IOGear Wireless Audio/Video Kit
It's no secret we're inching ever closer toward ditching our cable or satellite television services in favor of Internet-only content consumption. With services such as Hulu and YouTube, the computer has become the video entertainment hub of the home. Getting that computer's desktop screen onto your television seems like the next natural evolution.
There are products out there that will download and display content on your television such as Apple TV and the Vudu BX100, but having the freedom of using your TV as your ultimate display is ideal. IOGear offers this solution in the form of the Wireless Audio/Video Kit for your PC. It may be expensive, but once set up, it's one of the easiest ways to get your TV to work as your computer's monitor.
Out of the box, the IOGear kit is a bit intimidating. Literally, more than a dozen wires, power adapters, and dongles need to be set in place for the system to work properly. Most of these accessories disappear after the initial process, and you should be able to hide most of them in your entertainment center. All this aside, IOGear provides you with everything you need (assuming you have an open VGA port on your TV).
First off, you'll want to install the IOGear software that will tell your computer to extend its desktop to another display. The process is painless and should complete within just a minute or two. A USB dongle with an antenna needs to be attached to your desktop or laptop to stream a signal to the display.
Somewhere near the back of your TV you'll have to place the video receiver--it's a small box with an antenna that requires power. It's only out-port is VGA (the kit also ships with a VGA to DVI adapter), so if your TV does not support those two interfaces, things get a bit fuzzy. You'll either need to purchase an expensive VGA-to-HDMI converter or another third-party device that will make the transition for you. Since VGA is an analog connection, a DVI-to-HDMI adapter won't work here. Luckily for us, our Samsung LCD TV had an open VGA port.
Once the rear video receiver is powered and connected to your TV (and you've attached your USB dongle to your computer), you should receive a video signal. The software in your Windows' system tray will offer various resolutions that can be displayed (up to 1,600x1,200 pixels). The quicker your machine, the easier time it'll have displaying larger resolutions. From that icon you'll also be able to choose the screen's orientation and whether you'd like it to mirror your computer's display.
Getting audio to work properly is an entirely separate process. First, you must connect the audio receiver to your computer via an included USB. This connection will install an audio driver onto the machine that will instruct the computer's audio to stream whenever that original USB dongle is attached. Confused yet? Fortunately, this is a one-time setup.
That audio receiver you have attached to your PC can then be hidden behind your TV where it will require power and an audio connection to either the TV itself or a receiver. Once again, we lucked out with our Samsung TV as an open 3.5-millimeter audio-in jack rested next to the VGA port. The kit includes a 3.5-millimeter to left and right RCA analog cables should you need to use that interface.
It may take a minute or two to sync up, but whenever your USB dongle is connected to the PC, it will then stream video and audio to both respective receivers.
After completing this somewhat tedious initial set up, you should be good to go from here on out. The software loads up automatically with Windows so you'll be able to plug and play whenever you pop in the USB dongle.
We were impressed with how well the kit was able to stream our laptop's screen to our Samsung LCD TV. Running at 1,600x1,200 pixels, the feed was crisp and clear, enabling us to read text displayed in our Firefox browser.
Hulu, YouTube, and CNET TV also performed well but we did have a few issues getting Flash video to play correctly in full-screen mode. For some reason, these videos would freeze once we entered full-screen mode. Oddly enough, dragging and resizing a window to almost full-screen width played normally. All other offline video played fine and our VLC player handled full-screen mode with ease. Of course, better performance will rely on your computer's speed, which will dictate how will it can play video at such high resolutions. You may want to bump down the resolution of the streaming display as your machine may have an easier time playing video at a lower resolution.
In terms of range, we were able to successfully stream video and audio from about 25 feet out until things began to get choppy. This seemed on par with the manual's claim of 30 feet.
As we mentioned, there are only a few products available with similar feature sets. One alternative to the IOGear kit is a SlingCatcher, available online for about $200. SlingCatcher can mirror your PC's screen on a TV (in addition to stream content from other Slingboxes), but it relies on a home network connection to do so. Unfortunately, it doesn't offer any wireless Internet connectivity, so you'll need to keep it hard-wired to your router. Also, it can only support a resolution of up to 1,024x768 pixels, while the IOGear can handle up to 1,600x1,200 pixels.
There's also the DIY approach to getting similar results. For less than the IOGear's asking price, you can put together a wired solution that can make use of your desktop or laptop's video-out ports. Most current laptops even have HDMI-out ports that you can simply plug into the back of your HDTV. Audio works the same way--you'll just attach a 3.5-millimeter plug from the headphone jack on your machine to your TV or receiver.
Going wireless is another story. There aren't any inexpensive ways to stream an HDMI signal, so you may want to try leaving your laptop next to your TV. This way, you'll be able to use a keyboard and mouse wirelessly that should create that same sort of desired effect. Of course, this won't mirror your Windows desktop, you'll simply be using your TV as your computer's screen.
Priced about $300, the IOGear Wireless Audio/Video Kit is definitely expensive. However, if you're not willing to try to concoct your own setup and a SlingCatcher doesn't sound right for you, this is definitely an easy way to stream your computer's screen to your TV. Setup may be a bit tiresome, but the one-time hassle is worth the trouble if you're thinking about ditching your cable or satellite service.