Wireless HDTV

Everybody loves wireless, and a soon-to-be-hot item is the wireless HD display.  If we can have a wireless mouse, a wireless printer, and not to mention the unlimited Wi-Fi devices, then why can’t we have a wireless HD TV so we can put the huge TV anywhere we want, like on the wall over the fireplace?  The answer is that now you can for less than $500.  Think of the possibilities if the only plug you needed for your TV was a power outlet!

Wireless HDTV connections have come a long way in the past few years. Today there are now two competing standards: WirelessHD, aka WiHD which arrived in commercial products in 2009, and WHDI or Wireless Home Digital Interface consortium coming of age in 2010.  There are some proprietary solutions, also, but those will eventually make way for the standards.   You can buy products today that are compliant with the WirelessHD standard (WiHD); they use the 60 GHz radio frequency range, transmit up to 1080p at 60 frames per second (fps), and have a 33 foot range (10 m).   Alternatively, the WHDI standard operates in the 5 GHz radio range, like 802.11 N, and operates at up to 100 feet.  Both of these are HDMI and HDCP compliant and support HD audio (DTS and TrueHD) – that’s a pretty complete solution for any of todays HDTVs.  Except 3D – if you’ve got your heart set on 3D TV, the current products don’t yet support 3D pass through on HDMI yet.  The standards have been updated for 3D, but nothing in the store yet.

So far, I’ve seen products from Phillips, Brite-View, TruLink, Gefen, Rocketfish, Sony, Belkin, and Abocom.  For the most part, these are paired transmitters and receivers.  Some TV manufacturers have jumped onboard; LG, Panasonic, and Sony started selling a WiHD compatible TVs last year.  On the WHDI consortia are  Hitachi, Motorola, Samsung, Sharp, Sony and LG Electronics (among others), so you can expect that they will start offering TVs capable of receiving WHDI in the second half of 2010.

TruLink, Rocketfish (Best Buy), Gefen GTV WirelessHD, and Abocom are extenders that all follow the WiHD standard.  There are two switches from Gefen and Belkin using the WHDI standard.  Gefen’s Wireless UWB (Ultra Wide Band) kit is based on the first generation WHDI chipset by Amimon (only goes up to 30 fps) and has two HDMI inputs and one component. Belkin’s Flywire, one of the first 2nd generation WHDI devices available starting in July 2010, takes 3 HDMI and 3 component inputs and sends one of them to the receiver unit.   The Flywire looks like a well thought-out product.  The one player that seems to be missing from the band-wagon is the A/V receiver – that should be offering a wireless output solution instead of just an HDMI cable output.  There really is a lot happening in this area – new products are coming out each week!  Laptops putting out WirelessHD, new standards drafts, TVs with wireless built-in, etc.

So how can I use one of these today?  If you listen to your audio through an AV receiver/switch, then you probably would just want an extender to take the HD video signal to your TV.  If you listen to the audio through the TV’s speakers, then you could consider a wireless switch that would route all your A/V sources directly to the TV.  Some devices include a left and right audio signal with your wireless HDMI – you could possibly use that to drive the TV speakers as the front speakers of your surround sound setup.

Personally, I’m holding out my future wall installation for WHDI – it has a multi-room range of 100 feet and supports a broadcast mode to multiple TVs.  But if you need to install today, you can find a solution that is not too expensive.  Of course expensive is relative – if you think $30 for an HDMI cable is expensive, then this is not for you.

2 Replies to “Wireless HDTV”

  1. I’ve done quite a bit of research on this and I’m sorry to say that you’re incorrect on numerous points. Your stats actually begs the question: have you done any research on this at all?

    First off, the WiHD standard arrived in 2008. The company has been around since 2006, if not earlier, so I’m not sure where “2009” fits in.

    Second, WiHD has been able to support 3DTV since early 2010. (http://www.engadget.com/2010/01/05/wirelesshd-2-0-spec-speeds-up-to-28-gbps-to-make-room-for-4k-3d/)

    Then you go on to say that A/V is missing from all of this when WirelessHD employs the 60 GHz band, and was designed from the ground up to handle very complex HD A/V content, as well as data. Wi-Fi, on the other hand, is a general purpose technology for data communication, yet you’d rather hold off for WHDI?

    Do you even care about video quality? Because 802.11n isn’t going to compete with the transfer rate of 60GHz. Yes, the short range sucks and it can’t go through walls, I agree on that, but your article is misleading and full of inaccuracies.

  2. Thanks for your input, Spoon. Your perception of inaccuracies lies between the claims of the vendors and the actual products available today.

    The WiHD 2.0 spec that came out the beginning of 2010 is impressive, but until it’s shipping in a product, it’s just vaporware to the consumer (and to me). The 3D pass-through is not yet available in the current WiHD products. That’s also my point about WiHD arriving in 2009 – we first saw WiHD in products at CES 2009. Standards are only interesting until they are listed in the product specs – then they become significant to a buyer.

    I said that the A/V Receiver was missing from the wireless HDMI scene because there are no A/V receivers commerically available with wireless HDMI output. Hopefully that will change.

    Finally, I do care about video quality – I hate it when those blocks appear and the sound skips! But I can watch full 1080p streaming over my wireless 802.11n network without a problem. If WHDI claims they can push lossless 1080p @ 60fps over 5 GHz, then that’s for them to prove – show me the hardware!

    I do look forward to getting my hands on some wireless HDMI equpment and will gladly post about the findings.

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