Wireless HD - The Next Generation of Connectivity?
Belkin, Sony, Gefen, Monster Cable, and others are offering a slew of new wireless HD solutions.
Wireless HD
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July 11, 2008 by Dennis P. Barker

Monster Cable has announced a partnership with Sigma Designs to offer their new “Go Wireless” product called the Monster Wireless Digital Express HD. This system includes a transmitter and receiver. It will reportedly upconvert older signals to1080p resolution, and also offers a fully integrated infrared (IR) distribution solution. The transmitter includes 2 HDMI inputs, 2 component video inputs, 1 S-Video/composite video with audio, coax digital, optical digital with outputs of coax digital, optical digital, F-connector for coax, 3 IR emitters, and a serial communications input. The input switching is IR controlled for advanced whole home control capability. The Monster Digital Express HD can be software updated via its included USB port. It is priced at $600 and will be available later this year. Additional receivers will be available at a cost of $300 each. 

UWB WiMedia
UWB (Ultra-Wide Band) has been linked to Gefen and Hitachi. This protocol, which has yet to receive worldwide certification, offers a maximum screen resolution of 1080i, and sends signals in a frequency range of between 3.1 – 10GHz. Reportedly, the range for this system is only about 7-feet within one room only with no obstructions. Humans can reportedly interfere with the signal also. 

While Hitachi has no wireless HD products in the pipeline yet, Gefen’s Wireless for HDMI Extender is expected to be formally announced at C.E.D.I.A. in September. It transmits HDTV signals from the sender (source) to the receiver (television) located up to 30-feet apart, supporting resolutions to 1080i. Based on ultra-wideband technology by Tzero Technologies, this system supports all HDMI sources and displays, outputting HDCP-compliant video. Wireless transmission speeds reportedly reach up to 400 Mbps, supporting even the most stringent demands of HD video. It will be priced at $499.

802.11n
Products utilizing 802.11n have finally started entering the WiFi marketplace, and will supposedly send HD signals around the house. 802.11n is currently an in-room solution only with a maximum range of 20-feet sending signals in a frequency range between 2.4 and 5 GHz. 802.11n has received worldwide certification. An 802.11n A/V cable replacement system requires heavy compression, e.g., MPEG-2, just to support 720p and 1080i. The cost associated with adding video compression codecs may make such a system impractical and even MPEG-2 may be insufficient for more bandwidth demanding formats such as 1080p.

Last year, Samsung offered their 94 Series of plasma HDTVs utilizing this technology. However, according to Samsung, those sets are being phased out with no current replacement models being offered.

AirHook
AirHook was developed by Radiospire, and the company claims to have the industry’s highest bandwidth wireless HD connectivity solution. At 1.6 Gbps, AirHook technology delivers what the company believes is the highest throughput of any product on the market to allow for the transmission of pure, uncompressed audio and video with maximum picture quality and no latency. Unlike WiMedia or 802.11-based wireless solutions, however, AirHook technology can transmit uncompressed HD video 1080p from a distance of over 15 feet. AirHook technology can reportedly scale to meet future industry requirements and is designed for use in any wideband unlicensed spectrum, including 3.1 - 4.8 GHz and 57 - 66 GHz. It also supports all major worldwide video formats. Reportedly, Philips has been evaluating Radiospire’s AirHook technology, but there have been no formal product announcements. And, with Philips TV to be manufactured by Funai in the future, it seems unlikely that this wireless HD solution will be incorporated into future HD televisions. 

What’s Next?
Who would want wireless HDTV and why? While the Belkin, Sony, and Monster products will hit store shelves in the coming months, it is uncertain if the viewing public will get excited over them. Wireless technology has always had problems from signal dropouts to simply not working as specified. Will these seemingly revolutionary products fare any better? It’s hard to say. We’ll see. Will they replace good old-fashioned wiring solutions? If the technology becomes stable, and works as specified, it may find its place in the home. However, any good custom installer will tell you that nothing beats a good solid wiring run. On the other hand, wireless HD will simplify some tricky installations and allow more flexibility in positioning TVs in a family/living room. So, like other connectivity solutions, it may find its niche. But only if it consistently delivers true 1080p high-definition signals.

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Dennis P. Barker - Contributing Writer
Dennis has been involved with Consumer Electronics forever it seems. His 25+-year career includes a 12-year tour of duty at Consumer Reports magazine, as well as stints as a product reviewer, market analyst, technical editor, and consultant for the electronics industry. He lives in Ossining, NY with his two children, one demanding cat and piles of A/V equipment.

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