When at all possible in our ongoing pursuit of the digital lifestyle, we want to cut the wires. We use wireless controllers for our gaming systems, wireless phones for our communication, and wireless connectivity for our mobile devices. What about when we want to connect our notebook PCs to our HDTVs? Why are we still relying on a physical connection.
Getting rid of that cabled connection is the Diamond Multimedia WPCTVPRO, a comprehensive product that effectively lets you enjoy a wireless USB-to-HDMI link between your laptop and your TV, including full support for full 1080p HD. That includes audio support too.
Wirelessly Stream 1080p Full HD from PC to HDTV
The conventional thing to do would be to take a VGA cable and physically connect your laptop to your HDTV or projector. This poses all sorts of problems, of course, the most pressing of which is that issue of having a physical cable connect the two products. VGA doesn't handle audio either. Some people have migrated to using HDMI cables, but that still keeps a cable as your tether.
The Diamond WPCTVPRO is a natural evolution of the company's other Diamond wireless streaming solutions, which have been selling for about $100-$140. The main upgrade here is that you now have the ability to stream 1080p Full HD, plus 5.1 digital audio. This isn't restricted to multimedia, because your HDTV (or projector) effectively becomes another monitor for your notebook, just as if you did a physical HDMI cabled connection.
What's in the Box?
There are two main parts to the WPCTVPRO. First, there is a tiny USB transmitter that you insert into an available USB port on your laptop. The WPCTVPRO uses just USB 2.0, but naturally it'll work in a USB 3.0 port too. The second half is the wireless receiver, which connects to your TV via HDMI. Alternatively, there is VGA and 3.5mm audio on there too.
The wireless receiver does need power, so Diamond Multimedia has included a fairly standard wall adapter for that. Also included in the package is the installation CD, a quick start guide, and an HDMI cable. I thought the inclusion of the HDMI cable was a nice touch, considering how so many of these and other related products don't come with the cable. I found the packaging to be quite attractive and straightforward too; it's a cube that opens up in the middle to reveal the main components.
Installation and Setup
The setup process was surprisingly easy. While there is an installation CD included, you don't need it if you are going to use the WPCTVPRO on a Windows 7 machine, because Windows will automatically install the corresponding DisplayLink drivers for you. You may need the CD for Windows 8, but the necessary software can also be downloaded via the Diamond Multimedia website.
All I had to do was insert the USB transmitter into my computer, let Windows find and install the drivers, and accept the EULA. On the HDTV side of the equation, the wireless receiver gets the power cable and a single HDMI cable connection. When you first plug it in, the blue indicator light will flash until a connection is made with the packaged transmitter. Then, the blue light stays solid. The two parts come pre-paired out of the box, so you don't have to fumble through that process.
After that, you can access the DisplayLink icon in your Windows taskbar or you just use the standard display properties (screen resolution) settings to adjust the external monitor (your HDTV). The resolution should set itself automatically, but you can tweak it either way. The DisplayLink settings also have an option to "optimize for video."
Extending Your Desktop Without Wires
This is all very clean and simple. The build quality and choice of materials are quite good too, with the wireless receiver having a slightly grippy rubberized finish. That spot of chrome for the logo is a little on the gaudy side for my tastes, but it didn't bother me all that much.
You can see how a product like this is fantastic for boardroom presentations and that kind of thing, but it's also fantastic for the living room or the home office. Your HDTV can be good for browsing the web, for instance, without having a dedicated HTPC sitting there; just use your laptop.
HD Video Streaming Performance and Range
On paper, the WPCTVPRO has an effective range of "up to 30 feet," but that didn't really hold up in practice. I did this with two tests. The first was to stream at a resolution of 720p, both with simple desktop applications (like a word processor and a web browser) and with 720p HD video. With perfect line of sight, the video held up until I was about 10 feet away. Then, it got a little choppy. The difference is even pronounced whether I had the USB transmitter on side of the laptop (direct line of sight to the receiver) or the other side (with the laptop effectively "in the way").
The issue with line of sight is even more noticeable when you put anything in the way. As soon as an interior wall came between the transmitter and receiver, the signal didn't drop out completely, but the video was rendered unwatchable. It was terribly choppy. The range is even worse when streaming at 1080p. Even with perfect line of sight, the video would stutter horribly at about 5 feet.
In this way, the Diamond Multimedia WPCTVPRO is great when you are reasonably close and have perfect line of sight, but it seriously deteriorates beyond that. This isn't so bad in the living room if you have a laptop on a coffee table and the transmitter can "see" the receiver, but it may be problematic under other circumstances. If you must stream straight video files, a set top box like the Pivos AIOS HD Media Center might be a better fit, though its functionality will be much more limited.
MEGATechie Wireless Wonder or MEGATechie Five-Foot Faux Pas?
The Diamond WPCTVPRO is certainly a niche product, but compared to some of the other wireless USB-to-HDMI solutions out there, it's at least above average. The smaller size is appreciated, the 1080p support is great, and the user experience is easy to understand.
If it were not for the issues related to range and line of sight, this would be a great solution for all sorts of applications. You can more easily multitask on your HDTV, treating it like a second monitor. You can browse the web, watch local and online videos, share presentations and more. As it stands, though, you'll need to be mindful of that line of sight if you really want to use this for anything where you need a decent refresh rate.
The Diamond Multimedia WPCTVPRO can be found through a variety of retailers and e-tailers for about $110.