I use a BM Decklink Studio 4K and have no problems with HD, I don't do 4K yet.
I'm on a Win10 i7 PC
do I really need a specialised I/O card just for realtime playback?
The I/O card isn't for real time playback. It's to get the OS and GPU driver out of the signal chain so you can monitor the signal accurately.
Mercury Transmit will pass the signal from the sequence directly to such hardware, bypassing anything that might alter the signal and thus ensuring a proper viewing environment.
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everything from mercury transmit comes out REC. 709 hard coded. No way around it. Also, blackmagic doesn't support custom resolutions like AJA. something to think about. As for a proper viewing environment. True for interlaced video, but if you're not doing that, then a high end REC. 709 100% calibrated monitor with a spyder is no worse.