HDMI has certainly had its growing pains, but the connection is finally beginning to deliver on its original promise: a single-cable solution for delivering high-bandwidth, all-digital HD video and multichannel audio. HDMI is nearly universal in the home video market, present on all current HDTVs and Blu-ray players, as well as nearly all HD-capable cable and satellite set-top boxes; DVRs; game consoles; AV receivers; upscaling DVD players and recorders; and network video streamers such as the Apple TV. In fact, you realize just how convenient HDMI is when you come across a product without it–I’m looking at you, Nintendo Wii–and then have five cables (three component video wires plus two-channel stereo) instead of one crowding the back of your home entertainment system.
But one aspect of the HDMI promise remains unfulfilled: wireless HDMI. It’s an attractive idea, especially for anybody with a wall-mounted flat-panel TV or a ceiling-mounted projector: have all of your HDMI-capable gear running into an AV receiver or HDMI switcher with a wireless HDMI transmitter, and have the TV equipped with a matching receiver–thus allowing you to have all your AV sources across the room from the actual display. We’ve been hearing about it for years, but to date, there are few–if any–products that you can actually buy. Here’s a quick update on the wireless HDMI products we’ve heard about to date–including when (or whether) we can expect to see them:
Philips Wireless HDMI Kit: At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2007, Philips showed off a wireless HDMI kit that offered the promise of wirelessly connecting any HDMI source and any HDMI TV. It was due to be released in mid-2007, but the year ended with the product never materializing. In November, Philips claimed that the product had been delayed until 2008. However, our attempt to get a clarification from the company’s PR agency last week went unanswered, so we’re going to move this one into the vaporware column until we hear differently.
» Crave: Philips introduces new wireless HDMI kit
» CNET TV video: Philips Wireless HDMI at CES 2007
Samsung FP-T5094W Wireless Plasma: This is another CES 2007 product. This one wasn’t wireless HDMI per se, but it delivered the same de facto experience, thanks to a base station unit brimming with inputs that wirelessly transmitted to the standalone plasma panel. The product actually began shipping by the end of 2007, but the user reviews on Best Buy’s Web site complain of terrible lag when playing video games.
» Crave: Samsung’s wireless plasma TV snips the wires
» Crave: Samsung’s wireless plasma coming in November
» CNET TV video: Samsung FP-T5094W
Gefen Wireless HDMI Extender: The Gefen Wireless HDMI Extender debuted at the NAB show in April 2007, and Gefen even began accepting preorders later that summer. The product reappeared in late 2007/early 2008 with a different look, but it remains only available for preorder on Gefen’s Web site. Gefen’s press representative says, “The unit is still moving forward, but FCC and other testings still need to be completed.”
Belkin FlyWire: Despite the go-nowhere state of wireless HDMI in 2007, Belkin threw its hat into the ring at CES 2008 with the FlyWire. The unit one-upped the Philips one-in/one-out concept by including capacity for six AV sources, including HDMI, component, S-video, and composite ports. Originally slated for summer, Belkin says the FlyWire is now due in October and should retail for $500.
Knoxed Cablesson InfinityHD i90:Knoxed showed their Cablesson wireless HD in CEDIA 2009,this unit Up to 1080p@24fps/30fps, 1080i@60fps Picture Quality and 256-bit AES Encryption for Securing Video Transmission over Wireless.
While that list isn’t a comprehensive selection of wireless HDMI products, it’s enough of a cross-section to show that the technology hasn’t hit the consumer mainstream yet. Likewise, that complaint about laggy video could be a major hurdle for gamers if it extends to wireless HDMI products across the board, since even a fraction of a second is quite noticeable when doing any interactive activities. But with many of these products using similar chipsets and integrated solutions from vendors such as Amimon, don’t be surprised to see the trickle of wireless HDMI products become a flood just as soon as the baseline components and technology are ready for prime time.
British TV viewers will finally be legally allowed to use televisions with wireless HDMI tech in the UK this week.
This is obviously terrible news for fans of ugly lounge-cluttering wires but a superb announcement for everybody else.
So as of 27 July, we will finally be able to head down to our local HDTV emporium and (in theory, at least) purchase a wireless HDMI-ready telly.
“It’s great that Ofcom has moved so fast to clear the bandwidth for ultra wideband devices like wireless HDMI – and it shows regulators don’t have to be lumbering behemoths,” commented What Satellite and Digital TV magazine editor, Alex Lane.
“This is great news for anyone with a wall-mounted TV or a projector at the other end of the room from their HD source – no need to run a 10 meter HDMI cable around your walls. Expect wireless HDMI to be standard on top-end TVs at next year’s CES.”
The wireless dream
A number of major retailers, including Sony and Panasonic have already been showing off TVs packing in wireless HDMI tech, so you can also expect to see models such as the Panasonic Z1 or the Sony Bravia ZX1 in your weekend trawl around your local out-of-town electrical superstore sometime very soon.
TechRadar will, of course, be testing out our latest stack of Blu-rays with a wireless HD set-up as soon as we can get one in to test out.
We only hope that all the other wireless signals throbbing through our block of flats doesn’t cause any interference to the picture or sound quality, because that would totally spoil that recurring dream of a wireless lounge…
A wireless HDMI poster child bites the dust.
According to a press release from Belkin, it’s now official: the FlyWire, the company’s oft touted wireless HDMI transmitter, has been put down. A seemingly strong contender and one of the most well known wireless HDMI devices, it was an impressive, if expensive unit.
Belkin’s release states “We realize that its retail price of $1499 would be out of line given the current state of the economy. With that in mind, we’ve opted to halt production of FlyWire.” It seems though, that a $1499 piece of hardware designed to save a few cords would appeal to a niche market in any economy, and would still have an appeal to a lot of consumers.
To the disappointed and expectant purchasers of the FlyWire Belkin says “We know there will be some disappointed folks out there, but our end goal is to introduce products that are accessible and that make sense in the current environment.”
Belkin doesn’t seem to think there’s much consumer demand for their higher end product. With the recent release of cheaper, lower signal quality options, like the Atlona HDAiR, we should see a fairly telling indicator of how much demand there is for wireless HDMI technology.
HDMI is great- handling both high-def audio and 1080p video, it’s the default standard for connecting HDTVs and various components. If you have an Xbox 360 or a PS3 and an HDTV and are using anything other than HDMI (or optical), you are doing yourself a disservice. The cables themselves though, tend to be short or expensive, due to the spec and signal strength issues. That’s where Acoustic Research has seen a need, and filled it, with their HDP100 HDMI Powerlink System. It’s one of the only wireless HDMI solutions on the market, and uses the same idea underlying other powerlink devices, utilizing your home’s AC power lines and electrical outlets. It’s a simple idea- two boxes about the size of paperback books, one of which is a transmitter and the other a receiver. Single HDMI input and output mean that you’ll need to have settled on a single source, like a receiver.
Also, the system offers IR pass-through, allowing you some control over the distant source- a nice addition. The dark black boxes will blend in with any existing equipment, and the setup truly is easy- just connect the boxes to the input/output sources and power, wait for the link lights to flash, and enjoy. As a first-generation of a new product line, we were fairly impressed, but audiophiles will likely want to stick with cables. The video quality is just not good enough, with noticeable lag and frame loss, and a general choppiness that is hard to ignore if you are looking for it. We tried multiple output sources, from the PS3 and 360 consoles to a receiver, and tried using the box over long and short distances. In an apartment, or smaller house, you shouldn’t have major issues but beware that the system is not built for transmission over longer distances. In fact, the system had trouble between floors, but did work between nearby rooms. Also, the system only handles progressive signals- 480p, 720p or 1080p- and though that shouldn’t pose a problem for most people, it might be a dealbreaker for some… and complicates the process for those most likely to use the device. Overall, it’s a tough system to love at nearly $300, but it does work pretty well in the right conditions. Carefully consider the costs, check out sources for compatibility, and think about the distances you are trying to cover. In the right environment, the Acoustic Research Wireless HDMI Powerlink System would solve a formerly-intractable problem, and do it with a dead-easy setup.