HDFury Vertex Review
The AV Swiss Army Knife
What is the HDFury Vertex?That's a damn good question because the HDFury Vertex is a tricky product to define. The manufacturer itself terms the Vertex as an Ultra HD and HDR capable HDMI splitter and scaler, essentially combining HDFury's previous Integral and Linker products. However, that description doesn’t really do the product justice in terms of its versatility and scope.
The HDFury Vertex is the Swiss Army Knife of HDMI, and is capable of solving a multitude of problems that can crop up with the de facto connection interface of the HD and Ultra HD world we’re in. Let’s not beat around the bush though, the HDFury Vertex is not aimed at your average consumer, it is designed for AV enthusiasts, industry professionals, and content creators.
It can be used with just about every HDMI device in existence and can take almost every HDMI format and scale it to fit the capabilities of the connected display or receiver, thus mitigating the urgency to upgrade components in your setup that don’t tick all the necessary compatibility boxes, but in all other ways are perfectly serviceable.
The Vertex is HDMI 2.0b/HDCP 2.2 compatible, supports 4K/60p and 4:4:4 at up to 600MHz, a bandwidth up to 18Gbps, and promises to solve any signal issue while being able to display full diagnostic information via a graphical user interface or a built-in OLED display panel. It can also handle HDR10, Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log-gamma (HLG), HDR10+, DTS:X, and Dolby Atmos, to name but a few formats.
At the time of writing (October 2018) the HDFury Vertex is available for around £265 plus shipping direct from the manufacturer’s website, or £300 and up from UK vendors. So it isn't cheap, but if you have a particularly expensive piece of kit that just needs a little help in our modern AV world, then the Vertex might be the ideal solution.
DesignThe HDFury Vertex is a custom-built device using a Field-programmable Gate Array (FPGA) inside its chassis to power operations. The advantage of this setup is that it allows HDFury to tailor features and functions better, and react more quickly to user requirements than if it was relying on a chip vendor to provide support.
The unit itself is surprisingly compact when you consider all that it can do, measuring just 100 x 60 x 30mm (LxWxH), and is fairly lightweight as well, tipping the scales at around 130g. The Vertex is a little plastic and rather flimsy in terms of its construction, but the upshot of its diminutive size is that the unit can be easily placed in just about any setup.
Despite its petite dimensions, there’s an awful lot packed in to the Vertex in terms of connectivity and on-unit display and controls. Taking centre stage on the front of the unit, is the OLED display panel measuring 80 x 20mm which provides full input and output signal info as well as the EDID (Extended Display Identification Data) for both sink and source devices. You can toggle through fully five pages of information for quick diagnostics, although for extended sessions it’s probably easier to use the Vertex GUI application from a PC or the iOS/Android apps – more on those below.
The Vertex is small but boasts a surprising number of connections and controls
ConnectionsThere are a total of 4 HDMI ports onboard the HDFury Vertex – effectively two in and two out, labelled as INP0, INP1, OUT0 and OUT1. It's fairly self-explanatory, although it should be noted they are not all equal in abilities.
The top output port (OUT1) must be used if the output device is any version of HDMI below 2.0. In other words, it’s the one you use to downscale signals, although it is perfectly capable of delivering the full UHD HDR experience, if necessary.
The two inputs can take any conceivable HDMI signal. As another point of note, HDFury says you need to ensure that you are using a certified 600MHz HDMI cable if you plan to set up at 4K60 4:4:4 8-bit or 4K60 4:2:2 12-bit.
Adjacent to the input ports are an Infra-red (IR) sensor and an RS232 port for extended control option. At the other end, neighbouring the output ports, you'll find a dual stereo/optical (adapter required) audio output jack. The Vertex has a built-in digital to analogue converter for the audio it receives within the HDMI signal.
There's an effective OLED display, and an equally useful graphical user interface
Control and SetupThere are a number of different ways to setup and control the HDFury Vertex, starting with the selection of three switches and three buttons that feature on the two side panels.
The buttons all feature a combination of short and long press controls. There’s a RST (reset) which when short-pressed will generate a Hot Plug Detection event – so if you’ve attached a new device during use, you would use that or, alternatively, a longer press will factory reset the unit. The INF (information) button can be used to toggle through the information displayed on the built-in display, cycle the ‘VERTEX’ logo on the unit or to switch off the OLEDs altogether. The INP (input) button, meanwhile, is used to toggle between Switch and Matrix modes.
The switches set the EDID, HDCP and SCALE settings but, before I get to those, it's advisable to make sure the firmware is up-to-date. This can be done using the Vertex GUI PC app with the unit connected to your computer by USB. HDFury regularly updates both the firmware and its GUI app, so you’ll want to keep tabs on the website, and you’ll need to install the necessary drivers that can be found on the HDFury support page, along with an extensive owner’s manual – which you'll definitely need.
There’s just one other thing to remember before using the Vertex after updating the firmware, you must remove the Screen Lock symbol from the Vertex’s display by simultaneously holding down the RST button and pressing the INP button twice. You will then be prompted to power cycle the unit, which is simply achieved by removing the USB cable and replacing it.
If you have some prior knowledge of the technologies and standards the Windows GUI app is easy to follow, but if not some quick swatting up might be a good idea.
The EDID (Extended Display Identification Data) is the data a display presents to the source to tell it which resolutions, framerates, colour spaces, colour gamuts, bit-depths and formats it is capable of displaying. The EDID switch on the side of the Vertex has three positions and it needs to be in the middle (Custom Use) for adjustments to be made via the apps, RS232 or IR.
The GUI and mobile apps feature a very wide selection of preloaded EDID tables or you can customise one to your exact needs using the Vertex GUI, although you should find that one of the 100 pre-loaded options will meet your needs. By default, the selected EDID table is a 4K60 4:4:4 BT2020 HDR (High Dynamic Range) 600MHz with ‘full audio’ capabilities.
Besides Custom, we also have the Automix and Fixed EDID slider options. In the Fixed position, EDID is presented as a mode with 4K60 4:2:0 8-bit SDR (Standard Dynamic Rage) with two channel stereo at 300MHz and should ensure a picture in almost any setup. The Automix mode creates EDID based on the mutual sink capabilities controlled by a selectable algorithm with enforceable flags so both sinks will always show a picture and have audio.
The Scale switch has three positions - No Scaling/Pass-through, Custom Scaling/GUI and Auto Scaling. The No Scaling setting, as you would expect, passes through the signal untouched in its original resolution, bit-depth, colour space, colour gamut etc., while the Auto Scaling option attempts to automatically match the capabilities of the sink device and attempt to scale or convert to its maximum capabilities. The Custom Scaling options, which are manifold, are accessed via the Windows GUI, Android and iOS applications.
The top output port (OUT1) can be further configured using GUI to achieve certain ‘special modes’ depending on the input signal, while the bottom output port (OUT0) port is auto-sensed and scaled/converted as needed.
You can, of course, allow your display to perform the scaling if you prefer/find it of better quality. As far as custom scaling is concerned, there are three parameters you can control – resolution, deep colour (for HDR) and colour space with options including RGB FULL, RGB BT2020, 4:4:4 BT.709, 4:4:4 BT2020, 4:2:2 BT.709, 4:2:2 BT2020, 4:2:0 BT.709, and 4:2:0 BT2020. That's just about every base covered.
In terms of the switches, the final one to discuss is HDCP which also has 3 positions. The switch should be set to the middle position to allow custom control. The other modes are self-explanatory with the HDCP 2.2 Mode meaning you always have HDCP 2.2 on both output ports. The HDCP 1.4 mode ensures you always have HDCP1.4 on both output ports, while in the HDCP Auto/GUI mode ensures that the conversion will always output a working signal.
The switches are easy to use, there are simple explanations for what they do actually printed on the back of the unit, and the built-in display helps with feedback. However, if you don't want to use the switches, then the Windows GUI application offers the same options and a lot more. The switches will allow you to set up the Vertex quickly and easily for most sources and displays, but you can use the Windows GUI to go into more detail and really customise the HDFury.
HDFury also offers a free Vertex app for iOS and Android, although to use it requires the GoBlue OTG/USB Bluetooth Dongle. The GoBlue also works with the HDFury’s Integral, Linker and AVR-Key products and is priced at approximately £37 plus another £7ish if you want the optional infra-red extender.
The Vertex app doesn’t offer quite the extent of settings and information that Windows GUI affords the user, but in terms of usability, we can’t recommend it enough as it’s not always easy to get a Windows machine (and potentially a monitor) close to your setup. The iOS/Android app does offer plenty of choice however, with all the main setup options included.
You can setup the Vertex using switches on the side, via a Windows GUI, or with an optional app
PerformanceThe problem with the HDFury Vertex is that it does so much, it's sometimes difficult to even know where to start. So I should probably say that this review will only give you the highlights, and frankly I'm just scratching the surface of this device's capabilities. To a certain extent, how you ultimately set up and use the unit will depend on what you're trying to actually do, but it's safe to say that an AV enthusiast can have hours of fun just messing around with all the settings.
I already own the HDFury Integral and Linker, so I was fairly familiar with many of the set up options, but if you aren't I'd strongly recommend familiarising yourself with the 114 page manual. I was immediately pleased to see the display that is built into the Vertex gives you feedback on what the device is receiving and what it is outputting. There is also an onscreen display, which is handy if the unit is stashed away at the back of the TV and you can't actually see it.
The display provides a huge amount of data about the incoming source, including the resolution, frame rate, bit depth, and HDCP, as well as the colour coordinates, max/min luminance, MaxCLL and MaxFALL. It's debatable how useful this would be on a day-to-day basis, but it's handy for us reviewers. Naturally, this information is available in the Windows GUI and GoBlue app, but it's nice to just glance at the unit and be able to see exactly what's going on (I certainly missed this display on the Integral).
The Vertex can read all the EDID data from both the source and the display, and you can the customise the EDID information depending on your needs. The unit can scale any source up or down, and you can even customise the resolution. If that wasn't enough, you can also customise the HDCP (very useful if you have devices that are HDCP 1.4), colour space and deep colour settings. In fact, about the only thing you can't do is convert the frame rate, that will always remain the same: so 24p will be output as 24p for example.
The Vertex not only captures and analyses any HDR signal, showing the metadata used and deciphering it into a format that can be understood by a human, but it also allows you to modify that metadata or even create new metadata. You can then inject your custom metadata into the current signal, and thus replace the existing HDR metadata. This can be extremely useful for content creators or anyone who wants to set a specific peak brightness when testing or calibrating a display.
The Vertex doesn't just stop at the HDR metadata for luminance, you can also set the EOTF between SDR luminance range, HDR luminance range, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), BT.2100-0, or SMPTE ST2084. If that isn't enough for you, how about selecting the colour gamut? You can choose between DCI P3, BT.709 and BT.2020. There's also the option to disable the HDR completely, thus allowing a 4K display that's less capable with HDR to still take advantage of higher resolution, wider colour gamut, and greater bit depth. This feature is also used by JVC projector owners to apply their own gamma curves for HDR content and allow their projector's dynamic iris to work with HDR content.
The Vertex doesn't just support HDR10 and HLG, but also all the available Dolby Vision modes. Other HDFury products to support all Dolby Vision modes are the Integral 2 and AVR-Key.
The Vertex can detect, save and display a mandatory Dolby Vision string from a connected display, and once stored, this mandatory string can be used in automix to ensure that the Dolby Vision stream from the source is compatible with the output. Once the DV string of a display is saved, you can insert other equipment, like an AV receiver, in the chain and still have the right Dolby Vision signal passthrough to the display. In addition, the Vertex can fully decipher a Dolby Vision stream and display the string in a human readable format.
HDFury describes the Vertex as a matrix splitter, which is very different from the more traditional splitters. The Vertex can simply take the signal from input A and send the exact same signal to output A and B. It can also take the signal from input B and send that to output A and B. However it is equally capable of sending two separate signals: so you can send input A to output A, and input B to output B; alternatively you can send input A to output B and input B to output A.
One of the common problems with HDMI, is where you have mixed resolutions and HDCP settings combined with an Ultra HD and a Full HD display. The EDID is used to tell the source what resolutions the displays support. If you mix and match you end up with the lowest common denominator, which will be Full HD. So if you do get a traditional Ultra HD splitter, you will be left with a Full HD signal. If the splitter allowed you to force the EDID, you could get an Ultra HD signal to the compatible display, but you would need to set the video output on Full HD in order for it to work on the lower resolution display.
This isn't a problem with the Vertex, and when connected correctly to the downscale output port, the Vertex will automatically scale down Ultra HD to Full HD if required by the connected display. Similarly, it can upscale Full HD to Ultra HD if required by the display connected to the upscale port. What this means in practice is that you can display a 4K HDR/DV/HLG/2.2 source on a 4K HDR/DV/HLG/2.2 display while also feeding a non 4K HDR/DV/HLG/2.2 display. Alternatively, you can display a 4K HDR/DV/HLG/2.2 source on a 4K HDR/DV/HLG/2.2 display while also feeding a non 4K HDR/DV/HLG/2.2 AV receiver with full HDMI audio.
The latter example is interesting because, although the Vertex is primarily a video device, it does have some audio features as well. It can extract HDMI audio up to 5.1 and passthrough any sound format including Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital Plus via HDMI while downscaling the video for older AV receivers. The Vertex is also capable of simultaneous output of analog left and right stereo and up to 5.1 audio using optical S/PDIF via 3.5mm 2-in-1 connector.
It can fix just about any signal issue, and is so flexible that this review can only scratch the surface
- Staggeringly flexible
- Handles just about any signal
- Very useful display
- Excellent user interface
- Build quality is a bit flimsy
- No frame rate conversion
HDFury Vertex ReviewIf you have an HDMI related issue, then the changes are that the HDFury Vertex can solve it. Whether it involves scaling a signal up or down, changing the HDCP settings, analysing and modifying the HDR metadata, or running two different resolution displays, the Vertex has you covered. There's almost nothing this device can't do with an HDMI signal, aside from change the frame rate which always stays the same. The build quality is a bit flimsy, but the addition of an OLED display on the device and an onscreen display are both welcome, especially when using the switches and buttons on the unit itself. However, you can also set up and control the unit via a comprehensive Windows GUI or an optional Bluetooth app.
The Vertex can not only fix any HDMI issues you may be experiencing, but it can also give an entirely new lease of life to ageing equipment that might have been left behind in our fast moving digital world, but in all other respects still delivers an acceptable performance. However, before you start reaching for the credit card, a word of warning: the Vertex is not exactly a plug-and-play device. To get the most from this device, you really need to read the manual and fully understand what you are trying to achieve. There is a bewildering array of choice, and a novice can quickly get confused or frustrated when trying to setup the Vertex.
That caveat aside, the HDFury Vertex is truly the Swiss Army Knife of HDMI, and if you're a serious AV enthusiast, a product reviewer, a professional calibrator, a custom installer, or even a content creator, then this product has the solution you're looking for.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £300.00
Processed Picture Quality9
Value for Money9
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