By Joe Whitaker, December 27, 2012
Anything wireless can make an integrator pause, but wireless video can give us palpitations. So when I reviewed the DVDO Air wireless HD system, I didn’t expect much. I was pleasantly surprised.
The unit ($399 street price) arrived at the perfect time – one month after I had moved into a new place and had yet to find a way to connect my sources to my TV, without ripping up the walls of my rental.
DVDO Air comes from … wait for it … DVDO, primarily known for its video processing technology. The company was acquired by HDMI developer Silicon Image in 2000, so you know there’s some video smarts packed into the product.
The wireless technology is based on WirelessHD (WiHD), a 60 GHz solution for short-distance wireless HD video (not to be confused with Amimon’s longer-distance WHDI wireless HDMI). Silicon Image acquired the technology in 2011, so it’s no wonder that DVDO Air employs it.
I spied DVDO AIR at CEDIA 2012, but it seemed a little too good to be true: uncompressed 1080p video, 3D support and 7.1 surround. Then throw in CEC support, which I actually use a lot these days, it all sounded a little far-fetched.
Unboxing, Testing DVDO Air
Opening the box was a lot like opening any other box except for one thing: The good people at DVDO didn’t leave out any needed parts—something that is becoming a thing of the past with most manufacturers these days.
Included were both the sending and receiving units, the power supplies for both, HDMI cables for each end, and some mounting brackets for versatility.
Now, here’s the shortest paragraph I’ve ever written about an installation that includes HDMI:
I turned everything off, I plugged everything in, I turned everything back on. Done.
How does it perform? Honestly it works as well as a cable. The picture is on par with high-speed HDMI cables and the quality is definitely better than half of the HDMI-over-Cat5e/6 baluns that are out there.
There were none, and I mean none, of the usual issues with HDMI that most of us are used to. And to think this is all done in the air.
DVDO claims that interference is not an issue due to the fact that the product operates in the 60 GHz spectrum.
On the surface this makes sense since almost all portable devices and cell phones use lower frequencies. Same with Wi-Fi.
Even so, I tried everything I could throw at it—old and new cordless phones, about 15 cell phones, some laptops, ZigBee devices, and a host of other things, none of which blurred the HD video one iota.
And I tried yet another thing: testing the DVDO with an HP laptop that has WiHD built in. It worked flawlessly.
But what about legacy computers? I hooked the transmitter up to my laptop’s HDMI port and it worked right away. Using the display preferences on my laptop I could easily use any multiple monitor config available.
This made me think, however, what about those guys holding onto the past that have neither WiHD nor an HDMI port on their laptop? If you only have a VGA output, simply add a $50 VGA-to-HDMI converter to the already fair price of the DVDO Air and you have an easy-to-use instant conference room solution.
On the down side, I did come up with two shortcomings of DVDO Air, but given how well it works and how many problems it solves, I can certainly live with these limitations.
First, the DVDO Air transmitter and receiver need to be in the same room. The instructions say that distance is 30 feet (10 meters) “line of sight or bounce.” Since the word bounce just doesn’t sit well with me I went for line of site in my personal installation.
Second, the product can run hot. We know this simply by how well the product is vented. So keep that in mind while trying to hide the DVDO Air and make sure it gets some open space.
In the end this has to be one of the best products that I have ever used for wireless HDMI. It outperforms just about everyone out there, and with the ease of use and installation paired with a reasonable price ($399 street), why not?
One more wireless standard:
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This week, there was much talk about how a new technology developed by Netflix and Google would replace Apple‘s popular AirPlay technology.
Many felt that because the new technology, called DIAL (short for Discovery and Launch), is an open standard and already being integrated by a number of large consumer electronics manufacturers, it would replace AirPlay and a similar technology called Miracast.
But here’s the problem: The technologies are fundamentally different and built for different use-cases.
Let me explain. Where they are similar is both technologies are designed to get content on your big screen TV. Where they are different is execution. One, AirPlay, let’s you “throw” content from your iPad onto the big screen. DIAL lets you initiate a command from your tablet or smartphone to start a video app on your TV, and also sends the URL to the TV so the TV can access the video directly. Miracast, which is the commercial name for a screen-mirroring technology backed by the Wi-Fi Alliance, is a similar technology to AirPlay
Being able to mirror or stream content from your tablet (as with AirPlay and Miracast) is not the best way to, say, watch a movie on Netflix or YouTube. This is exactly why the two companies developed the standard and why TV companies are embracing it. But mirroring and content “throwing” to your TV IS valuable if you want to, say, show a video you captured on your iPhone, push Angry Birds onto your TV or show a powerpoint.
Hence the need for both AirPlay and Miracast in addition to DIAL.
And in case anyone doubted the technologies will coexist, my recent conversations with Vizio are an illustration of just that. According to Vizio, both DIAL and Miracast will be on all their new connected TV models by end of the year.
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The only video demonstration which I found coming out of CES is, I believe, the one Bill Ross also referenced. Someone playing Riptide with a wirelessHD smartphone throwing the content up to an HDTV. The only problem with this demo is that Riptide, which is a Tegrazone game, plays fine over wifi. Why should anyone be impressed that WirelessHD can do what WiFi can do? You can talk about zero latency all you want, but a demo should clearly demonstrate that WirelessHD can do something that WiFi can't. What I would like to see is a comparison video between wifi and wirelessHD with experienced gamers trying the two different setups and exclaiming at the end "WirelessHD beats WiFi by a mile." The only problem with this is that high-level, intensively graphic games are played with game controllers and Camillo has NOT SAID ONE WORD about putting WirelessHD into a game controller. Apparently, bluetooth is adequate for game controllers. I'm constantly hoping that management will one day put on a demo that clearly demonstrates the unique superiority of WirelessHD.
There is just nothing out there of any signficance for a review on WirelessHD, especially the Ultragig 6400 chip as part of CES or since. The 2 investor conferences obviously didn't peak analysts interest in the stock, as the stock price is still stagnating here under $5.00 a share. From their Analysts day last fall, Camillo said the WirelessHD/Ultragig market has 5-10 times the potential of MHL (if I recall correctly), but the stock price does not reflect the potential that mgmt sees. With the GiGig and WiFii alliance that has come together in January, I think the industry will go with established players/technology. I could be wrong, and I hope I am wrong, but nothing is pointing to the success of WirelessHD.
Joe Whitaker came out with a second review, even more positive than the first:
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DVDO Air Hands On:
Wireless HD I Never Expected
DVDO Air hits Europe at ISE 2013, delivering the best quality wireless HD ever experienced by integrator Joe Whitaker.
By Joe Whitaker, January 22, 2013
Last month I did a review on a great new product from DVDO, the DVDO Air. What I did not realize at the time was the potential of this product.
At CES 2013 I walked into a demo featuring the biggest names in home theater: Stewart Filmscreen, Kaleidescape and Digital Projection. It was one of those demonstrations showing off products you already know and respect and have probably seen a million times (I know I had).
Little did I know that DVDO was a partner in this demo showing the power of HDMI without wires. I just so happened to glance up and see a DVDO Air wireless distribution product in the mix. Seriously, these vaunted brands were trusting wireless technology to showcase a high-end screen, projector and movie server?!
The answer is you would have never known the difference. Pushing a signal comparable to a high-end HDMI cable, the DVDO Air was able to deliver all available content that was thrown at it. No wires, just Air!
This was an eye opener—HDMI may actually be a viable solution, even for this video snob. I have seen many manufactures attempt and fail to meet this standard or just come up with an “acceptable” product for tough retrofit applications.
The quality was astonishing. Any of the hiccups that HDMI can cause were not evident. I was actually a little taken back that I had not put the DVDO Air myself to this type of test. Honestly, I never thought to take wireless technology to this extreme, thinking I’d never implement it in a client’s home anyway.
My thought was that this product was perfect for conference rooms and other non-mission-critical areas where you just could not run a wire to a display.
Now I recognize that DVDO Air is a high-end theater-grade HDMI replacement.
Moving forward I will be promoting this product in our own business, but I will also now be paying more attention to those wireless technologies that claim to deliver the world. I now know some actually can.
And Europe, get ready for this game-changer. See it at ISE 2013 in the Home Cinema Europe stand, Hall 1 - N53. The company also will be demonstrating for the first time its new Quick6 fast HDMI switch
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I don't know what to make of Joe Whitaker. He seems to be an expert installer and is obviously in love with WirelessHD as the greatest wireless technology around. We need more confirmation from other sources. Why isn't anyone else doing jumpingjacks over WirelessHD and the DVDO Air?
That's the most positive review I've encountered regarding WirelessHD.
It doesn't overcome my reservations over WiHD. Afterall, WiHD products have been available on the market for a couple of years and still no traction. They're in living room adapters like the Vizio model, in projection TVs, in gaming laptops, yet it hasn't done a bit of good for SIMG except cost us a boatload of money.
That being said, if the perceptions of the reviewer became widespread and WIHD became synonymous with the highest quality wireless PLUS great ease-of-use, SIMG might have something.
That last point is important. "There were none, and I mean none, of the usual issues with HDMI that most of us are used to. And to think this is all done in the air." If wirelessHD is easier than wired HDMI, that's a big selling point, but I have trouble believing it.
For now, I'm looking at this review as a one-off.
There is no real traction, because Wireless HD solution has yet to be integrated into mainstream consumer products. Add on's like Vizio and DVDO are for techno geeks - electronic hobbyists and the Epson projector is a Corporate niche product. Remember Flying, people were saying the same thing about MHL when it first came out. But now with it being integrated natively into TVs, after the successful smartphone adoption it's off to the races. CES should be interesting on any analysts take on Wireless HD and you already see industry forecasts by 2015 into the billions in this area. The fact that they are sampling this to OEM phone mfgs is very positive and it looks like they came up with more than a viable solution and besides Silicon Image has a great reputation in the industry for sucessful products. I was skepitical about the aquisition, but I think we will be rewarded handsomely.