Hands On: Peerless HD Flow Wireless High Def.
Easy-to-use product lets you cut the HDMI cord.
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July 14, 2011 by Grant Clauser

There’s a time and a place for everything, unfortunately you can’t always find the time or the place to run a new HDMI cable clear across your house or your ceiling to hook up a home theater projector or a flat panel TV. Wouldn’t it be nice to connect said gear wirelessly?

Well, of course it would, but that’s like saying wouldn’t it be nice to get an actual photo of bigfoot. It doesn’t sound so hard, but then why don’t people do it every day? Wireless high def has been launched, tried, retracted and tried again several times over the past few years. A few TVs have been shown with wireless HDMI built in, but the concept has never really caught on commercially, despite how excited people get at the CES press conferences.

So let’s say I was slightly skeptical when the Peerless HD Flow product showed up. Peerless primarily makes mounts for projectors and flat panel TVs, so why should the company care about wireless high-def transmission? Probably because if it were easier to get signals anywhere in the house, people would be more likely to put projectors and TVs anywhere in the house.

So it was with those things in mind, that I spent some time with a Peerless HD Flow (model HDS100). It’s a two-piece system (transmitter and receiver) for sending audio and video signals up to 131 feet via a dedicated 802.11n, 5-GHz network. 

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The transmitter includes two HDMI inputs, plus component and composite (who uses that?). There’s also an IR port for connecting an IR adapter, which allows you to control the source device from the receiver location—neat.

I hooked up both a Blu-ray player and a Verizon set-top-box to the HD Flow transmitter via HDMI in my living room, connected the receiver to a TV on another floor of the house, then let them sync up to see what would happen.

Um, nothing happened. I turned it on and off again. Tried different ports. Shook the units. Still nothing. All the proper lights were winking and blinking (actually, they were steady, which was the correct state). Then, getting a little desperate, I tried switching a cable. Viola! Of all the things to go wrong with an wireless HDMI system, was the darn HDMI cable between the receiver and the TV. Once I put in a new cable, all was good. I had a 1080p picture with 5.1 audio on the basement TV.

I was especially pleased with the ability to remotely control the distant source components. The IR cable connects to a port in the back of the transmitter, then you rope the wire around to your sources and stick the flasher onto the front of your source components (up to three). The IR flashers worked, meaning I had basic control over the remote sources.

So what are the trade-offs? Picture quality wasn’t quite perfect, but it was pretty good (if you add receivers to feed multiple TVs then you take hits on resolution).

But the biggest trade-off, and the one that so far is preventing more systems like this from showing up in every home, is the cost. The HD Flow basic kit costs almost $400. A second Blu-ray player and set-top-box would be cheaper. Other systems cost about the same. So for now, wireless HD transmission is more about convenience—to solve specific and insurmountable installation problems—than it is about cost. If you have no other way to get an HDMI cable to your TV or projector, a wireless solution like this one will work.

Another thought, considering it’s July and we’re all spending lot of time outside, is that the HD Flow makes a great solution for outdoor AV systems. Rather than figuring out the nasty cabling to get a TV and Blu-ray signal to the deck, just hook up one of these. Then copy the codes from the original source components onto a learning remote, and you’re all set for a backyard movie night.

While pricey, the system works as promised, and is a problem solver. However, I’d like to see a wireless HD standard that would then lead to more products with embedded transmitters and receivers. That would be game-changing.

Peerless HD Flow
$388
http://www.hdflow.com

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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