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Review: Matrox Monarch HDX

The Monarch HDX is well featured, easy to use, and reasonably priced, and produced very good quality output. Those seeking a dual-channel hardware encoder should definitely include the product on their short list.

The Matrox Monarch HDX is a bigger, better version of the Matrox Monarch HD, which we reviewed here. Both units are dual-codec encoders. In the case of the Monarch HD, this means you can stream one feed live, and record another, both solely from HDMI input. With the HDX, you can do the same, but the unit will also output two live streams or record two streams, and input HD-SDI as well as HDMI. Matrox will continue to sell both units--the HD for about $995, the HDX for around $1,995.


The HDX is a bit larger than the HD, with dimensions of 6"x8"x1.5". On the back are HD-SDI and HDMI inputs and outputs, an auxiliary connector, 3.5mm audio connectors in and out, and power and Ethernet. On the front, there’s a button for choosing between HD-SDI and HDMI input, two USB ports, an SD card slot, and buttons for stopping and starting encoder 1 and encoder 2 (Figure 1, below). Unlike the HD, the HDX has a fan, though it runs very quietly, so you can use the unit in boardrooms and similar settings where quiet operation is required.

Figure 1. The front side of the Monarch HDX. Click the image to see it at full size.

Configuring the Monarch HDX

You configure the unit from any browser than can connect to the HDX; I used a Mac running on the same LAN. Once configured, you can start and stop encoding via buttons on the front of the unit, making it simple to non-technical users to operate in the field.

The browser-based interface is simple and logical, and you’ll perform most of the heavy lifting in the Encoding Setting Screen shown in Figure 2 (below). The first choice you’ll make for each encoder is Mode, which can be record, RTMP, RTSP, or none. In Figure 2, I’m streaming to YouTube Live with Encoder 1 on the left and recording a stream to an SD Card with Encoder 2 on the right.

Figure 2. This is where you choose your encoding/recording settings. Click the image to see it at full size.

Then you can choose a preset for each encoder, or dial in your own configurations in the Advanced Settings area. If you’re streaming, you need to enter the Server URL, Stream name, and credentials, which are generally available from your streaming service. During my tests, I connected to YouTube Live and Ustream simultaneously at 3 Mbps; with YouTube Live I copied and pasted the credentials from the site, while with Ustream, I downloaded an XML file from the service, which I uploaded to the Monarch HDX. If you’re recording, you have to identify the target, which can be a USB drive, an SD card, or a network location. Once you’re done, you click Apply on the left to store your settings on the unit.

Error Correction

Though operation is simple, error correction could be improved. For example, there’s no way to check your streaming service settings without actually trying to go live. In contrast, the Flash Media Live Encoder (FMLE) has a Connect button that connects to the target service, and displays an error message if the address, stream name or credentials are incorrect. With Monarch, until you actually start streaming, you won’t know if your connection information is correct. It would be helpful if the Monarch HDX checked your settings when you press Apply, and let you know of any errors then.

There is a status screen you can check for errors (Figure 3, below), but those messages won’t appear until you actually try to stream. The status screen does contain the low-resolution confidence monitor shown in Figure 3, but it relies on QuickTime, which is deprecated in Google Chrome and other browsers; to see the stream, you’ll probably have to use the Apple Safari browser, which is what I did to create Figure 3.

Figure 3. This is where you choose your encoding/recording settings. Click the image to see it at full size.

Encoding Options

As with the Monarch HD, the maximum total bit rate for both channels is 30 Mbps, though there are some limitations as shown in Figure 4 (below). Most notably, while a single encoder can stream at up to 20 Mbps, if you’re running both, the max for either is 10 Mbps or lower.

Figure 4. Encoding limitations of the HDX’s dual codecs.

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