply a function of the technology because this technology is in our minds dead in the water. This is because of the development of OLED screens. Yes, we’re perfectly aware of the fact that OLED TVs are extremely expensive and not very commercially available, but in a year or two they will be big enough to replace such a curved display and this technology will have no way to compete. Period.

Crysis Warhead resolution selection screen
Crysis Warhead resolution selection screen

Another problem that Ostendo has with this product is the fact that it delivers a very odd resolution. Yes, they are delivering a derivative of 16:10 [32:20], but the problem is the fact that there really isn?t any content outside of a few games that can fit that kind of a screen properly. One would be forced to use it as a multi-tasking monitor only? which would be fine if it didn?t carry the same resolution as two 19" widescreen monitors using the lowest widescreen res of 1440×900 [standard notebook resolution]. Yes, that?s right. If you combine two 19" monitors you get the same resolution as this CRVD monitor. In reality, this monitor really doesn’t create any more screen real estate than a 30? monitor which is 1/6th of the cost. You are looking at 2.59 million pixels compared to 4.09 million pixels on a 2560×1600 screen.

That?s the other place where the Ostendo CRVD fails – it simply costs way too much to even be considered a feasible solution for anyone who doesn?t have money flowing through their veins. It costs $6,500 for a single display i.e. much higher than, for instance, the upcoming 6x Full HD LCD Display from Samsung [ATI Eyefinity technology, launching in time for CeBIT 2010]. That solution will offer a resolution of 5760×2160 and a massive amount of screen estate of 12.44 million pixels. Pairing three Dell 3008WFP displays would still fit the price bill of a single CVRD and offer a resolution of 7680×1600 i.e. 12.28 million pixels. Then again, all these alternative screens don’t offer the natural curvature of the display.

Military-grade Helicopter Simulator was quite impressive but again, banding was present regardless of the angle used
Military-grade Helicopter Simulator was quite impressive but again, banding was present regardless of the angle used.

Yes, if you are a gamer, you will look elsewhere. And here we come to the issue of commercial use. Ostendo’s customers come from US commercial and defense space, and while the professional-grade aircraft simulator looked quite impressive – the banding issue was present regardless of the angle we used.

In regards to delivery, we also found out that Ostendo still cannot ship products within the European Union. This is after having the product in development for over two years and they have yet to get CE mark to be able to sell consumer electronics in European Union. We did inquire about that as well, and the company is planning to acquire the CE certificate some time during this year, in accordance to their plans. Dell needed CE mark in order to sell Alienware displays in EMEA.

Then again, this is coming our way.

Update #1, January 29, 2010 19:01 GMT/UTC – Following the publication of our story, we got contacted back by Mr. Erhan Ercan Snr. Director of Marketing and Sales at Ostendo and we will be publishing the answer shortly.

Update #2, February 5, 2010 20:23 GMT/UTC – We got contacted by Mr. Geoff Hawkes, who sent us an in-depth e-mail that explains the views of Ostendo with our article. We are publishing the answer in its entirety:

  • "The only problem is that it has some fatal flaws that weren’t fixed from the original debut. Unfortunately, without improving those flaws and the rise of competition, we believe that CVRD is not useless, but it is a technology going the way of do-do birds before it even really arrives."

Ostendo: While this is an opinion article, this statement to us sounds unnecessarily negative. Since 2008 we have objectively made significant improvements to the CRVD?s brightness, sharpness, perceptual seams and contrast.  We have a strict and objective acceptance criteria that was agreed upon by our customers.  Further, the CRVD admittedly has a limited but definite market both with consumers (e.g. ultra high end gaming) and commercial (defense, simulation, and more).  Comments about potentially competing technologies like OLED are below, but as it stands there is no other curved display available in the world right now, and there will likely be none for the next 2+ years especially in this diagonal size.

  • "Why is the Ostendo CRVD so bad? It?s quite simple really – it uses somewhat outdated DLP technology with poorly implemented software in order to provide the customer with what we would consider a beta solution."

Ostendo: Our patented system architecture along with our software pre-compensates the image along with optical means for the curvature on the screen to avoid any potential image aberrations and artifacts.  The software then combines sub-images from each micro-projector to geometrically align and color blend them all in real time.  Hence, we are confident that our embedded software in the CRVD is by no means a ‘beta solution’ as it is actually a quite complex software architecture.

  • "Ostendo uses a projection system with LEDs to prolong the life of the monitor since all the CRVD really comes down to is a series of four different projectors running off of a DLP chip attempting to work together to provide you with a 2880×900 resolution over a 43" span."

Ostendo: We use LEDs for their long life but not to "prolong" the life of the monitor and there are 4 DLP chips, not a single DLP chip. A more accurate statement would be  "Ostendo?s CRVD is a projection system which uses LEDs for their long life. The CRVD is made up of four projectors with a XGA (1024×768) DLP chip each, which blend together to form a 2880×900 resolution with a 43? diagonal viewing area".

  • "Ostendo is claiming that the CVRD displays 93.9% of Adobe’s RGB Gamut but we had no way of checking it out – as the test system did not have Adobe Photoshop installed. We offered Ostendo to perform an independent 3rd party testing of the device and a subsequent review – however, we were told that we can perform a review in the company premises. Given that the location of our Californian office was something like 14 miles to the south, we have our doubts. Effectively, until we’re able to independently test the display using our licensed Adobe Creative Suite 4 or our copy of Creative Suite 5 Beta, it is impossible for us to evaluate the gamut claim correctly."

Ostendo: We?d prefer to omit this section until proper testing can be done, or at least condensed to indicate the stated Adobe RGB Gamut (which is 99.3%, not 93.9%) and this will be put to the test.

  • ?While blurriness is not as bad as the one we experienced with ATI Eyefinity triple-display setup, it is still nowhere near the crystal clarity offered by nVidia’s 3D Surround and 3D Vision Surround. Coming to nVidia, during the meeting Ostendo reps also mentioned how nVidia approached them for 3D Vision technology.?

Ostendo: What is the basis of your comparison between clarity of the ATI vs. nVidia?s  technology?  How does this relate to the CRVD?  Also, please omit our private conversations with Nvidia about 3D technology.

  • "As you can imagine, this was a confirmation of what we experienced on a warm Thursday afternoon in the office with a view worth a million dollars or more[they have a very nice ocean view from the conference room]."

What is the intention of this comment?  Please omit.

  • "Frankly, we don?t care whether or not this is simply a function of the technology because this technology is in our minds dead in the water. This is because of the development of OLED screens. Yes, we’re perfectly aware of the fact that OLED TVs are extremely expensive and not very commercially available, but in a year or two they will be big enough to replace such a curved display and this technology will have no way to compete. Period."

Please justify this statement. To our knowledge, there are no go-to-market plans for large, curved OLED, PC monitors in the next 2+ years.

  • "Yes, they are delivering a derivative of 16:10 [32:20], but the problem is the fact that there really isn?t any content outside of a few games that can fit that kind of a screen properly."

the aspect ratio is 32:10 and represents 16:10 times 2.  This is a very common aspect ratio for multiple-monitor gaming, and is inherently supported by hundreds of gaming titles. (www.widescreengamingforum.com is one site with a comprehensive list of games that support our aspect ratio)

  • "One would be forced to use it as a multi-tasking monitor only? which would be fine if it didn?t carry the same resolution as two 19" widescreen monitors using the lowest widescreen res of 1440×900 [standard notebook resolution]."

The 43" CRVD is the equivalent of two 24" widescreen monitors, not 19" ones.  The actual screen size of a 24" monitor is 12.7" x 20.4", and the CRVD screen size is 12.8" x 40.8".

  • "If an application makes a non-standard call, you might end with an application incompatibility issue. Windows 7 should sort this issue on themselves but ultimately it boils down to Ostendo working with developers if such a situation arises."

As you have indicated, a non-standard application call causing an error would apply to any device and is irrelevant to the CRVD.  Please omit.

  • "In regards to delivery, we also found out that Ostendo still cannot ship products within the European Union. This is after having the product in development for over two years and they have yet to get CE mark to be able to sell consumer electronics."

Editor’s Comment:
Following this e-mail, we do keep our stand on the value of Ostendo technology. Again, this display looks like a fantastic solution at first, but all the mainstream press ever saw was Ostendo’s curved display with a photoshopped image in front, not showing the actual image. Do bear in mind that all of the display manufacturer do that in order to have a good look of the product. We still feel Ostendo has better image quality than gazillion of LCD monitors with TN panels but the company has a road ahead. We hope to see a 120Hz supporting display with not as exposed vertical bars as they were when we saw them. There are companies such as Scalable who solved the overlapping issue, even though the application was vastly different.