Philips Wireless HDTV Link
It should come as no surprise that the next era of device interconnectivity comes in the form of wireless HDMI. We've already looked at a few products that offer this type of functionality, but the Philips Wireless HDTV Link is arguably the most consumer-friendly of the bunch. We first got word of the Philips kit back at CES 2007, and almost three years later it's finally available. While it provides great picture quality, easy setup, and lag-free gaming, its $800 price tag is too much to pay for the luxury of eliminating a few cables.
Like the Gefen EXT-WHDMI and the Sony DMX-WL1, you're going to get the best performance with this kind of technology when the transmitter and receiver are in the same room--even Philips' user manual suggests doing so. That brings up an important point: with these kinds of systems more than usual, we recommend buying from a vendor that offers a solid return policy in case it doesn't work in your installation.
The Philips device has an easy and intuitive setup process. There isn't much to do other than connecting the appropriate cables to and from the transmitter and receiver. Once you have everything connected and the power supplied, you're good to go. Simply powering on both devices instantly creates a link and there isn't a syncing process. The Wireless HDTV Link offers two HDMI inputs and two component video inputs (along with two analog audio inputs) for a combined total of up to four HD feeds.
The system comes with two devices, a transmitter (which your inputs are plugged into), and a smaller receiver that offers one HDMI out port. A 3-foot HDMI cable is included inside the packaging as well. Both devices require power and the package ships with two AC adapters.
Where you place the transmitter will depend on where the devices you want broadcast are located. Its box is small enough to be unobtrusive, measuring 10 inches wide by 1.85 inches tall by 5.75 inches thick. On top of the transmitter box is a power button and four input buttons to manually select which device is being broadcast. From here you can also switch wireless channels in case of any interference you might be getting from other devices on the 5GHz spectrum. All of these functions can be performed on the included remote control as well.
The receiver is even smaller (7.67 inches wide by 1.12 tall by 5.77 inches thick) and can be easily tucked away next to the HDTV it's supplying the feed to. Better yet, the system ships with wall mounting screws if you're looking for a real professional-looking installation. When synced to the transmitter, the onboard LED will glow blue, though we wish there was a way to turn off the light when it's not in use. Your only option is to unplug the device or obscure it with something, like electrical tape. The single HDMI out port will pass the selected input from the transmitter, be it component-video or HDMI connection, to the receiving device with both video and audio.
Like the Gefen system, the Philips can carry both of the major broadcast HD video resolutions, 720p and 1080i, as well as 1080p/24 that is common on Blu-ray Discs. However, it cannot handle the very common 1080p/60 format. People with TVs that can handle 1080p/24 should set their devices to 1080i output with the Philips, and select the 1080p/24 output mode. With this arrangement, the film (or other 1080p/24 content) will display at that resolution, while menus and onscreen displays will stay visible at 1080i.
In terms of audio, the Wireless HDTV Link can support digital audio at up to 3.072Mbps AC-3 in addition to DTS audio. In our real-world testing, we were able to successfully broadcast 5.1 Dolby Digital from both our Xbox 360 game console and PlayStation 3 Blu-ray player.
We tested the transmitter in two situations, one transmitting a game console and Blu-ray movie from across a room, and the other transmitting both devices to an adjacent bedroom.
During our testing, we were surprised to see that the Philips system did not lose connectivity a single time. In addition, we were very pleased with the overall picture quality in both the same-room testing and adjacent bedroom scenarios. According to Philips, the Wireless HDTV Link can work up to 66 feet and we were able to maintain a solid connection at 60 feet and through a wall. Sure, the picture quality isn't exactly what it would be with a hardwired HDMI cable, but the difference is certainly negligible.
As we mentioned, we put the Wireless HDTV Link through two real-world testing environments. During same-room testing, our only complaint was that the system could not control our devices like the Sony DMX-WL1 or Gefen EXT-WHDMI (both offer room for an IR blaster). Instead, to control a Blu-ray player from across the room, we had to aim our remote control at the device. An IR blaster would have been ideal here, though you could opt for an RF remote (such as the Logitech Harmony 900) to get the job done as well. This would involve adding the Philips IR codes on your remote so that you could properly switch devices when the receiver needs to broadcast from different inputs.
Our second round of testing had us broadcasting a video signal from a game console and a Blu-ray player from an entertainment center area to an adjacent bedroom. Impressively enough, the signal stayed strong throughout our full week of testing. Even more remarkable was the system's capability to provide virtually lag-free gaming across the two rooms. We tested the multiplayer mode in Modern Warfare 2 (a game that's not forgiving of lag) using a wireless controller in the same room as the TV, controlling a game console in the other room, and did not observe any discernable delay between the controls and the onscreen response.
While testing in this environment proved successful, we were a bit concerned with a few details. First, if you're planning to use the system for this kind of scenario (broadcasting from your entertainment center to an adjacent room), you will be unplugging a lot of wires every time you want to use it because you must have the source device plugged into the transmitter. A way to bypass the transmitter would be best here, but we'd imagine such a request would fatten up the device in addition to a possible price increase. Just know that while the system can work in this situation, it's not ideal. We'd definitely recommend the Wireless HDTV Link in the same-room environment or if you're trying to get a professional feel to your home theater experience with something like a wall-mounted HDTV.
Wireless HDMI isn't cheap and the Philips ranks among the most expensive in this product category with its competitors sitting in the $400-$600 range. Priced at about $800, it's tough to justify the expense just to eliminate a few wires. Even though we enjoyed the connectivity of up to four HD devices, we would have liked to have sacrificed one of the component connections for another HDMI port--the Sony DMX-WL1 has four, for example.
As the technology cheapens, we'll have an easier time recommending it to a mainstream customer. For now, the Wireless HDTV Link should only be sought out by home theater buffs where wireless HDMI technology is a must. Even though the Philips is arguably the most easy-to-use and best-performing device among those we've seen, an IR blaster, extra HDMI ports, and cheaper price on the Sony DMX-WL1 offers more value.