Home Camera The New HP DreamColor: It’s all about the Color Space

The New HP DreamColor: It’s all about the Color Space

written by Shane Hurlbut, ASC

HP Dreamcolor
HP Dreamcolor

Disclosure: I received compensation from HP related to this post/statement.

I was looking back at all my old BTS pictures from Act of Valor with the old HP DreamColor display drilled to a Pelican case and said to myself, “Look how far we have come.” With the release of the new HP Dreamcolor Z27x and HP Dreamcolor Z24x monitors, we should look at what makes these babies different from the old workhorse that served as my eyes into the DSLR color space for over five years.

Much sleeker design and lighter 24” model. The 27” is around the same weight as the previous 24”.

Much sleeker design and lighter 24” model. The 27” is around the same weight as the previous 24”.


“What is the Difference?”

Right off the bat, I saw a massive improvement in resolution and detail. The design of the monitor is much sleeker and offers some wonderful upgrades. This monitor resolution is 2560×1440, which will accept 2K as well as doing a 3840×2160 or 4096×2160, which can be displayed scale to fit or pixel-for-pixel with dynamic scroll. That is impressive. It delivers a true 10 BIT color reproduction, not these fake ones. If you look at any high-end post facility or color-grading house, DreamColors rule the roost. That alone is reason to be excited about their product.

A wide view angle at 178 degrees will keep your clients at video village seeing the right contrast and color because of this expanded view.

Gear Used for DreamColor Test

Canon 5D MK II
Canon LP-E6 Battery
SanDisk 16BG Extreme Pro UDMA 7 160/MB/s
SmallHD HDMI Splitter
Canon 24-105mm L Series Zoom
Music in video courtesy of The Music Bed: Tony Anderson, Miami Skyline

“Keep It Calibrated”

The old DreamColor did not need calibration for about 4000 hours if it stayed on your desktop. When used in the field it gets bumped around and needed calibration after about 250 hours. The process to color calibrate was very cumbersome. The new Z27x has a much more accurate 14 bit calibration engine in the monitor itself. It also has its own calibration tool, which can be used on set without a computer. This real-time immediacy is the way I like to roll out.

Integrated calibration engine for hostless calibration with the HP DreamColor Calibration Solution, Klein Instruments K10-A, Photo Research spectroradiometers, Konica Minolta CA-310, calibration with on-screen menus or XML scripting, and upload and download LUTs.

“On to the Exciting Part”

Everything comes down to Color Space with all these new flat profiles like C log, Log C and BMCC RAW. You name it, there is a flat profile to give you increased latitude to experiment in post. A monitor that can generate the color space that all post production houses use to grade your footage is so important. The old DreamColor could not access these color space engines with the HDMI. It required a DVI connection and a full HD signal, which meant you were judging your color and contrast and your exposure on a full gamut, which resulted in many subtle levels in the shadows and highlights being lost. Now the new Z27x has five established colors, so you can light with and judge color and contrast. It comes loaded with:
• sRGB
• Bt.709
• AdobeRGB
• DCI-p3
• BT.2020 (CIE1976)

HP Dreamcolor

“Smart Keys for Short Cuts”

Four user definable function keys on the front of the monitor that you can program allow you to avoid the use of sub-menus. A touch of a button gives you the functionality you need. You can change the color of the function keys, white or red, and adjust their brightness. These buttons can also adjust brightness down to a full fade, which I thought was very cool. All these functions increase speed.

HP Dreamcolor

HP Dreamcolor

“The New Ports”

It has two HP DreamColor USB ports for connecting calibration and flash drive measurement instruments that enable customized calibration or firmware updates. These ports are located on the side of the monitor for easy access so that you do not have to flip the monitor upside down to get your cables connected. It also has a self-powered USB 3.0 Hub.

HP Dreamcolor

HP Dreamcolor

“Response Time”

With all these new OLEDs and new HD wireless systems, frame delay has become a huge factor. You have a very shallow depth of field with HD, and assistants are using monitors to focus. The response time on this monitor is 7ms, which is amazing.

Your monitor is your eyes into all of these new exciting sensors. Picking the right one can be a daunting task. This one is tried and true.

Buy the HP DreamColor Monitor:

HP Dreamcolor Z27x
HP Dreamcolor Z24x



Note: we are required by HP’s legal team to disclose that we have received compensation in the form of sponsor dollars related to this post/statement. Those sponsor dollars allow us to continue to offer this wonderful resource for FREE to filmmakers globally. Those of you who know me understand my gear choices are dictated by the particular story that I am filming. ~Peace, S

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Jason June 11, 2014 at 10:48 AM

Looks like a great monitor. I realize this monitor was designed around post production, however, if you were to use this monitor in the field and there was no AC power available (or generator), what is your recommendation to power it? Thanks! Your blog is a favorite.

Shane July 15, 2014 at 3:38 PM

So sorry but I always have a small generator or a inverter that I hook up to my car battery to get this baby to fire up. I imagine their is a block battery solution, I have just never gone down that road.

Matt June 11, 2014 at 12:11 PM

Excited to see these new monitors! If I’m only working in HD and the 24″ is large enough for me, would there be any reason not to save a thousand bucks and just get the 24″??

Dominik Belancic June 11, 2014 at 2:14 PM

The 27″ has an intergrated calibration engine which means that it can be calibrated without a computer which is great for on set work and it can use pretty much any 3rd party calibration device (again without a computer) while the 24″ doesn’t have that. That means that the 24″ has to be calibrated while hooked up to a computer, which probably isn’t a huge problem because it holds it calibration for a long time so you can calibrate with a computer, take to the set (if you do that), use it and than calibrate it on a computer after a while.

John June 14, 2014 at 12:25 PM

The z24x is also 8bit+2FRC, and not true 10bit. There was a thread over at liftgammagain where Greg Staten, a dreamcolor architect says

“The Z24x is an 8+2 FRC display and looks quite good. The main limitation of FRC comes when looking at subtle shading across a narrow tonal range and the most common place where artifacts can be seen is in skies, mostly manifesting itself in a grain-like pattern that is an artifact of the dithering.”

And the monitor has 14bit processing unlike the older models which had 12bit. So the precision should be more than acceptable. The only obvious pros for getting the z27 considering you don’t need true 10bit are the 2k display supporting up to 4k images, and integrated calibration. The z24x needs a WINDOWS computer for calibration. Software for the mac is not currently planned.

Greg Greenhaw June 11, 2014 at 12:26 PM

Do these monitors still need a 444 signal to make the color engine work? Also is there LUT support or do you ned a LUT box to store your calibrations?


John June 14, 2014 at 12:36 PM

Greg Staten mentioned both of these new monitors no longer require a true RGB signal for the engine to work, they can now accept YUV. The calibration is stored in the display if you use compatible probes with the z27x. The z24x can only store the lut from the HP dreamcolor calibration tool, and it can only be done from a windows computer. You can calibrate it with other probes, but it would only be a software lut. The calibration luts are 1D cubes with a 3×3 matrix. They worked with color scientists and post houses, with VFX houses playing a bigger role, but they did consult with colorists to ensure color accuracy.

DanM June 11, 2014 at 10:38 PM

I have purchased this monitor and am very happy with it but I am surprised that no one is talking about the color space issue with Macs. When I first hooked up this monitor to my Macbook Pro, with a mini displayport to Displayport cable (which is supposed to provide the highest quality connection) the monitor actually looked like complete shit. It was only after discovering this web page
that I was able to hack my Mac OS X into making the monitor usable. Basically any Mac with a Thunderbolt port (post 2011) will only output a YCbCr color space through a digital connection (and these new Dreamcolors only accept Displayport to take advantage of their high resolution, there is no DVI inputs). I am just wondering if you have encountered this issue, and how having to my hack my computer to make the monitor usable effects the calibration. I am also just curious as to why more people aren’t talking about this issue and how it affects workflow on Macs from people in our industry.

John June 14, 2014 at 12:57 PM

The OSx YUV colorspace is well known. It happens because the OS sees your monitor as a tv. Not a problem with video cards, but definitely when using integrated graphics. But since OSx and almost all video cards only output an 8 bit signal anyways, many professionals have used convertors to achieve a 10 bit RGB signal, such as a blackmagic decklink. If you have a desktop, you could use a quadro as they output a 10 bit rgb signal.

The new dreamcolors support YUV, although from what I’ve heard it’s still buggy. You also have to set the video and data levels to what you’re working with to ensure color accuracy.

The EDID RGB override will not mess with calibration. All it does is ensure the signal output remains RGB. Calibration tools then measure how the signal from the video card is being interpreted by the monitor, and then create a lut to remap the signals to the correct tones.

Joseph Goldstone July 21, 2014 at 12:19 PM

I saw this issue on the Z27x, but it went away with Mac OS X 10.9.3. Too small an issue to show up in Apple’s release notes, but the important thing was that they did fix it.

A Comparison of the HP DreamColor 2480zx with the new HP DreamColor Z27X | wolfcrow June 11, 2014 at 11:45 PM

[…] is a paid and sponsored review, by Shane Hurlbut; and it compares the older and legendary HP DreamColor 2480zx with its newer avatar, the HP […]

David June 12, 2014 at 8:17 PM

Which firmware is this running? I’m using Z7X210 and my color space options divide sRGB into D65 and D50, and I don’t have the BT.601 option. I’m trying to return mine for an exchange since it has so many issues. I’m documenting them over on the LGG thread.

Marc Gutt August 19, 2014 at 12:30 AM


I’m very interested in this monitor, but I can’t find some informations. Maybe you can answer some of my questions:

1.) Does it support 2560 x 1440 60 Hz through HDMI?

2.) Does one of the DP Ports support MST (Daisy Chaining), so its Input and Output at the same time?

3.) Are the buttons capacative or physical?

4.) How much mAh are delivered through one USB port or is it limited to the USB 3.0 minimum of 900 mAh?

5.) What about glowing at 140 cd/m² (frontal and different viewing angles). The Z30i was really bad in this point:

You can test it by setting the monitor to 140 cd/m² while having a dark room and then opening this website and pressing F11 (full screen):

mudit March 1, 2015 at 6:36 AM

I do not own the monitors. What i gather is from research.
I am a radiologist and wish to purchase a 10-bit high res monitor for reporting medical images.
The 2480zx scores with a better panel, however, i gather is that external calibration without the proprietary APS is a pain in the ass. Can you suggest how can i get it to comply with DICOM part 14 GSDF?

Will Weprin June 11, 2015 at 2:22 AM

It’s nice to finally have a quality option for 10 bit color that is reasonably calibrated and not a huge amount of money. I’m wondering how good the color and calibration really is and whether it can really be used as a grading monitor or at least a grade 1 monitor on set. How close is it to the expensive pro reference monitors like the Sony OLED/Flanders/Panasonic e.t.c?

Shane July 12, 2015 at 12:55 PM

It is damn impressive. I have it in my color suite. I love it and its calibration is tested at 4000 hours, which is amazing.

Simon September 17, 2015 at 4:29 PM

Thanks for the Review! I am looking into buying the smaller z24x. Does anybody know if it has a p3 calibration built in, or may be calibrated to show p3ish colors (I am aware that p3 exceeds its actual gamut, but it would just be used for pre-grading on a cheaper bay)? I would love some Info an that as I have searched the www quite extensively on that.


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