Ditch those cables. Wireless is the way to be
Up for test are three of the latest wireless HDMI transmitters: Actiontec MyWirelessTV Multi-Room Wireless HD Video Kit, Vizio XWH200 Universal Wireless HD Video & Audio Kit, and the Rocketfish RF-WHD210 4-Port Wireless HD Kit.
Tested in room and throughout the house, find out if these cableless wonders really work.
I tested at 1080p using Blu-ray from an Oppo BDP-93. I tested them in two different setups. One placed the transmitter in one corner of my house, the other in the opposite corner (about 50 feet, through several walls). The Vizio and Rocketfish are designed for in-room installs, so I did this as well, with the transmitter in my rack and the receiver on my projector, about 15 feet, line of sight.
In all three cases, each device was able to send a 1 pixel on/off pattern (full 1080p resolution).
The Actiontec has an industrial cable-router look to it, but they’re small enough to conceal easily. While there’s only 1 HDMI in/out (with an additional out on the transmitter for a local TV), you can add additional receivers for additional TVs running from the same transmitter. They also transmit IR codes.
It uses H.264 compression for the video, which it does on the fly and according to Actiontec with “virtually no latency.” It broadcasts on the 802.11 WiFi channels so there’s potential for it to bump into other wireless traffic, but I was using my WiFi during the test, and didn’t see any hiccups. I did get a weird result when talking on my cordless phone near the transmitter, where the phone’s signal cut out. Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, but it was an amusing coincidence otherwise.
The MyWirelessTV receiver and transmitter take a few moments to lock together, but once it does the signal seemed fine. The farther the distance, the longer it takes to sync up. There were some additional compression artifacts visible, most noticeably right after a major scene or shot change (when a lot of the image changes at once). This, too, increased with distance. When used within a single room, there weren’t any noticeable artifacts. I wouldn’t say “no latency” but it did have the least lipsync delay of the three products here.
One aspect to keep in mind: the MyWirelessTV wants to get you signal, even if that means dropping the resolution. So if it doesn’t work at a certain distance at 1080p, it may send 480p instead. Switch the source’s output to 1080i, and it may work fine.
It worked across the house, though, so I’ll call that a win. The occasional compression artifacts were a disappointment, but in all it looked good and detailed, and no worse than what you’d normally see watching HD on cable/satellite.
The Actiontec MyWirelessTV Kit is currently $225.99 at Amazon.com. HDGuru.com awards the MyWirelessTV a ♥♥♥.5 out of ♥♥♥♥♥ heart rating.
The Rocketfish has a swoopier design than the Actiontec, but is still more computer accessory than home theater accessory, at least in the looks department. It was the only one in this bunch with hard power switches, which is nice from a power consumption standpoint. It has 4 HDMI inputs on the transmitter, and comes with a remote for the receiver end to switch between them.
Both the Rocketfish and the Vizio are designed for in-room transmission. Just for kicks (and because I had it setup), I tried them across the house. No such luck. They use the WirelessHD, or WiHD, standard. This operates in the 60 GHz range, well above pretty much anything else you have in your house.
One downside to WiHD technology is that it’s practically like using Infrared. You might be able to put the transmitter in a cabinet, but it is extremely susceptible to physical interference. I walked between the transmitter and receiver, and the picture cut out, only to resume when I moved away. To be sure I wasn’t crazy (or specifically, crazy about this) I moved back and forth. Sure enough, standing directly between the two resulted in picture loss. It resumed immediately as I moved. In-room and practically line of sight needed.
The picture, though, was perfect. No noticeable artifacts. There were a few frames of delay, so if you’re susceptible to lipsync issues (and your receiver can’t compensate), wireless HD might not be for you. If you don’t use a receiver (using the TV’s speakers), then I feel bad for you, but you’ll be fine in this case as the audio will get the same delay as the video.
The VRocketfish RF-WHD210 4-Port Wireless HD Kit is currently $199 at BestBuy.com. HDGuru.com awards the RF-WHD210 WiHD Kit a ♥♥♥ out of ♥♥♥♥♥ heart rating.
Vizio XWH200 Universal Wireless HD Video & Audio Kit
The XWH200 is much cooler looking than the Actiontec and Rocketfish, with a pyramidal shape that I wouldn’t mind putting someplace visible. Your tastes may vary. They’re a lot smaller than they seem in pictures; the receiver isn’t much longer than a Blu-ray case, the transmitter only an inch or so bigger.
In addition to sharing the WiHD technology standard, the Vizio also has for HDMI inputs, selectable via remote. After hooking them up, the receiver and transmitter synced immediately.
The XWH200 wasn’t quite as susceptible to interference as the Rocketfish, but if I stood directly in front of the transmitter, they’d lose sync. I’d advise against putting the transmitter or the receiver in a cabinet. They’re mountable, which I’d recommend instead.
Picture quality was great, with no visible artifacts. There was a lipsync issue, so if you’re using a receiver for your audio, and doesn’t have a lipsync adjustment, this could be an problem. It’s slight, and not as bad as the Rocketfish.
The Vizio XWH200 Universal Wireless HD Video & Audio Kit is currently $178 at Amazon.com. HDGuru.com awards the XWH200 WiHD Kit a ♥♥♥ out of ♥♥♥♥♥ heart rating.
Generally, given how cheap short HDMI cables are, I’d say just hardwire everything. It’s the most stable connection, and is always perfect picture quality. On the other hand, there are some instances where running wires is less ideal. Through a wall, for example is potentially problematic and expensive. Not just the labor, but in the need for better made cables (if you’re running wires through a wall, I don’t recommend cheap HDMI cables, too many potential problems).
That’s where wireless offers a solution. For similar money (or maybe less) than a decent long HDMI cable, one of these wireless transmitters would be an excellent solution. The Vizio performs and aesthetically looks slightly better than the Rocketfish, and is a bit cheaper. They’re pretty similar, though. The Actiontec is almost a different product, given that it can work quite a distance from the transmitter. This opens up far different installation possibilities. If you don’t mind a slight decrease in overall picture quality (due to the additional, but mild, compression artifacts over long distance), then it’s a great solution. In room, it’s better suited to installs within cabinets, though it’s possible there will be some interference with cordless phones (and maybe your house’s WiFi).
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