Wireless HDMI is around for a few years now, but it’s actually had trouble making the leap into mainstream consumer culture. In this article, we are going to talk about What is Wireless HDMI and should we use it? Let’s begin!
It brings the promise of wireless 1080p video on your TV along with no discernible lag or loss of quality. It also brings you one step closer to rid all of those cables lying all-around your house.
What Is Wireless HDMI?
Wireless HDMI is actually the generic name to transmit the HD video and audio from a source device. Such as a BluRay player, a PC computer, or a gaming console to a TV without any wires actually.
It is actually a literal replacement for the normal HDMI cables that currently connect all of your media gear. Well, you plug in a transmitter to the HDMI port of the source device. And then a receiver to the HDMI port on your TV, and away you go. There’s no setup or configuration for it. The two halves automatically detect one another and then connect it.
It’s really easy as plugging in a cable without any of the in-between hassles. The receiver and transmitter units may need power cables. However, some of the more recent models can draw power directly from the devices that they plug into.
The wireless range actually varies depending on the technology used, and where your TV and source devices are basically located. It’s normally between 10 and 30 meters, and in most cases, line-of-sight is necessary.
Most wireless HDMI products also include infrared ports, either built-in or via a dongle. That enables you to control the source device even when it is located in the other room. We can also use Wireless game controllers.
Alternative to HDMI Cables
HDMI cables have the standard medium to transfer high definition video for more than a decade. However, HDMI cables have some obvious drawbacks. A couple of unruly HDMI cables can also turn your entertainment center into a rat’s nest. And they can restrict your cable box or also game consoles to just a single room.
You have probably guessed this now, however, Wireless HDMI is a wireless high definition video solution that can also solve some of the problems associated with HDMI cables. You can also clean up your entertainment center, broadcast a single video source to TV’s all over your house as well. Or mirror the display from your phone or computer to your TV also.
There are a lot of Wireless HDMI products on the market and they are all really easy to set up. You plug a transmitter into the HDMI port of a video source and also a receiver into the HDMI port of a TV, and that’s all there is to it.
Why Wireless HDMI Is not Mainstream
Just like with most fledgling technologies, wireless HDMI has to deal with multiple, incompatible standards that actually compete with each other. So, for it to make the leap into the mainstream, the industry will eventually have to settle on one of these standards. Here are the main ones that you need to know about:
- WHDI. This one operates on the 5 GHz frequency, which is becoming more common among wireless routers. So maybe susceptible to interference. It actually has a 30-meter range and latency of less than one millisecond, so it’s really good for gaming. WHDI is basically supported by Hitachi, LG, Motorola, Samsung, and also Sony, among others.
- WirelessHD, or UltraGig. This standard runs on the higher 60 GHz frequency, which enables the streaming of uncompressed HD video and also lag-free gaming. But, the signal has a much shorter range and needs line-of-sight — not just walls. However, even furniture can disrupt the signal. WirelessHD’s supporters include LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba as well.
- 802.11ad, or WiGig. The 802.11ad wireless standard also supports the 60 GHz frequency and it can deliver speeds of more than 7 Gbps over short distances which is enough for 4K video. Managed by the Wi-Fi Alliance, WiGig Certified products are available from 2016 actually.
Bluetooth for Video
Unlike screen mirroring applications such as Apple AirPlay, Wireless HDMI does not need a Wi-Fi connection. The transmitter that you plug into your video source sends out a microwave frequency. And the receiver that’s plugged into your display decodes that mostly into high definition video. Think of it like Bluetooth, but for video actually.
Some (but not all) Wireless HDMI products actually have built-in IR transmitters. These transmitters allow you to use TV remotes in order to control devices from far away. These IR transmitters are important for a lot of Wireless HDMI setups. After all, running from one room to another for changing TV channels would be a pain in the ass.
Like any form of wireless transmission, Wireless HDMI is actually prone to obstruction. Most Wireless HDMI products work around the 5 GHz microwave frequency. That can get congested by Wi-Fi and cellphone signals as well. Thankfully, most new Wireless HDMI products use dynamic frequency selection in order to adjust to the least congested frequency in your home automatically.
However, when it comes to Wireless HDMI, latency is an unavoidable form of obstruction. A video signal has to be encoded, transmitted, received and also decoded before it displays. As a result, most of the Wireless HDMI products have a bit of lag.
The range of Wireless HDMI products is mostly the greatest indicator of their latency. Products such as the J-Tech Digital HDbitT, which has a range of 660 feet, tend to have a few milliseconds of delay. However, products like the Nyrius ARIES NPCS549, which has a range of 30 feet, are actually subject to a few undetectable microseconds of latency.
From now, you gamers have probably realized that wireless HDMI solutions are not good for broadcasting Xbox games around the house. However, they can be used to remove the HDMI cables from your entertainment center as well.
Wireless HDMI not the Global Standard
If Wireless HDMI is so cool, then why it has not replaced HDMI cables? Well, there are no standards for Wireless HDMI, and actually none of the expensive HDMI products that are on the market are compatible with one another. Companies can get together and push HDMI because of the new standard for home video. However, frankly, they have little incentive to develop technology that could be superseded by super-fast data transfer formats such as USB-C.
Right now, WHDI is actually the leading Wireless HDMI option. It also operates around the 5 GHz frequency and supports 1080p and 3D video as well. Sadly, WHDI doesn’t support 4K, and it’s prone to interference from routers and also cellphones. There was a push for global WHDI adoption a decade ago, and companies such as Sharp and Philips actually built WHDI receivers into most of the TVs. But these WHDI TV’s weren’t actually very successful, and the format then became relegated to niche status.
Some other Wireless HDMI formats have fallen by the wayside, that also includes WiGig, which supported 4K video, and WirelessHD. That had some decent data transfer speeds. However, there aren’t any new products that support these wireless formats, and they’ll eventually be forgotten as well.
Although Wireless HDMI can be extremely useful to some folks, it does not have a lot of potential for widespread adoption or practical use. There are a lot of problems with this Wireless HDMI, and unless you are trying to clean up your entertainment center or broadcast a cable signal into your basement. Then you do not have much of a reason to actually adopt the format.
What’s basically the biggest problem with HDMI? Its price tag. Most Wireless HDMI kits run for about $200, and they only contain a single transmitter and also a single receiver. You’d have to drop more than $1,000 to build up a decent army of Wireless HDMI products, and because they don’t support 4K. Then you might sacrifice some video quality in the process. Not to mention, most Wireless HDMI products can only communicate with one transmitter or receiver at a single time. Broadcasting a single video source to multiple TVs is just too expensive and difficult at the same time.
Latency is also another problem. TV watchers do not need to worry about a few milliseconds of lag, however, the latency added by a Wireless HDMI setup can make video games unplayable. There are many latency-free Wireless HDMI products for gamers, but they tend to have a range of almost 30 feet. So they are really only good for tidying up your entertainment center actually.
Of course, there are many situations where Wireless HDMI makes sense. Rather than paying the cable company to put a $200 set-top box in every room. You could buy a couple of Wireless HDMI sets to broadcast a single cable box all around the house. These HDMI sets should last you for a long time, and you can also use them for different applications in the future as well.
Wireless HDMI is also a very great way to clean up your entertainment center. If you do not feel like buying $1000 in products. Then you can always pair a transmitter with an HDMI switch, and effectively remove most HDMI cables from your entertainment center in just one fell swoop. Also, Wireless HDMI can make home projectors a lot more convenient, because you do not have to dangle any cables from your ceiling as well.
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