Friday, November 5, 2010

Asus WiCast: Wireless 1080p to your TV

Since it landed, Intel's Wireless Display (WiDi) technology has been something of a mixed bag. There's a lot to mull over: you have to consider latency, the 720p limitation, being stuck with Intel HD graphics, buying the wireless box for your television, and maybe the biggest question of all, whether or not it's really practical. WiDi has resulted in a split decision here; Vivek is a big fan of it, but I have a hard time understanding why someone would deal with all these limitations instead of just plugging in a five dollar HDMI cable and calling it a day.
If we take practicality off the table and focus on the technology itself, we're still left with some frustrating limitations, and mercifully it's those limitations that ASUS seeks to ameliorate with their new WiCast setup. ASUS promises near-invisible latency, full 1080p video, and compatibility with anything that has an HDMI port. We received the WiCast as part of a review kit including two notebooks, but we felt it was worth reviewing on its own.
The setup is probably the biggest hurdle for the WiCast, because when you open the box you're greeted by a remarkable number of little pieces of hardware. There are the two WiCast boxes—the transmitter and the receiver—followed by two HDMI cables (one three inches long, which may be used either at the receiver or transmitter side), two AC adaptors, and a USB cable. At least there are no software discs and a fairly thin instruction manual.

Gallery: ASUS WiCast
The transmitter and receiver boxes are fairly similar; the transmitter's just the smaller one, but both have an AC adaptor, HDMI, and mini-USB ports. On the receiver the mini-USB port is covered, but it can be used to power the receiver if for some odd reason that's more convenient than just plugging it in. I'm going to assume your television is stationary, though, which means there's a reasonably close power outlet. For the receiver, though, the USB is probably going to be your preferred way to power the transmitter. Mercifully that means that the second AC adaptor isn't essential, but is just an alternative power source if your USB ports are all used up on your notebook/desktop/whatever.
That's honestly pretty much it, too. Connecting everything is fairly self-explanatory, and once you have your HDMI cables plugged in you're just about set. It's one of the nice things about WiCast compared to Intel's WiDi: there's no software to install or configure, and no hardware limitations outside of the HDMI port. That makes for a concise review, though: it either works or it doesn't. So let's see if that's the case.

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