Sure, there are a handful of wired solutions for getting audio and video off an Apple product like an iPhone or iPad and playing content on a TV or receiver. Only up until recently with the introduction of Air Play have users been able to stream content wirelessly, though the process requires Apple TV and a local home network.
Apple does offer a Digital AV adapter for the iPad that outputs through an HDMI port, but with wireless connectivity becoming ever more popular, being able to ditch any sort of physical connection is certainly the preferred method.
One of the first entries into the arena of third-party wireless streaming devices for Apple products is Bigstream, an easy-to-set-up product that can transmit content from various compatible Apple devices.
Priced at $100, Bigstream uses a set of dongles to wirelessly transmit audio and video without the need for a local home network. However, while we like how it sounds on paper, in practice Bigstream comes up short in a number of different areas. We used an iPad 2 for our testing of the Bigstream system.
As we just mentioned, setting up Bigstream is simple. A rechargeable transmitting dongle plugs into your device, which instantly pairs with a receiving base that must be positioned next to your TV and a power source. Transmitter and receiver need to be set to the same channel (there are three). Finally, a composite break-out cable from the receiving base is connected to a TV. And you're done.
The transmitting dongle has a built-in rechargeable battery that lasted throughout the two weeks of our testing without the need for a recharge. An included USB cable can be used to power and recharge the attachment.
While we were delighted with how easy it was to set up the Bigstream, we can't say we were thrilled with its overall performance.
For starters, we felt a composite connection was a little behind the times. Of course we weren't hoping for HDMI (right now, that wireless technology is just too pricey), but at the very least a component connection capable of transmitting an HD signal is almost prerequisite in this time of high-resolution phones and devices like the iPad and iPhone.
Alas, the composite wire is what we're left with and therefore netted less than desirable picture quality results. Since HD video cannot be sent across composite wires, all of our high-res content was dropped down in resolution.
After testing playback in three different environments, we found each unique climate rendered average or below results. Whether it was unwatchable static, interference, audio/video sync issues, or discoloration, nothing seemed to play back as we hoped. We'd occasionally get 5 to 10 minutes of watchable content, but sooner or later something would interject.
The only functionality that seemed to work reliably well was the slideshow in the photo app, though discoloration ran rampant here, too. Again, this was three different rooms with three different televisions. To be sure it wasn't our iPad 2 acting up, we also used an iPhone 4 in two out of three rooms--with no change in performance.
Finally, we think it's worth noting that the transmitting dongle that attaches to your Apple device makes the product bulky and awkward to hold, especially the iPad.
It's extremely difficult to recommend a product that performed so unreliably in our various modes of testing. At $100, the Bigstream is expensive and its ease of use is severely overshadowed by a laundry list of annoyances, shortcomings, and glitches.
While the Bigstream can boast that it trumps an Apple TV/AirPlay combo on features and functionality, having a reliable product is clearly more important. Not having to depend on a home network is a nice luxury, but the end result isn't worth the price of admission.
Perhaps wireless Apple device connectivity is still too expensive in its current form, which is why we would still recommend Apple's Digital AV connector for iPad owners. At $40 it uses an HDMI port to send HD content, though you'll be tethered by the length of the HDMI cable you supply.