Wireless HD has long been the dream of many home entertainment enthusiasts. Looks like that dream is coming true.
The dilemma has hounded many since the advent of flat TVs: hanging the TV on the wall made difficult when you realize you need to run wires from your DVR, DVD, and so on up to the TV. This unsightly jungle of wires certainly ruins the effect of a floating TV.
Sure you could hire a custom installer to run the wires through the wall, but how about going a step further? How about wireless?
Wireless streaming video isn’t new, but it has been wrought with images that stutter, lose sync with the audio, or disappear altogether. Understandably most people wouldn’t put up with this. So companies who have been slow to step in with solutions for standard resolution video are even more wary now when it comes to streaming high-def.
Still, when it comes to having a flat-panel TV up on the wall, there’s no denying the convenience of only having to deal with a power cord, rather than the host of multiple heavy duty AV cables needed for satellite receivers, cable boxes, Blu-ray players, game consoles, etc.
Additionally, this would eliminate situations in which the cabling presents installation problems (such as for apartment dwellers and others who can’t open up walls or ceilings). All of which points to the appeal of being able to transmit video (and audio) wirelessly from a source to the display.
Today there are media bridge devices (such as the AppleTV and others) which can transmit better-than-DVD resolution via a wireless connection. But handling a full high-definition video in real-time seems beyond the WiFi technology they’re using.
However, three companies, Belkin, Gefen and Monster Cable, have products available (or will be available soon) that fulfill the promise of wireless HD in your home. Deciding which one will best meet your high-def needs means looking not just at what the product is, but at the technology that each is using as well.
Belkin’s FlyWire consists of a transmitter and receiver and works with video up to 1080p/30 resolution, including 1080p/24.
Two models are being released—the $999AV69003 is available now, and the $699 R1 will be out early next year.
The difference between the two is that the R1 doesn’t transmit IR signals back to the base AV control (more on this later) and the R1 designed for in-room use as opposed to the whole house range of the AV69003.
No images have been released of R1, but expect it to look something like its big brother.
The transmitter portion of the AV69003 is small and unobtrusive enough to sit on a tabletop or even the floor—physically, it resembles a small DVD player minus the disc tray—with six inputs consisting of 3 HDMI, 2 components and 1 s-video/composite.
Designed with a “plug and play” mentality, you attach a source’s output to the transmitter box.
On the other end, you plug the receiver box to your TV via HDMI. This receiver is even smaller than the transmitter, and could easily be concealed behind a wall mounted flat panel TV.
The only connections are to a power supply, and then a single HDMI to your TV.
The FlyWire is powered by an AMIMON chipset which, according to the specifications, allows for wireless transmissions of uncompressed high-def streams at ranges of 100 feet and more, with the same quality as a direct HDMI cable. Along with the video, the FlyWire duo can transmit 5.1 and 7.1 audio. While it broadcasts in the 5GHz range, it is not 802.11n WiFi.
I got a chance to play with a FlyWire at this past Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. While I can’t speak to how it will work at maximum distance, the 20-30 foot setup they were running at their booth on the tradeshow floor worked flawlessly, and that’s with more interference than any home could possibly have.
According to Rob Fleck, Belkin’s product manager “AMIMON designed the wireless link so that any noise or interference is intelligently avoided by the network,” he says, “so FlyWire will automatically recognize when signal quality is not perfect and will change frequencies to find a clear channel. It also adjusts its output power to optimize channel performance.”
Fleck goes on to note that FlyWire prioritizes video and audio traffic to ensure that any momentary obstruction of traffic is unnoticeable by the viewer. For example it prioritizes link control and audio as most important, so there are no audio or video dropouts. It even prioritizes the different parts of the video itself that are most visible to the human eye over those that aren’t as noticeable.
Gefen Wireless for HDMI
The GefenTV transmits high-definition video (up to 1080p/30 or 1080i/60) and 5.1 multichannel or stereo PCM audio.
Physical setup is simple, and similar to the FlyWire: attach a high-resolution source (like a Blu-ray player, etc.) to one of the two HDMI or the one component input on the transmitter. Plug in the single HDMI output on the receiver to the HDTV or front projector.
The receiver also has a pair of analog audio outputs in case you’re converting the HDMI to your display’s DVI input.
The transmitter will auto-switch between the connected sources.A Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) compliant infra-red back-channel link will send your remote’s signals back to the source.
GefenTV compresses the signal using Analog Devices’ “lossless” video technology. Also called JPEG2000, which has been tailored to Gefen specifications and acts to eliminate artifacts and other image problems that can degrade the image.
To transmit the signal, the GefenTV uses Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology from Tzero Technologies, supporting HDCP-compliant video with audio at distances of up to 33 feet and speeds up to 480 megabits per second (Mbps).
Additionally, the Tzero platform is based on standards from the WiMedia Alliance and so is guaranteed to coexist with other WiMedia-compliant devices.
Additionally, UWB has a built-in interference immunity from other technologies such as neighboring WiFi networks, and Tzero’s digital signal processing cancels out surrounding noise, even where such noise is 10X greater than the UWB signal.
Monster Wireless Digital Express HD
The third device in our wireless roundup is the Monster Wireless Digital Express HD.
It has two each HDMI and component inputs, and a single composite/s-video input. Standard definition video can be upconverted to 1080p.
The transmitter accepts multichannel 5.1 audio through an optical or coaxial digital input. To control source devices, there are three IR emitters.
On the receiver end there is a single HDMI output along with optical or coax digital outputs for the audio.
The total transmission distance is up to 30 feet wirelessly (wired connectivity is also available with a distance of up to 330 feet via coax).
According to Tony Di Chiro, Monster’s director of new technology, a number of wireless A/V technologies were evaluated.
The Sigma Design’s Wireless HDAV technology was chosen, according to Di Chiro, as they feel it is the most reliable transmission method, along with it meeting Monster’s strict quality parameters.
HD multimedia is transmitted using standard-based encoding technologies over UWB, “with an Intelligent Array Radio (IAR) technology incorporating three antennas to deliver a stable and reliable wireless link uninhibited by walls, objects or people,” says Di Chiro.
Making The Right Choice
Deciding which device best suits your needs will depend upon the particulars of your own home theater. But with true wireless high-definition solutions now available, that’s a choice we can all enjoy making.
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