WHDI to change indoor entertainment big-time

Amimon's demonstration shows how WHDI will change the way we watch movies and play games.

Playing back high-def movies and games from a handheld device on a large HD display is in the near future.
Lag-free wireless playing back high-def movies and games from a handheld device on a large HD display is in the near future. Dong Ngo/CNET

There are currently a few ways to display a computer's screen on the big TV wirelessly, including Intel's WiDi (which is part of Wi-Fi Plus), WHDI , and the upcoming 60Ghz Wi-Fi .

I've always been skeptical about the viability of these solutions when it comes to displaying high-def and interactive content, especially after seeing how Netgear's Push2TV , which is based on Intel's WiDi technology, shows a significant amount of lag, making it impossible to play games.

However, Amimon's recent demonstration proved that WHDI could seriously change the way we think about indoor entertainment. Amimon is a founding member of the WHDI consortium that makes chips that power WHDI-based wireless solutions.

The WHDI Stick from Amimon.
The new WHDI Stick PC-to-TV wireless solution from Amimon is currently the smallest device of its type. Dong Ngo/CNET

The company unveiled Tuesday a new WHDI Stick for wireless PC-to-TV connectivity and demonstrated it for me. The stick is about the size about a large USB thumb drive and has one HDMI male port that goes into an HDMI port of a computer (or any playback device that has an HDMI port); it also comes with a USB cable to draw power from a USB port. On the other end, at the high-def TV, there's a receiver that connects to the HDMI port of the TV. These two parts are paired together, and after that they just work as two ends of a HDMI cable, minus the cable itself.

The connection allows for instantly displaying everything from the laptop's screen on the TV without lag. According to Noam Geri, cofounder of Amimon, the actual lag time is less than a millisecond, impossible for human perception to detect. By comparison, the lag time of Intel's WiDi-based solution is about half a second, which makes it impossible to play even a simple  game such as Pac-Man.

Geri said this is mostly because Intel's WiDi, as with the case of Netgear's Push2TV, requires an ongoing compression, while WHDI transmits the HDMI signal directly. This also means that WHDI works with any devices that have HDMI ports, while Intel's WiDi only works with PCs with certain Intel processors.

During the demo, a few different movies were played on an HP Netbook, running Intel's low-budget Atom processor. Nonetheless, the wireless connection was able to display perfect content at 1080p resolution on a Samsung HDTV. I noticed there was absolutely no lag time, and the quality was superb.  

Amimon's demo on PC to TV wireless connectivity using its WHDI Stick.
Amimon's demo on PC to TV wireless connectivity using its WHDI Stick. Note: the photo doesn't do the picture quality justice. Dong Ngo/CNET

In all, I couldn't find anything to complain about apart from the fact that, well, you have to use a stick that sticks out of the side of the Netbook.

But that will be taken care of in the near future. Geri revealed that both HP and Asus have adopted the Amimon WHDI solution and it will soon be implemented as an embedded solution. This means computers from these companies will soon have built-in WHDI, much like how most of them have built-in Wi-Fi nowadays.

When this happens, you'll just need the adapter part that connects to the TV. Most TVs in the future, however, will also have built-in WHDI-based wireless receivers. And this means there will be no need for an adapter that sticks out or clutters the space behind your TV.

According to Geri, Amimon's WHDI solution can broadcast video and audio signals to up to 32 receivers at a time, making it a great solution for a TV showroom. The demo also showed that the solution works at a distance as far as 100 feet away even when there are walls between the Netbooks and the TV. The Amimon's WHDI solutions, including the WHDI Stick, support the latest HDMI specification, including the 3D formats required by HDMI 1.4a

The potential doesn't stop there. Geri also demonstrated a prototype that allows one to connect a Samsung phone to the TV for smooth movie playback and gaming. Now imagine when handheld devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, or mobile game consoles, have WHDI built-in; there will be less demand for full-size game consoles such as the Xbox or PlayStation. The console and the controller are now on your hand and you can use any big TV screen, wirelessly, to get your game on.

But that's the future for now; with existing TV and entertainment devices, you can have a real taste of high-def wireless entertainment with the WHDI Stick, which is now available for somewhere between $100 and $150.


About the author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

 

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