Best Wireless HDMI Systems
for home entertainment
A guide to available technology and HDMI wireless solutions
If there is one thing many are looking for in today's home entertainment is the convenience of wireless connectivity, from wireless speakers to streaming multimedia players, and yes... HDMI over wireless.
Wireless HDMI solutions are now readily available at relatively affordable prices to provide a solution not only in instances when installing an HDMI cable between source and display is not an option, but also when you cannot install your video source device close to your HDTV, like when mounting a TV on the wall.
In this article, we first look at the two main wireless technologies used to carry HDMI to help you better understand the pros and cons of each; we then discuss affordable wireless HDMI solutions in home entertainment.
An affordable wireless solution capable of carrying uncompressed 1080p video at up to 60Hz video and 5.1ch. audio over a 'claimed' 100 feet range.
Other features include a two-port HDMI switch, HDMI output on the transmitter unit, and support for power through a USB port on your display device.
There may be a hundred-and-one reasons why you want to look at the convenience of wireless connectivity. However, when it comes to carrying HD video, the main reasons for considering a wireless HDMI solution are twofold:
Exceeding the supported cable length:
As explained in the following HDMI cable guide, HDMI is designed to operate over a maximum cable length of 50-feet or 15-meters, this being dependent on the signal bit-rate and cable quality.
Instead, most of today's wireless HDMI solutions are able to cover up to around 75-feet without problems even though manufactures of wireless HDMI solutions often claim a wireless range of up to 100 feet. However, the latter has to be taken with a pinch of salt since one has to keep in mind that the specified wireless range is often that of a straight line-of-sight without any obstructions — walls, ceilings, furniture, etc., that would otherwise attenuate the wireless signal between the HDMI transmitter and the receiver. Generally, we find that in a typical home environment, the maximum supported wireless range without experiencing a perceivable loss in picture quality and signal drop-outs is 75% of the 'claimed' maximum wireless range.
Installing cables is not an option:
Even if distance between source and display is not the issue, there may arise instances in a TV or video projector installation where installing an HDMI cable is not always an option, say when the source and display are in different parts of the room, or even in different rooms in the house!
Often, passing AV cables through walls, ceilings, under floorboards, etc., is a project that is not only difficult to implement especially when not carried out as part of a whole-house renovation project, but also expensive and often calls for professional help. In these instances, the convenience of a wireless HDMI solution would often more than outweigh the added expense of a wireless solution.
But... there is a price to pay!
Keep in mind that there is always a price to pay for the added convenience of wireless connectivity. A typical wireless HDMI solution such as the IOGear wireless HDMI kit featured above would cost around $200. In contrast, a 50-foot length of high quality CL3-certified HDMI cable such as the Aurum Ultra Series costs $30!
Yet, it is not just a matter of the higher price. Carrying uncompressed high definition video over a wireless link is more demanding than carrying multi-channel audio and system control signals.
As you try to increase the wireless range, system performance starts to suffer as a result of the increase in the level of errors over the wireless link, leading to a possible perceivable deterioration in picture quality, and link dropouts.
In addition, there are also issues of HDCP compliance and system latency. Being an active solution means a wireless HDMI system should be fully HDCP compliant to ensure that the display device would not default to standard definition. On the other hand, latency is more important in gaming applications though with most wireless HDMI systems carrying uncompressed video over wireless, latency is typically less than 1msec. Be aware however that system latency may go up to as much as 20ms to 30ms with compressed video transmission.
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All wireless high definition video solutions will transmit up to 1080p video at 60Hz and multi-channel 5.1 audio from an HDMI source — 2D and 3D Blu-ray disc players, satellite and cable set-top boxes, and game consoles, etc., — over a wireless link to your TV or video projector. They will carry all forms of high definition video signals supported by HDMI, but will not work with the latest 4K Ultra HD resolution TVs. We do not think this should be an issue as moving to 4K is not like the move from 720p to 1080p; it will definitely take years for 4K to become the mainstream high definition video technology in the home. In addition, as stated in our article 4K Ultra HD TV Explained, 4K is made for the massive screen TV, not for the average 55-inch TV size found in most households.
Most will also include an IR-repeater feature or IR extender, to transmit IR signals over RF to your source device. This will make it possible to control the source device attached to the transmitter end while you are watching the TV at the other end of the room, or even in a different room.
However... The main difference between the different wireless HDMI systems available on the market does not arise out of the supported features inasmuch as the wireless technology in use. For example, picture performance, supported wireless range and latency are practically the same for all products featured in this article; this comes to no surprise as all three make use of the same wireless technology to transmit high definition video wirelessly. OK, there are minor differences in the supported features like power-over-USB or the number of multiple HDMI input ports, but these are mainly enhancements designed to help a sell product over the competition.
Available Wireless HDMI Technologies
There are two main standards in use today for transmitting HDMI over a wireless link - WHDI and WiHD. Price wise, there is not much difference between the two technologies, but each group possess different operational characteristics. This means that knowing the main differences between the two is important to know what to expect from available wireless high definition AV solutions.
WHDI or Wireless Home Digital Interface, is a consumer electronics standard for the transmission of HDTV signals over a wireless link throughout the home. WHDI operates in the lower 5GHz frequency band. It first made it to TVs in CES2011 but the first version was finalized in 2009. WHDI supports HDMI 1.4a, HDCP 2.0, and up to 3D 1080p 24Hz or 1080p 60Hz video though in this case, some light compression is necessary to support the full video bandwidth over the WHDI wireless link.
Latency delay is less than one millisecond and is said to theoretically support a wireless range of 30 meters (100 feet) through walls. However, our experience shows that this 100 feet range is only possible in line-of-sight installations with no walls, furniture, etc., between the transmitter and receiver ends. You should expect a noticeable degradation in picture performance and possible signal dropouts even at a distance of 70 feet between the wireless transmitter and receiver ends when there are walls and furniture in between.
Yet, it is worth taking note that WHDI is the only wireless technology for consumer applications supporting the transmission of HD video over such an extended range. In addition, the fact that most Wi-Fi networks operate in the 2.4GHz band means WHDI systems are less likely to interfere with existing wireless home networks. It is true that 5GHz-based systems do not support the same extended range as 2.4GHz solutions but they are still capable of acceptable performance through walls and ceiling. Furthermore, image degradation for HDTV signals carried over the wireless link is not something you would perceive on a 50-55-inch HDTV especially within the same room, or even in adjacent rooms installation; you need a massive size TV or video projection over longer distances for the level of degradation in performance to become both perceivable and annoying.
WirelessHD or WiHD, operates over the 60GHz frequency band and defines a wireless high definition signal transmission technology for consumer electronics. It is the equivalent of wireless HDMI, supporting uncompressed digital transmission of high-definition video, audio and data over wireless.
WirelessHD version 1.1 supports a maximum data rate to 28 Gbit/s compared to the 10.2Gbit/s of HDMI 1.3, all common 3D formats, up to 4K resolution, WPAN data, low-power mode for portable devices, and HDCP 2.0 content protection.
The problem with 60 GHz band wireless HDMI solutions is that these require line-of-sight between the transmitter and receiver, though non line-of-sight (using reflections off the wall surface) within the same room is possible at up to 10 meters or 33 feet.
This means that WirelessHD technology is only suitable for 'within the same room' applications. Equally important, you cannot hide away the transmitter/receiver in a cabinet, as doing so would often block the signal. Even a person walking across the room may at times disrupt the extreme high frequency signal transmission used by WirelessHD based systems. This gives WHDI technology an edge over WirelessHD when it comes to transmission reliability, transmission range, and better overall performance.
Other Wireless technologies: WHDI and WirelessHD are not the only technologies in use by wireless HDMI systems. There are a few systems that make use of 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi technology, thus supporting an extended wireless range, yet the compression used to carry 1080p60 video over 2.4 GHz is such that it introduces too much latency delay that may make such systems unsuitable in certain applications.
Other technologies suitable for wireless HDMI include Intel's WiDi (Wireless Display) and WiGig, or Wireless Gigabit.
Intel Wireless Display is a wireless display standard based on the existing Wi-Fi standard. It is designed to allow a portable device or computer to send up to 1080p HD video and 5.1 multi-channel sound to a compatible display over a wirelessly link; you still need a compatible transmitter and receiver via HDMI on your computer and display device.
WiGig is still not available but is expected to reach the market by 2015. It operates over the same 60 GHz band as WirelessHD and thus we expect this technology to enjoy the same benefits and have the same limitations as WirelessHD, including the same 10 meters line-of-sight limitation for the supported wireless range.
In this second part of this article, we discuss what at present are in our opinion the best three wireless HDMI systems presently available on the market, namely the IOGear GW3DHDKit, the Nyrius ARIES NAVS501, and the Belkin F7D4516. These are all plug-and-play systems that operate in a transparent manner to the user once set up; there is no software to install and all it takes is to plug in your source device to the transmitter and the TV or projector to the receiver units.
Though overall, we prefer the IOGear kit, each of these wireless HDMI solutions comes with its own unique features that may make one more suitable than the others to better accommodate specific requirements in the home.
The IOGear GW3DHDKit constitutes the best wireless HDMI system overall presently available on the market. Why?
The IOGear kit uses WHDI technology to transmit 1080p60Hz video and 5.1 multi-channel audio over HDMI using a wireless link up to a theoretical 100 feet away.
As stated earlier on in this article, the maximum attained wireless range is highly dependent on your home environment, so do not expect to get the rated 100-feet range. In our case, we managed to get up to 77 feet; still this is very good considering there were two walls and a ceiling between the transmitter and receiver ends.
At 77 feet away, we still enjoyed solid signal strength with minimal image deterioration and no dropouts. The image deterioration was hardly perceivable on a 55-inch HDTV at normal viewing distance; however, it was noticeable with large image projections. The image deterioration was mainly due to an increase in the image graininess resulting from a reduced bit rate between transmitter and receiver ends at the maximum working distance. This is the same as with your home Wi-Fi network; the farther away you are from your router, the less network speed you enjoy. Within the same room at 6 meters away, image quality was superb even with big 100-inch image projection, making the IOGear wireless HDMI kit the best pick in the case of a ceiling mounted video projector setup.
The IOGear enjoys a slight edge in performance over most other systems using WHDI technology especially when operating at the maximum supported wireless range. However, what really differentiates the GW3DHDKit is not so much the slight edge in performance inasmuch as the fact that this is the only wireless HDMI system that comes with an integrated two-port HDMI switcher and a local HDMI output on its transmitter. This makes it possible to still connect a TV at the transmitter end while enjoying the same HDMI signal over a second TV in a different room in the house. Complementing this added flexibility is a built-in IR repeater on the IOGear system that allows the user to control the source devices connected to the transmitter despite these are installed elsewhere in the house.
It is important to keep in mind here that all wireless systems introduce a minimal delay over a wired connection. This applies also to wireless HDMI solutions. If you’re planning on using a wireless HDMI receiver to feed your TV or video projector while operating a separate audio system straight from your source device, then your AV receiver should include some sort of lip-sync control, otherwise the resultant lack of sync between the audio and video can turn out to be extremely irritating.
One final smart feature found on the IOGear kit is that the receiver unit can be powered via a USB port on your TV or video projector. This is the only wireless HDMI kit we are aware of having this feature. This is definitely a most welcome convenience especially with wall mounted HDTVs and ceiling mounted video projectors since you would not need an extra power outlet close to your display device, when using the IOGear wireless HDMI kit.
Bottom line: At under $190, the IOGear is in our opinion the one wireless HDMI kit that provides the best set of features and best overall performance at a price that is in line with the competition. It is no surprise that it is the IOGear GW3DHDKit the best-selling wireless media kit in its category, enjoying an average 4/5 stars in more than 95 customer reviews posted on amazon at the time of this write-up.
Nyrius ARIES NAVS501 HD 1080p HDMI Digital Wireless AV Transmitter & Receiver System with IR Remote Extender
The Nyrius ARIES NAVS501 falls within the same price bracket as the IOGear though at $200, it is just a bit more expensive. The NAVS501 makes use of the same WHDI 5GHz wireless technology to transmit 1080p60Hz video and 5.1 surround sound signal over a claimed 100 feet range with a latency of less than 1ms.
The NAVS501 is a follow-up to the slightly less expensive NAVS500 kit, with the only difference between the two being support for 3D and multiple transmitters on the 501. Otherwise, both units support the same wireless range and WHDI technology, and both have a USB port that can be used to connect the wireless receiver for a keyboard/mouse to control a desk top PC remotely. This means that in terms of overall performance, the 500 and 501 perform the same.
We did not test the NAVS501 but customer feedback posted on the amazon site for the NAVS500 version shows that at up to 50ft it is still possible to receive a reliable signal with crystal clear picture and 5.1 surround sound; however, at 65ft you may start experiencing signal dropouts — this being dependent on the obstructions (walls and furniture) between the wireless HDMI transmitter and receiver units.
The ARIES lacks the power-over-USB feature found on the IOGear and also the multiple HDMI ports on its transmitter, but then it includes the IR repeater to send signals from your source device's remote control over the same wireless link when the display and source device are located in different rooms in the house.
A feature found on the Nyrius but missing on the IOGear is a USB port on the receiver unit. Though this is mainly designed for firmware updates, it can also serve as a USB port for a Keyboard or Mouse connectivity when the sender unit is connected to an HDMI port on your home PC - thus giving you control of your PC from your living room or entertainment room. In addition, the NAVS501 supports up to 8 transmitters to work with the same receiver unit, thus giving you added flexibility and convenience.
Bottom Line: While we still prefer the IOGear wireless HDMI kit as the one that offers the best set of features and overall performance, yet if your source is a desk-top computer, the Nyrius ARIES NAVS501 gives you the possibility to control your PC remotely from the TV room. This gives rise to a number of added convinces like the possibility to surf the NET and play online games on your big screen TV, or even stream content from a number of online services via your desktop PC, on an HDTV that lacks a Smart TV platform.
The Belkin ScreenCast AV 4 is the most expensive of the lot — selling online at close to $240. Its main key feature over the other two is that it incorporates a four HDMI port switch on the transmitter instead of the two found on the IOGear. However, unlike the IOGear, the Belkin misses on an HDMI output port on the wireless transmitter.
Like the other two, the Belkin makes use of 5GHz WHDI wireless technology but it has an edge over the other two when it comes to performance over extended distance between video source and display with obstructions in between; in this respect, it does even better than the IOGear. In addition, the ability to remotely switch between the different HDMI inputs on the transmitter is definitely a plus though the unit response in switching between the different inputs is a bit slow.
As expected, the Belkin supports up to 1080p 60Hz video, but while the other two can handle only up to 5.1 channel audio, the ScreenCast AV4 can transmit up to 7.1-multichannel audio.
Bottom Line: Though the Belkin ScreenCast AV4 is some $50 more expensive than the IOGear GW3DHDKit, yet if you need to connect multiple HDMI devices on your wireless HDMI transmitter, it is the one that can support up to four inputs, which you can label for ease of reference. It also supports a slightly better transmission performance when it comes to multiple wall obstructions between the transmitter and receiver end over longer distances than the other two. Like the others, it also includes an IR blaster to remotely control the different source devices, but lacks the convenience of power-over-USB or control over USB of your PC.
Conclusion: Nothing beats a hard-wired connection but...
Nothing beats a hard-wired HDMI cable connection for performance and overall value, but if you need to go wireless within the same room or even through walls, then there is definitely a solution to your needs.
All three wireless HDMI systems featured in this write-up have their pros and cons. Both the IOGear and the Belkin support multiple HDMI inputs; if performance over long distances is a pre-requisite, the Belkin is the one to opt for, while the Nyrius supports remote control of your desktop PC via a USB port.
Yet, as stated earlier on in this article, the IOGear GW3DHDKit is the one that in our opinion provides the best overall value and performance. In addition, its power-over-USB feature for the receiver unit is a smart power option that will surely come in handy in many home installations.
You may submit your comments on the wireless HDMI systems discussed in this article using the comments box here...