Wireless HD, WiDi, WHDI--there are so many ways to connect your notebook wirelessly to a TV from across the room, it's enough to make your head spin. But wait: There's yet another option. Warpia's StreamHD uses wireless USB technology to beam 1080p content from your laptop. This $159 device is also much smaller than competing devices, making it better suited for business travelers (on paper). So how does it stack up?
Like Warpia's previous wireless USB devices, the StreamHD has a small USB transmitter dongle that attaches to your notebook, and a receiver that connects to a TV or projector's HDMI port. We like that the dongle is much less intrusive than the transmitters that use WHDI technology (such as the ASUS WiCast EW2000 and the HP Wireless TV Connect). These solutions are not only larger, they also take up two ports on your notebook.
The receiver measures a small 3.5 x 3 x 1 inches, not including the USB dongle you have to plug into it. In addition to an HDMI port, the receiver has a 3.5mm audio jack and a S/PDIF port for 5.1 stereo. We especially like that Warpia includes not only an HDMI cable, but an optical S/PDIF cable, too.
In order to use the StreamHD, we had to install software via the included CD, which recommends you deactivate any security software during this time. Although it only took about five minutes--plus a restart--that's still more time than WHDI devices such as the HP Wireless TV Connect and the Asus WiCast. With those products, we just had to plug them in.
Warpia sets a high bar to stream 1080p video. You need at least a 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2GB of RAM. When we tried to install the software on a Dell XPS 15 with a 2-GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM processor and 8GB of RAM, we received a warning that the system "did not meet the requirements" to stream 1080p video.
In order to stream 720p video, you need a 1.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 1GB of memory. If your use is limited to, say, surfing the web and looking at pictures, you can get away with as little as a 1.6-GHz Intel Core Solo CPU and 1GB of RAM. However, if that's all you plan to do, the StreamHD is overkill.
We then installed the software on a Dell XPS 17 with a 2.30-GHz Intel Core i7-2820QM and 16GB of RAM. No warnings this time.
After everything was set up, three icons appeared in the tray: DisplayLink Manager, which is used to adjust display settings; USB PnP Sound Device, which lets you control audio output; and Wireless USB Manager, which shows the status and strength of the connection. Curiously, two of the options in the DisplayLink Manager, "Advanced Configuration" and "DisplayLink Manager," simply opened the Display control panel.
We connected the receiver to an ASUS ML228H 22-inch HD monitor via HDMI and it recognized the transmitter almost instantly. Using the Display control panel, we were able to easily adjust both displays.
To test the HD in WarpiaHD, we streamed a 1080p video file, Kingdom of Heaven, from the hard drive. From about 10 feet away, the movie streamed fairly smoothly, but we noticed a bit of jumpiness, especially in fast-moving scenes. The StreamHD has an advertised range of 30 feet; from that distance, our 1080p video started to become a bit choppy, and any interference--such as us standing in front of the receiver or transmitter--caused the connection to break.
Unless you plan to rip your Blu-rays, don't expect to play them using the StreamHD. While we could stream Blu-rays to an external monitor using the HP and ASUS devices, StreamHD doesn't support copy-protected content. Also, unlike the WirelessHD (used in the Alienware M17x) or WHDI options, the StreamHD isn't designed for gaming. When we fired up World of Warcraft, the ASUS' screen kept flickering, so much so that it was impossible to play.
The USB dongle attached to our notebook got very hot. After about 15 minutes, it measured 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, that's nothing compared to the USB dongle on the receiver, which reached a scorching 136 degrees.
While we like that Warpia's StreamHD transmitter and receiver are small, there's not much else going for this device. Yes, you can stream 1080p content, but only certain kinds, and only if you have a very powerful notebook. While they're much bulkier, the ASUS WiCast EW2000 and the HP Wireless TV Connect are easier to set up, have much fewer restrictions, and offer much better performance. Plus, those WHDI options can be found for around the same price, if not less.