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Review of the WHDI Stick - Wireless HDMI on a Stick

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Amimon recently gave me a chance to review a new WHDI technology that hasn't hit the market yet, a WHDI Stick. WHDI is a technology which allows you to connect an HDMI device to an HDMI display wirelessly. Now this is possible with a smaller device than ever before.

The hardware I'm reviewing here is a reference design. As I get the names of specific products based on this design I'll update this page with them.

About the Device

This WHDI stick is a new form factor for using WHDI with a laptop or other device. It allows you to transmit wirelessly from any device with an HDMI out to your television using a device that's just a little bigger than a thumb drive. It plugs straight into a standard size HDMI port and connects to a USB port for power. The device supports 1080p video at 60Hz. HDCP is supported so Bluray disks and other protected content work.

Setup

Setup of this device is simple. You plug the receiver into an HDMI port on your television and into the wall for power. The stick is plugged into your laptop or other device's HDMI port and a USB port for power. All the cables you need are included. Like other devices using this technology, there aren't any drivers involved. As far as the TV and laptop are concerned, an HDMI 1.3 cable has been plugged in. I love the plug and play aspect of the device (and all WHDI devices for that matter). I don't have to fiddle with any settings on my television or laptop. I just plug it in and play a game. When the WHDI Stick is plugged in it only takes a few seconds to make a connection and start transmitting video.

Video Quality

The quality of the WHDI Stick is impressive. Mostly I use WHDI to play video games using my laptop connected to my television. In most games I can't tell the difference between using the WHDI Stick and using an actual cable. It's not just the image quality, but the response time. The combination of video quality and speed make this a great choice for games. If you look closely it is possible to see some image compression, but you'll have a hard time seeing it unless you're close to the screen and watching for it. I've been playing most of my PC games over this device for the last couple weeks and I'm perfectly happy with the quality of the image.

My PS3 also looked good using the WHDI Stick. I could see a little blurring at the edges of any graphic that had a sharp edge. The same is true for playing Bluray disks. I could see a little of the compression when I was close to the TV. Once I'm sitting back watching the movie though I don't notice. Given some distance from the TV it's hard to see the slight compression. The image is still clearly an HD image. Netflix on the PS3 looked the same as always. Netflix is already compressed much more so it's hard to see any extra compression the WHDI Stick might be introducing.

I also use this device sometimes when drawing the comics (doodles) you see on my website. The quality is great for what I do, but I can't draw much more than stick figures so I'm not exactly pushing the device in this realm. There were a few times I plugged the WHDI Stick into my laptop and just put the laptop under the bed. I just sat in my chair with a wireless tablet and was completely free from cables. It's almost like having a docking station, but without the docking station.

It's hard to catch the compression unless you have something like small font text. Eve Online is a worst case example. Having small text with a transparent background and moving graphics behind that is a difficult test case. The device handled Eve Online decently. The game is playable, which is impressive on its own. This was the only example where the compression was obvious and Eve Online is probably one of the hardest things to transmit wirelessly. The impressive part is that Eve was still playable and in all other cases I had to look for the compression.

I normally use an HP Wireless TV Connect which I am very happy with. The WHDI Stick actually gives me an even better image despite being much smaller. The compression is much harder to catch. You can still see some compression when you watch close (usually a still frame), but there is definitely less. I also had to give it more challenging scenarios to cause artifacting. While it's still not quite as good as using a cable (and most people probably couldn't tell the difference anyway), the quality is amazing considering I'm sending a 1080p image wirelessly without latency.

Latency

I mentioned this earlier, but I want to give it a quick repeat because it's important. I don't see any latency when using this device. I haven't seen latency with any WHDI device though so I'm not surprised. My games all ran smooth and I never felt any rubber banding or delay. To me, this is the biggest strength of the technology. For most uses latency isn't a big issue, but latency is a huge issue if you're playing video games. I would rather give up video quality than have lag between my computer and my screen when playing a game. Fortunately, with the WHDI Stick I don't have to sacrifice quality for speed; I get both.

Range

I couldn't get far enough away to cause any issues. The furthest I could get and still be in a room was about 30 feet (10 meters). The device documentation list a range of 50 feet (15 meters). I have numerous devices and multiple wireless access point using both 802.11g and 802.11n and it didn't seem to interfere. Most of my testing happened on a laptop that was connected to the internet wirelessly.

Heat

The WHDI Stick gets hot when transmitting. You can wrap your hand around it and hold it just barely. On the other hand, this isn't any hotter than certain parts of my gaming laptop get during video games anyway. I don't think I would want to leave this device in an always on situation without some kind of airflow though.

The receiver doesn't get quite as hot probably due to the larger size. It also doesn't get hot unless the WHDI stick is actually transmitting to it. I feel confident leaving the receiver plugged in all the time as long as it isn't actually receiving all day long.

Form Factor

The WHDI Stick is slightly larger than a USB thumbdrive. You could easily carry it in a bag or a pocket if you know a receiver will be available. The stick plugs straight into an HDMI port, but does require a USB port for power.

The receiver is a small block that plugs into either an AC adapter or a USB cable for power. It's similar in size to other WHDI receivers I've seen. It's small enough to carry in a bag with you, but I find the best uses involve keeping the receiver plugged into a display waiting for a connection.

Other Features

The WHDI receiver can connect to multiple WHDI Sticks. A small remote is included to help you add and remove connections. You can also use the remote to quickly switch between connected WHDI Sticks or to put the WHDI receiver into sleep mode.

According to the manual, there is going to be an update to this device to allow point to multi-point and multi-point to multi-point. This wasn't available at the time I wrote this, but I'll be watching to see when it is released because these are both interesting features. There is a USB port on the receiver to allow for updates to the device.

Conclusion

I use my WHDI device (The HP Wireless TV Connect) almost every day to play video games on my television from my laptop or to doodle on my television. The WHDI Stick improves the quality while shrinking the size. That's two wins. I've played hours of games using the WHDI stick. It gives me a good image while freeing me from running cables around the room. This is THE way to play video games wirelessly on your TV.

Last Updated on Friday, 09 September 2011 15:01  

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