Extron just launched itself into the AV-over-IP market with a family of products that distribute and switch video, audio and USB 2.0 signals over standard Ethernet networks (and they can send it over a network at 40 Mbps all the way up to 10-gigabit) — it’s called the NAV Series. Utilizing Extron’s patented PURE3 codec, NAV delivers visually lossless video over IP at resolutions up to 4K@60Hz with 4:4:4 chroma sampling. (By the way, “visually lossless” is an actual standard in the world of video compression. It means exactly what it sounds like — that a human with good eyesight can’t detect any video signal loss when looking at the picture. There’s a reason that not every AV-over-IP company is specifying its products as “visually lossless.”)
Extron also says its PURE3 system incorporates what it’s calling Intelligent Selective Streaming (ISS), which identifies “low motion content” in the video image to achieve low bitrates while maintaining performance — the result would be using less bandwidth on the same network. Most video codecs make compromises in either image quality, bandwidth requirements or latency — depending on the application or the available network bandwidth.
In practical applications, this means means that with the NAV’s 1-gigabit products, an IT department can dial in the bandwidth (using a bit rate adjustment) at any rate from 40 Mbps up to 1 Gbps and with their 10-gigabit NAV products, IT can dial in anything from 40 Mbps up to 10 Gbps, depending on application and available network bandwidth. Extron says it’s a truly linear adjustment, too — there aren’t pre-set rates, like most other AV-over-IP systems out there. I would think this will be something IT departments will like because it will let them protect their network bandwidth by calling them to set the limits/constraints on video over the network.
I had the chance to test an actual set of production-based NAV Systems for the last month. I will write more about what I saw and my own personal tests (which, in my opinion, have convinced me that an industry-wide testing standard will need to be developed) later but, for now, I will say that what Extron is doing with bit rate efficiency is something that IT teams will like. I tested the 1-gigabit NAV side-by-side with the current generation of SVSi and Crestron NVX encoders and decoders and in addition to actually seeing a difference in visual performance (this was, of course, subjective based on the content I used — but, remember, you’re converting 12-gigabit to 18-gigabit 4K signals to 1-gigabit, so it’s relative), the NAV, no matter the content however, used less network bandwidth (anywhere from 40-60 percent less). Yes, I suspect there will be industry doubters out there, but I not only saw this with my own critical eyes, but I also tested all three of them side-by-side with my own content. I welcome doing this again, PUBLICLY, with any and all of the companies in the 1-gigabit space (including, but not limited to, Extron, Crestron and AMX/SVSi) so they can have the opportunity to show you (the readers) if I am wrong. But, again, let’s do it publicly for the entire industry to see — we can even stream it, live! Maybe an AV-over-IP shoot-out? Anyone?
In the case of the 10-gigabit NAV, I tested this side by side with the ZeeVee product (SDVoE) and, quality-wise, they were visually identical. The difference came in the way the NAV used less network bandwidth (about 25 percent less) to gain the same image quality. I certainly didn’t test all of the 10-gigabit systems out there so this could, very well, be an anomaly with the ZeeVee system. Again, I welcome a public test for the entire industry to benefit from.
With regard to interoperability (a big issue in the IT world), Extron’s NAV Series is also, currently to my knowledge, the only streaming family that offers both 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps encoders and decoders with interoperability across both systems. So, you can populate the same network with both 1-gigabit and 10-giabit encoders and decoders and have full interoperability on the same network. Like most the AV-over-IP systems, NAV can be deployed as an IP-based video and audio “virtual” matrix, combining an IP-based system with the video and audio switching features found in conventional matrix switchers.
In addition to the 1-gigabit and 10-gigabit encoders and decoders, the NAV Series’ NAVigator System Manager is an interface for centralized management, configuration and control of NAV systems. NAVigator facilitates setup and configuration, and offers features for monitoring, diagnostics and troubleshooting. NAVigator’s web interface supports HTTPS — Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. All communications between the manager and endpoints is encrypted with SSH — Secure Shell protocol.
NAV encoders and decoders support analog audio, embedded digital HDMI audio and AES67 audio-over-IP, facilitating integration with DMP 128 Plus audio DSPs or other IP-enabled audio components. NAV systems are compliant with HDCP 2.2 for transmission of UHD content encrypted with the HDCP standard. The input to all NAV encoders is HDMI and audio (with a control port) and the output is the 1-gigabit or 10-gigabit network port. The decoders take the network signal and convert it back to HDMI and audio for the connected displays.
Extron’s microsite for the NAV Series is here.
Click the image below to listen to a podcast to learn all about NAV.