Monsoon Multimedia Hava Wireless HD review: Monsoon Multimedia Hava Wireless HD

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.0
  • Design: 6.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Streams sources to any broadband-connected Windows PC in the world; built-in wireless networking support; great integration with Windows Media Center PCs; can accept as many as four A/V inputs (composite, S-Video, RF, and component) with pass-through; no host PC or monthly charges required; simultaneous streaming to multiple clients on a LAN; controls many brands of cable and satellite boxes and DVRs; excellent video quality over LAN, decent video quality via the Internet.

The Bad Only compatible with Windows PCs (so far); promised HD support has yet to be activated; software and remote control options aren't as polished or thorough as those on the Slingbox; recording function and Media Center streaming doesn't work outside a LAN; device is somewhat large and unsightly; just one audio input for three inputs; monopolizes the attached device during viewing.

The Bottom Line It's a little rough around the edges, but the Hava Wireless HD's combination of built-in wireless and Windows Media Center integration makes it one of the more promising Slingbox competitors.

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Whether you call it placeshifting or remote viewing, there is a small but growing number of products that let you watch your home TV from a far-flung location via any broadband Internet connection. Sony pioneered the field with its LocationFree TV products, only to be made the underdog by savvy start-up Sling Media and its rapidly expanding line of Slingbox products. And now a third player has entered the arena: the Hava Wireless HD from Monsoon Multimedia. Originally previewed at the January 2006 Consumer Electronics Show, the Hava is now available for $249 at Monsoon's commerce Web site, snappymultimedia.com.

On paper, the Hava Wireless HD one-ups the Slingbox with some worthwhile additions. First and foremost, it has a built-in 802.11g wireless capability, so it can interface with any existing wireless or Ethernet network (Slingbox is Ethernet only). Secondly, it integrates with a PC running Windows XP Media Center Edition, allowing you to record live streaming video on your PC when you're streaming inside your home (a standalone PC viewing application is provided for non-MCE machines). And finally, the Hava allows multicasting, which means that, within your home network, several users can watch the stream at the same while one person watches remotely via the Internet (Slingbox allows only a single viewer at a time).

Design and connectivity
The Hava Wireless HD looks like a big network router, measuring 2 inches high by 12 wide by 7 deep. Our review unit was a generic silver box with four green status LEDs on its front panel. And while it's one of the more homely-looking pieces of electronic equipment, giving Scientific Atlanta cable boxes a run for its money on the ugly scale, Monsoon has been tinkering with the design of the enclosure, so future models could offer a different look and feel (the guts of the box should remain unchanged).

On a more positive note, the rear panel is jam packed with more jacks than an average DVD player. There are composite, S-Video, and component inputs, along with one set of stereo audio jacks (red and white RCA connectors) and a screw-type RF input. You can feed as many as four sources to the box, including an unscrambled RF source such as an analog cable feed or an antenna, which takes advantage of the built-in TV tuner. But because the composite, S-Video, and component inputs share a single set of audio jacks, you'll need to purchase Y-cable adapters to feed them simultaneously. Likewise, you'll have to have the second and third devices powered off (or muted), or you'll get a mash-up of all the simultaneous audio streams. Alternately, you might use the second input as a video-only security camera feed--just plug in your camcorder. (By comparison, the Slingbox Pro has discrete audio inputs for each of its video sources.)

Rounding out the Hava's rear panel is a connector for the included dual-headed IR blaster, which remotely controls the A/V sources of your choice, such as cable/satellite boxes and DVRs. To interface with your home network, the Hava has both a standard Ethernet port (for wired connections) and dual wireless antennas.

The Wireless HD is the first of three Hava models. The lineup has recently expanded to include the $200 Hava Pro HD, which is basically identical except that it offers only wired Ethernet connectivity--no Wi-Fi. Monsoon is also planning to release an entry-level Hava Gold model (no wireless, no built-in TV tuner) for just $100. If the company meets that price point, it'll be the most affordable standalone placeshifting device to date.

Setup
Setting up the Hava is a two-step process: you need to connect the A/V cables to the video source(s); then connect it to your network, which involves installing the included software on a PC. Linking up with your home-theater components is just as straightforward as hooking up a VCR or a DVD recorder. We appreciated the pass-through outputs, which let the Hava sit innocuously in the chain between our cable box and the A/V receiver, without the need for splitters or monopolizing precious video outputs. Of course, as with any placeshifting box, the A/V source you connect to the Hava will determine how much you'll get out of it. A cable or satellite set-top box will let you watch all those channels on your PC, but a TiVo-style digital video recorder will provides the added value of accessing those great DVR features--pausing and rewinding live TV, watching previously recorded shows--remotely.

Once the Hava box is hooked up and powered on, you have to install the setup software on a nearby PC. The Hava boasts a pretty decent setup wizard; it wasn't flawless, by any means, but it did an admirable job of taking us through the process step by step. We installed the software on a wireless laptop (the Hava software is Windows only). The setup program logs in to the Hava itself--wirelessly--and asks you to input your network's wireless encryption key (it's WEP-only for now, but Monsoon is pledging to add WPA support soon). Thereafter, the Hava itself can access your wireless network, and you should be good to go. We installed it at least three times on three different PCs, and there were a few hiccups here and there--the process can occasionally "confuse" a PC's wireless card, for instance, and might require some manual intervention. But as far as wirelessly configuring a network device goes, it's among the more impressive and successful experiences we've had. In fact, it bested Sony's LocationFree LF-B20 in two big ways: the setup process was not only smoother but truly wireless throughout; Sony requires its unit to be connected via Ethernet during the setup process. That said, if you don't have a Wi-Fi network, the Hava works just as well via Ethernet.

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Where to Buy

Monsoon Multimedia Hava Wireless HD

Part Number: HAVA HDW Released: Oct. 15, 2006

Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Oct. 15, 2006
  • Connectivity Protocols IEEE 802.3u (Fast Ethernet)
  • Functionality digital video playback
  • Type digital multimedia receiver / broadcaster / TV tuner
About The Author

John P. Falcone is the executive editor of CNET Reviews, where he coordinates a group of more than 20 editors and writers based in New York and San Francisco as they cover the latest and greatest products in consumer technology. He's been a CNET editor since 2003.