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Review: Matrox Monarch HD

Streaming and high-quality recording capability at an affordable price

Matrox’s Monarch HD is designed for teachers and lecturers who want to stream live lessons and at the same time record a higher quality version, which can then be used as a reference for students. As lecture capture and flipped learning grow in popularity, the demand and relevance of the facilitating technology, such as this, is bound to grow.

The first thing to note about the Monarch HD is its compact size. It’s roughly the size of a CD case, only twice as thick. Its front and back are busy with various inputs and outputs, including two USB ports, an SD card slot, a LAN port, HDMI in and HDMI out, plus audio in and out. There are also two buttons – one to activate streaming and one to start the recording function.

By separating the task of recording from streaming in a single integrated unit, the Monarch HD ensures that the video provided to your content delivery networks is optimally formatted for streaming to your audience while you independently control the quality of the recorded version. The thinking here is: if an event is worth streaming, it is worth recording at the highest possible quality. The better the recording quality, the more flexibility you have to repurpose the content into a variety of post-event assets.

If you’re in the market for streaming/recording device like the Monarch HD, the chances are you already have access to image and audio capture equipment, as well as an outsource for live and/or captured content. The next thing users need to do, is check that the Monarch HD can access your network – for password protected streams there are three methods of authentication.

The Matrox Monarch HD generates an H.264-encoded stream compliant with RTSP or RTMP protocols. While encoding the video at bitrates suitable for live streaming, The unit simultaneously records a high-quality MP4 or MOV file to an SD card, a USB drive, or a network-mapped drive. It is remotely configured and controlled using any computer or mobile device with a web browser. Once configured, it can be controlled from pushbuttons directly on the unit.

There are a number of ways of utilising the Monarch HD’s capabilities. Users can stream to a network computer. This setup would typically be used to send a live stream to a web audience while simultaneously recording a high quality version directly to a PC or Mac on the same LAN as the Monarch HD. The PC, logged into the Monarch HD Command Center web page via a web browser, can be used to start and stop the recording and streaming operations at the beginning and end of the event. Alternatively, users can record to a USB drive, loop-out for local monitoring and stream to a mobile device to preview.

Because the unit doesn’t have an inbuilt hard drive, the extent of the recording is determined by the external device’s memory. Users can stream-only, stream and record or record-only. When in stream-only mode, Monarch HD can stream video at 20Mbps at any resolution.

There are lots of other features and attributes to discuss, but not enough space on this page. At £699 plus VAT, the Monarch HD will prove to be excellent value for schools, colleges and universities that are looking for a streaming and high-quality recording device. As new approaches to learning move from ‘what can we do?’ to ‘how well can we do it?’ technology like this, at that price, will understandably grow in popularity.