QoS, Protected Media, And Conclusion
Wireless technologies are anything but bulletproof. Many “best-effort” technologies will sacrifice quality as the link degrades. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Wireless Display. Intel recommends using the laptop in the same room as the Netgear adapter, but I was able to walk across the house with the notebook playing Microsoft’s Fighter Pilot clip in HD without losing connectivity or overall quality. What did change was the network utilization, which spiked up to 50%. Simply sitting on the desktop from that range roughly doubles network utilization versus same-room range. This is an example of the headroom Intel built into Wireless Display, should the technology need to cope with range or interference issues.
There’s another rub to take into consideration here. You can play all of the YouTube content, Hulu-based movies, and MP3s you want. But you cannot play content that requires HDCP, including standard DVDs or Blu-ray discs. Wireless Display reports itself to the operating system as an unprotected HDMI port, and given its wireless nature, I can’t imagine the technology ever becoming a protected video path.
I’ll start with what Wireless Display is not. It’s not a replacement for the HTPC you already have in your theater room. It’s not lossless, meaning whatever content you play on your HDTV will not look as good as it did on the notebook. And Wireless Display isn’t completely bulletproof. It relies on a wireless adapter shared between two networks, and it is possible to saturate.
What Wireless Display is, however, is an easy-to-use mainstream capability that you get as a “free” value-add when you buy one of the three notebooks selling at Best Buy (it’s bundled with Dell’s Studio 15z, Sony’s VAIO S-series, and Toshiba’s Satellite E205). Wireless Display is also being enabled by resellers building notebooks on Intel’s Spring Peak platform, which gives you more room to pick the components you want in a laptop. The adapter is available on its own for about $100 bucks, if you want to add other displays to the PAN.
You have to be comfortable with the quality (lossy MPEG-2 compression) and the usage model (fire up a video clip, kick back, and watch). Wireless Display fares amazingly in a conference room, where a presenter can throw PowerPoint up on a projector and flip through slides. It’s also great for home videos or picture slide shows—the big screen sure beats everyone crowded around a little laptop.
HDCP prevents playback of DVD and Blu-ray content, and that’s a real bummer. But I’ve enjoyed using Wireless Display for catching up with the few shows I watch on Hulu, and for families that are only really looking to sit down and watch TV together, this technology is a cool, convenient addition to a current-gen hardware platform that we weren’t expecting when we first took a look at the Mobile Core i5 and Core i3 processors.