Wireless HDMI products have been around for almost a decade, but they haven’t gained a lot of popularity. But how does Wireless HDMI work, and should you buy Wireless HDMI products for your home?
Wireless HDMI is an Alternative to HDMI Cables
HDMI cables have been the standard medium for transferring high definition video for more than a decade. But HDMI cables have some obvious drawbacks. A couple of unruly HDMI cables can turn your entertainment center into a rat’s nest, and they can restrict your cable box or game consoles to a single room.
You’ve probably guessed this by now, but Wireless HDMI is a wireless high definition video solution that can solve some of the problems associated with HDMI cables. You can clean up your entertainment center, broadcast a single video source to TV’s all over your house, or mirror the display from your phone or computer to your TV.
There are a lot of Wireless HDMI products on the market, and they’re all pretty easy to set up. You plug a transmitter into the HDMI port of a video source and a receiver into the HDMI port of a TV, and that’s all there is to it.
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It’s Like Bluetooth, but for Video
Unlike screen mirroring applications like Apple AirPlay, Wireless HDMI doesn’t require 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 frequency into high definition video. Think of it like Bluetooth, but for video.
Some (but not all) Wireless HDMI products have built-in IR transmitters. These transmitters allow you to use TV remotes to control devices from far away. These IR transmitters are necessary for a lot of Wireless HDMI setups. After all, running from one room to another to change TV channels would be a pain in the butt.
Like any form of wireless transmission, Wireless HDMI is prone to obstruction. Most Wireless HDMI products work around the 5 GHz microwave frequency, which can get congested by Wi-Fi and cellphone signals. Thankfully, most new Wireless HDMI products use dynamic frequency selection to adjust to the least congested frequency in your home automatically.
But when it comes to Wireless HDMI, latency is an unavoidable form of obstruction. A video signal has to be encoded, transmitted, received, and decoded before it’s displayed. As a result, most Wireless HDMI products have a bit of lag.
The range of Wireless HDMI products is usually the greatest indicator of their latency. Products like the J-Tech Digital HDbitT, which has a range of 660 feet, tend to have a few milliseconds of delay. But products like the Nyrius ARIES NPCS549, which has a range of 30 feet, are subject to a few undetectable microseconds of latency.
By now, you gamers have probably realized that wireless HDMI solutions aren’t good for broadcasting Xbox games around the house, but they can be used to remove the HDMI cables from your entertainment center.
Why Isn’t Wireless HDMI the Global Standard?
If Wireless HDMI is so cool, then why hasn’t it replaced HDMI cables? Well, there are no standards for Wireless HDMI, and none of the expensive Wireless HDMI products that are on the market are compatible with one another. Manufacturers could get together and push Wireless HDMI as the new standard for home video, but frankly, they have little incentive to develop technology that could be superseded by super fast data transfer formats like USB-C.
Right now, WHDI is the leading Wireless HDMI option. It operates around the 5 GHz frequency and supports 1080p and 3D video. Sadly, WHDI doesn’t support 4K, and it’s prone to interference from routers and cellphones. There was a push for global WHDI adoption a decade ago, and companies like Sharp and Philips actually built WHDI receivers into some TVs. But these WHDI TV’s weren’t very successful, and the format became relegated to niche status.
Some other Wireless HDMI formats have fallen by the wayside, including WiGig, which supported 4K video, and WirelessHD, which had some decent data transfer speeds. But there aren’t any new products that support these wireless formats, and they’ll eventually be forgotten.
Wireless HDMI is a Niche Product
Although Wireless HDMI can be extremely useful to some people, it doesn’t have a lot of potential for widespread adoption or practical use. There are a lot of problems with Wireless HDMI, and unless you’re trying to clean up your entertainment center or broadcast a cable signal into your basement, then you don’t have much of a reason to adopt the format.
What’s the biggest problem with Wireless HDMI? The price tag. Most Wireless HDMI kits run for about $200, and they only contain a single transmitter and a single receiver. You’d have to drop more than $1,000 to build up a decent army of Wireless HDMI products, and since they don’t support 4K, 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 time. Broadcasting a single video source to multiple TV’s is just too expensive and difficult.
Latency is another problem. TV watchers don’t need to worry about a few milliseconds of lag, but the latency added by a Wireless HDMI setup can make video games unplayable. There are some latency-free Wireless HDMI products for gamers, but they tend to have a range of about 30 feet, so they’re really only good for tidying up your entertainment center.
Of course, there are some situations where Wireless HDMI makes sense. Instead of 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 around the house. These Wireless HDMI sets should last you for a long time, and you can use them for different applications in the future.
Wireless HDMI is also a great way to clean up your entertainment center. If you don’t feel like buying $1000 in products, you could always pair a transmitter with an HDMI switch, and effectively remove most HDMI cables from your entertainment center in one fell swoop. Also, Wireless HDMI can make home projectors a lot more convenient, as you don’t have to dangle any cables from your ceiling.
Will Wireless HDMI become the global standard for video transfer? Fat chance. But it could replace HDMI cables in your home if you can find a good use for it.
Sources: ActionTec, Wikipedia