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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.