Adventures in Sony X900A UltraHD with the Mac Pro

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OK, for our conference room we got a Sony X900A and boy is it a learning curve to get it working right. Here are some of things:
1. It was working fine and then I changed some of the network connections and to the FMP-X1, I know get a Cannont Connect to 4K Media Player. And there is a 4 letter code at the bottom. See http://community.sony.com/t5/4K-Ultra-HD-TV/0165-error-code/td-p/192075
2. Called Sony 4K support (they have a dedicated line at 877 619 7669 and the technician was super helpful. First the code at the bottom is *not* an error code it is a pairing code for a Sony tablet. Argh.
3. He says 99% of the problems have to do with the Sony TV not seeing the Sony media player. I changed the configuration and he recommends using the wired Sony TV connection. Plugging the thing into a router. That is something that does dedicated sub network and making sure both the 4K media player and the Sony TV are on the same subnet.
4. He says don’t use an Airport Extreme because Apple’s implementation of uPNP is funky. Wow, talk about being sensitive. The main thing is the 4K media player displays but it doesn’t and can’t talk to the Sony TV without network infrastructure. How sad is that that HDMI is not also a communications cable.
It sure does seem like the FMP-X1 is truly bricked. I can see a network connection. The LAN light is on, but I can’t ping it (it could be blocking I guess), although the Sony X900A does ping and even brings up a nginx web server when you try port 80. I don’t see the hard disk light going on. Sigh. I will have to try again with a non-Apple router and see if that is the problem.
The second issue is that in 4K UltraHD mode, our Mac’s just don’t like it:
You need to use the DisplayPort (see https://discussions.apple.com/message/24254767?tstart=0#24254767?tstart=0) because HDMI is limited to 9GBps which translates to 30 fps.
So you need find a DisplayPort to HDMI connector (Monoprice makes one, although ours didn’t work with the Sony although it works with other HDMI displays, the $40 Belkin is working now).
Also you have to be careful how you connect your 4K displays (see https://support.apple.com/kb/HT5918), but basically you only want one 4K display per thunderbolt driver, so you want to use ports 1, 2 and 5).
There is a software issue as well because with Windows, you can drive 4Kp60 even with a MacBook Pro Retina (see http://9to5mac.com/2013/12/23/new-retina-macbook-pros-can-drive-4k-displays-at-60hz-when-running-windows-mac-os-needs-new-drivers/). The issue is that the video driver actually has to manage two logical displays and interleave them. It has two 1920×1080 displays and uses that to make one image. This also requires that you change the settings of the displays themselves. This is called MST (see http://www.avsforum.com/t/1473062/official-sony-x9-xbr-55x900a-xbr-65x900a-owners-thread/4800) and means multi stream transport which is what the DisplayPort implementation of this is called:

  • For the Sharp PN-K321, you can modify this under Settings > DisplayPort STREAM.
  • For the ASUS PQ321Q, you can modify this under OSD menu > Setup > DisplayPort Stream.

The 4K/60 mode requires a setting that interleaves two displays and this works on Windows but not on Mac OS X Mavericks.  I sure hope Apple fixes this as they were pushing hard. Also, you need to have a special setting in the displays to turn on 60 hertz. They have instructions for the Sanyo and the ASUS 4K, but nothing else.
The Sony does allow you to push 60Hz, but apparently this is a special function of HDMI 4. It does this on an HDMI 1.4 port by reducing the color information in half. Their FMP-x1 player does this and is very particular about HDMI port 4 which is HDMI 2.0. This is because HDMI is limited as well and that port is actually a higher speed HDMI 1.4 port.
Finally even if you get to the 4K display, the screen is pretty much usable except to play videos:
2. Also, there is no way to turn on HiDPI so the screens are just tiny and you can’t see the user interface. Sad as this is basically the trick they played for Retina displays but this doesn’t seem to work.
The net of the above is that you can use a Mac Pro in 4K/30 mode only for the Sony X900A and the user interface components are so small as to make it useless. These are monitor side limits (Anandtech) as theoretically you can drive a single logical display with DisplayPort 1.2, but for current monitors you have to turn on MST in the monitor and then the driver (Windows only right now) will then actually think there are two logical 1080p monitors and send half the data to each. The new Dell Ultrasharp 24 UltraHD (UP2414Q) for instance doesn’t support Mac’s properly with its MST, so you are limited to 4K/30
The last set of issue is graphics acceleration. Mac OS X supports neither nVidia SLI or AMD Crossfire, so you don’t automatically use the two GPUs. In fact Final Cut Pro has special code to use one GPU just as a physics accelerator. How disappointing. Also in our benchmarking so far with WebGL, a MacBook Pro Retina 15 is doing 60 fps while the Mac Pro can only manage 42fps at 1080p. Not even doing high resolution. So more investigation is needed but its sad that under Windows running on Mac Pro, you do get both Crossfire X support and also MTS for true 4k/60 support. Anandtech says that under the current Mavericks release, one GPU is for display and the other for GPU processing. Final Cut Pro has custom code to use each, but don’t expect to automatically double frame rates a la consumer graphics systems.
And as another bug, Crossfire X even on Windows is broken on all AMD hardware except the latest GCN 1.1 hardware. And if you judge things by graphics performance on games (a very different workload than video rendering, games are oriented towards splatting lots of bits as fast as you can while video rendering is quite a different beast), you get 40fps at 2550×1440 on Mac OS X for Bioshock compared with 43 fps on a single R9 280 or for dual cards we get 77fps for an nVidia GTX 780 Ti and 100 fps for R9 280 X (eg a pair of cards).
Finally for grins, it would be fun to throw an OTA Antenna (see http://www.antennaweb.org/) for $20 and see how it receives HDTV over the air. (see http://www.channelmaster.com/Products_s/329.htm#SMARTenna) for a really cool looking antenna that is $50! And see Amazon for some reviews of others.
Other problem is that the inputs are quite asymmetric on the thing. Here is the decoder ring:
HDMI 1. This is the lone ARC port. This sends the audio from the television to an external audio device.
HDMI 2. MHL (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_High-Definition_Link) This basically allows certain mobile devices to charge from the television and to display up to 4K on it by tethering. Not sure how useful this is. You need a funky micro-USB to MHL connector and of course Samsung supports it.
HDMI 4. This is the one with the hack that allows 4Kp60 display but does require something to happen on the other side. Mac OS X as you see above doesn’t support that yet (called MHT).
Finally, the Mac Pro doesn’t output to HDMI or DisplayPort by default (see https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4134669?tstart=0). So you have to manual change this:
Goto System Preferences/Settings/Sound/Output and choose Sony as the output or hold down the Option key when you click on the sound icon on the task bar and you can do it in one place. Neat!

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