Quantcast

The Best Wireless HDMI Video Transmitter Today

By Geoff Morrison, Wirecutter

If I were buying a wireless HDTV transmitter, I’d buy the $200 IOGear Wireless HD Digital Kit (GW3DHDKIT). This thing transmits 1080p video to a small receiver attached to your TV from up to a claimed 100 feet away.

If I were buying a wireless HDTV transmitter, I’d buy the $200 IOGear Wireless HD Digital Kit (GW3DHDKIT). This thing transmits 1080p video to a small receiver attached to your TV from up to a claimed 100 feet away.

I base this on multiple professional reviews, plus my experience reviewing multiple HD transmitters myself. (On top of that, I’ve been reviewing AV gear for publications like CNET and Sound+Vision for over a dozen years.)

The IOGear transmitter base unit has two HDMI inputs and an HDMI output. This means you can have a TV, transmitter and sources (Blu-ray, cable/satellite box, etc) wired up in one room while wirelessly sending the same signal to another TV elsewhere in the house. In my testing, and in that of others, there is no appreciable decrease in picture quality, except at very long distances—and even then, it’s only noticeable on really large screens.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the IOGear is that the receiver unit can be powered using only a USB port (which is super convenient since most modern TVs have USB inputs). This means the IOGear can draw power from the TV without extra wires connecting to a power outlet. This makes it easy to hide and an effective alternative to cutting holes in your walls to hide cables. Amongst all the models worth considering, the IOGear is the only one that has this ability. In the off chance that your TV doesn’t have USB, the IOGear comes with a power adapter too.

Who Needs This?

The products mentioned here are for the wireless transmission of HD video and audio signals from an HDMI source to a TV. There are three main uses for a wireless HD product:

  • If your sources are in a different part of the room than the TV, you can send the signal wirelessly instead of running long cables across the floor (or under the floor, or along the baseboards, etc). This is an especially common problem with projectors.
  • If you want to mount your TV on the wall, you need to run power and HDMI cables. With wireless, you only need to run power to the TV. The signal from your sources gets sent wirelessly to the small receiver box. In the case of the IOGear, the TV itself can often power this wireless receiver.
  • If you want to have your sources and TV in two different rooms. Again, the IOGear is a good pick here because it is able to transmit through walls and has a “local” HDMI out, so you can have a TV in the same room as the sources, and a second TV connected wirelessly to the same sources.
  • If you have equipment specifically with HDMI outputs (Blu-ray players, cable boxes, Apple TV and Roku streamers, etc.). This is not for products like Chromecast, or any of the Miracast or WiDi products (which wirelessly stream content from tablets, phones, or laptops). Those are a different category, these are replacements for HDMI cables.

Keep in mind though, there is a cost to the convenience. Wireless is always going be more temperamental than wired, taking a few moments to sync up (connect) and potentially/occasionally dropping out.

What Is This?

A few words about all wireless HDTV solutions. Pretty much every wireless HDTV product will transmit up to 1080p video from whatever HDMI source you send it. This includes Blu-ray (2D and 3D), cable/satellite, and gaming systems. Most will also transmit IR signals, so you can control the source that’s attached to the transmitter (like your cable box) while you’re in the other room with the TV. The current crop of wireless products can handle all current and near-future HD video signals—although they aren’t guaranteed to be “future proof.” They won’t do Ultra HD 4K for example, but it’s going to be a long time before you have one of those TVs in your living room.

Gamers worried about their twitch skills shouldn’t be overly concerned with wireless latency.

In my testing, there was no noticeable lag added to the system when using the IOGear. So gamers worried about their twitch skills shouldn’t be overly concerned with wireless. It is likely adding a tiny fraction of a second due to the encoding/decoding process, but it was less than what’s detectable using normal testing procedures.

The main differences between the various products on the market are the number of HDMI inputs on the transmitter, and the technology used to transmit the HD signal.

Warning! Jargon ahoy! There are two main standards for wirelessly transmitting HDMI signals:

  • WHDI operates on the lower 5 GHz frequency. This is higher than most Wi-Fi systems, so there is less chance of interference. It is also low enough in frequency to have decent performance through walls. The only drawback is that it requires a tiny bit of signal compression in order to function properly. But don’t worry: you won’t be able to tell the difference unless you’re using a huge screen over a long distance.
  • WirelessHD operates on the higher 60 GHz frequency. It’s able to transmit uncompressed HD video, but at the cost of reduced range and robustness.

It’s important to be familiar with these names because devices that use the same standard will function similarly to each other.

Take for example the DVDO Air, Vizio XWH200, and Rocketfish RF-WHD200. These (and others) all work on the WirelessHD standard and are capable of transmitting uncompressed video. Unfortunately, they only work when there’s no obstructions, such as walls or cabinets, between the transmitter and receiver. In other words, you’re out of luck if you want to place the TV in a different room from the sources. Worse yet, many cabinets will block the extremely high-frequency signal, so hiding your sources away in furniture won’t work either. In my testing, even walking between the transmitter and receiver can disrupt the signal. On the other hand, the IOGear uses the WHDI standard and is roughly the same price without those limitations. It’s a more reliable and better performer overall.

Models that use Wi-Fi, like the Actiontec My Wireless TV, are less common (and with good reason). In my testing I found the IOGear to perform a little better with less interference. Plus it has more HDMI inputs (and the USB power aspect). However, the ActionTec is one of the few solutions that allows you to add additional receivers, so multiple TVs in your house can all use the same sources. For most people, the IOGear is the better choice, but if multiple receivers seem useful to you, the ActionTec is worth checking out.

There are also other wireless technologies coming to market that aren’t yet widely available. For example, WiGig, or Wireless Gigabit, has the bandwidth to handle 1080p video (and then some). However, WiGig operates in the 60 GHz band, similar to WirelessHD, so it will likely have similar limitations.

Intel’s WiDi is built into laptops, and doesn’t have the anything-in-anything-out properties like the products here. It’s worth noting that if your laptop has an HDMI output, you can use one of these products to send the computer content wirelessly to the screen, though you’ll need to connect to the wireless transmitter via HDMI.

Praise for The IOGear

In his review of the IOGear and two WirelessHD products, Daniel Kumin fromSound+Vision said, “IOGear’s solution gets my pick as the mostest-for-leastest: best range, most functionality, nice ergonomics.” His only complaint was that it was a little pricy. But since his review, the price has been cut almost in half, which puts it in line with the WirelessHD products he didn’t like as much.

Mark Anderson from HomeToys.com concluded, “If you’re looking to locate a TV or projector in a place where it would be hard to run cables, or want to connect a TV in another room to you main home theater, the IOGear Wireless HD 3D Digital Kit could be just the ticket. It just worked flawlessly in all of my tests.”

An incredibly talented writer for HDGuru.com (who, coincidentally, looks just like me) gave the IOGear 4.5/5 stars. In a comparative test with three other wireless HD transmitters from an earlier review, he said of the IOGear, “Had the IOGEAR arrived in time to be a part of our initial review, it would have unquestionably won.”

Amazon’s average review rating is 3.8/5 from 76 reviews, one of the highest in the category. (The DVDO’s rating is 5/5, but with only 1 total review, this is suspect.) 46% rated it 5/5; 22% rated it 4/5.

Picture Quality, Distance, and Other issues

Like the marketing for any tech product, take the claimed “100 feet” range with a grain of salt.

Like all current wireless HDTV solutions, the IOGear isn’t perfect. Though I had no serious issues during my testing, a minority of Amazon.com reviews reported problems with transmitting distances. Like the marketing for any tech product, take the claimed “100 feet” with a grain of salt. In my testing, I could get a decent image with the transmitter and receiver at opposite corners of my small house, but doing so resulted in a noticeable decrease in picture quality compared to a wired connection over the same distance. In my review for HDGuru I noted that “There was noise, a graininess to the image, most noticeable along edges and in fine detail. On a small LCD screen, this wasn’t apparent, but blown up [on a] 103-inch [screen], it was very noticeable.” I estimated it reduced image quality by 20-25%, but that it was only really noticeable on a really large screen.

Keep in mind, these factors are going to vary a lot on the size and construction of your house. My testing was on opposite corners of my house, through three walls. I was impressed it worked at all. That said, it’s unfair to expect any wireless system to work flawlessly at the maximum advertised distance, especially with walls in the way. Also, on smaller TVs, like 50-inches and below, it’s unlikely you’ll see a picture quality difference even at long distances. In the same room, the image was perfect.

One other issue is that IOGear only has two HDMI inputs, so it can’t be used as a central HDMI switcher if you have more than two HDMI sources (an A/V receiver or HDMI switcher would be better for that).

A Possible Step Up

If you need more HDMI inputs and you don’t want to mess with an HDMI switcher ($30-$40), a potential step up is the Belkin Screencast AV4 (F7D4516). On average, it’s around $50 more expensive than the IOGear. It’s also based on the WHDI standard, so it performs similarly to the IOGear with a two more HDMI inputs. Chris Heinonen said in his review for Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity that he found the performance of the Belkin to be slightly better over longer distances and liked the extra HDMI inputs. He mentions, “For people with multiple walls in the way, the Belkin was the overall best performer of the three.” The DVDO was the third product in the review, but as I mentioned previously, it doesn’t go through walls.

However, the Belkin lacks a USB powered receiver (it requires its own A/C adapter), and does away with the HDMI-out on the transmitter (so you can’t run a TV in the same room as the transmitter). So you do lose a little bit, despite paying a $60 premium. If you like the idea of using the transmitter as an HDMI switcher, have more than two HDMI sources, and don’t mind the need for an second power plug near your TV, then the Belkin is a great pick.

Lastly, the cheapest (though more time-consuming) solution is running long HDMI cables. I recently bought 40′ cables for my lab. These have Redmere chips in them, and Monoprice sells them for a little over $62. Monoprice, if you haven’t heard of them, also makes our pick for best HDMI cables. The cable’s VW-1 rating complies with most in-wall safety codes (check local ordinances). Not as simple or elegant as wireless, but stable and cheap.

Another IOGear Option

IOGear has released a new Wireless HDMI model, the GWHDMS52 Wireless 5×2 HD Matrix, which at $300 is pricier than our current pick. It works basically the same as the old model, in terms of distance and picture quality. It uses WHDI technology, like our pick, and the receiver unit can be powered by your TV’s USB connection, also like our pick. But we can’t recommend it for everybody.

The difference is the transmitter now has four HDMI inputs, and one analog component input. Our pick has two HDMI and no component. Is this worth the $120 difference? Depends. If you don’t have a receiver for audio and HDMI switching, you have more than two sources (i.e. a Blu-ray player, an Apple TV, and a cable box), and want the simplest setup, yes.

However, you can get an HDMI switcher for around $20. Monoprice sells one for $25 ($19 on their site) that has three inputs. If you spend 90% of your time with two sources (cable box and Apple TV, say), this setup will save you $100. When you want to use the Xbox or other source, you would just have to switch sources on the HDMI switcher. It’s an extra step, but it saves you $100.

The Belkin Screencast, which also has four HDMI inputs, is $90 cheaper than the IOGear 5×2. However, the IOGear gets you HDMI out on the transmitter, and a USB-powered receiver with the IOGear. If you don’t plan on using the HDMI “pass-through” out on the transmitter (allowing for a TV in the same room with the transmitter and sources), and don’t care about a USB-powered receiver that can be powered off a TV’s USB connection, then the Belkin is the better and cheaper option.

Other Products We Looked At

Monoprice has a Wireless HDMI Extender for $141 ($133 on their website), which is cheaper than our pick. But it only has one HDMI input (the IOGear has two), and the receiver can’t be powered off the TV’s USB connection. If these two things don’t concern you, the Monoprice might be worth considering. It also uses the WHDI standard. I tested this product and found there was a little more noise in the image, and it didn’t work from quite as far in my house, but only by a few feet. The additional video noise is unlikely to be noticed on a normal-sized screen of 50 inches or less.

The Atlona LinkCast Wireless HD is an odd product. At first glance it seems cheaper than our pick, at $139. This is for one transmitter, and one receiver, which can’t be powered by the TV. If you want to add additional transmitters (one for each source, say, up to five total), they’re $115 each. You could do the HDMI switch type setup here as well, but, again, we feel the IOGear Wireless HD is simpler for most people — and cheaper if you want a multi-source setup without a switcher or receiver.

The Nyrius Home is no-go since it’s only HDMI 1.3, as in no 3D. Meanwhile, the Home+ seems to be the same product as the Monoprice (or more likely, the Monoprice is the same product as it). At $200 it’s more expensive than the Monoprice and our pick, despite having only one HDMI input. However, the Home+ adds USB transmission. This would allow the connection of a USB controller in one room (mouse/keyboard connected to the receiver) that would control a PC in another room that’s connected to the transmitter by USB and HDMI. This seems a rather niche use, so for most people we recommend saving your money and getting the IOGear.

The $400 Peerless HDS200 is significantly more expensive than our IOGear pick. It does offer two HDMI inputs, and two analog video connection options (component and composite), though. Unless you have analog video gear you still use like LaserDisc or Wii, you’re better off saving your money and going with the IOGear.

Peerless’s other product, the $230 HDSWHDI100, appears to be the same as the IOGear, with the addition of USB transmission. Like the Nyrius Home+ that also has USB transmission, this is only useful for people with a computer in one room that they want to control in another room.

It’s worth mentioning again: if two products use the same wireless standard (WHDI in the case of most mentioned in this section), they’ll function very similarly.

Wrapping It Up

For most people, in most situations, I recommend the $180 IOGear Wireless HD Digital Kit. It offers the best combination of features, ease of use and wireless performance.

This guide originally appeared on The Wirecutter on October 28th, 2013 and is republished here with permission.