Companies have been trying to bridge the PC-to-TV gap for a number of years but have been hampered by digital-rights issues governing what kinds of multimedia files you can view and where you can view them. Addlogix's $249 InternetVue 2020 attempts to solve this problem by transmitting your desktop wirelessly to your big screen. But this product isn't quite ready for prime time.
A DRM Primer
First, a little background. Most of the media on your laptop is protected by DRM: Unless you use the Apple TV, you can't stream iTunes movie rentals or TV shows to your plasma or LCD; when you buy a DVD movie, you can't stream it over your Wi-Fi network; and even when you can stream a CinemaNow.com or Movielink.com movie, DRM puts limits on when and where you can play the movie. By simply reproducing your PC's screen on your TV, the InternetVue is able to sidestep these digital roadblocks.
InternetVue 2020 Setup
Outfitted with Quartics' PC2TV technology, the InternetVue 2020 operates exactly like the video-out port on your laptop, except that your desktop is transmitted wirelessly over 802.11b/g to your television. We tested both a preproduction unit from Quartics and the final version from Addlogix--which uses the same technology--and were disappointed to find that many of the issues that plagued the beta version were not resolved in the final version.
The units we tried look exactly like a router with a single antenna, audio and video ports for connecting the device to your television, and an Ethernet port. A light on the front of the unit tells you that the device is on and working. Addlogix certainly deserves credit for a simple installation.
First, you connect the set-top box receiver to your television using the component or composite video outputs. The unit's receiver connects to your router using Wi-Fi or a wired connection.
A small utility on your laptop then streams your desktop to the receiver. Whatever video, audio, or images are on your laptop also play on your television. On our tests, the program found the receiver quickly and was working in 5 minutes.
Pretty Ugly Streaming
At first glance, this concept would seem like a major advancement. We played Spider-Man 3 on a laptop in an office and watched it on a Viewsonic NX2232w LCD TV in the living room with stereo sound. (The main limitation here is your 802.11b/g Wi-Fi network, but you can expect to cover at least 200 feet from one room to another.) No digital media adapter supports this basic function. We also played iTunes music, watched Live Free or Die Hard as it streamed from CinemaNow.com, browsed a Web site, checked our Outlook e-mail, and viewed a Flickr.com slideshow. The device outputs video at a maximum resolution of 800 x 600 and photos at 1280 x 720.
When you are watching a movie, however, the image quality suffers. Because the device simply mirrors your desktop instead of using a codec (which would reproduce multimedia files more faithfully), video playback is appallingly bad. Video looks grainy and dull, lacking the vibrant, clear, and rich colors of the latest DVD releases.
Lame TV Interface (and Remote Doesn't Help)
The InternetVue 2020 includes Blink TV, a service that works like SageTV; it helps you find video content on the Internet. The idea is that you don't have to hunt around for YouTube videos but can play them directly from the Blink TV console. Unfortunately, Blink TV doesn't directly support some video content. It just sends you over to ABC.com, for example, for TV shows. The service runs at full screen, but once again, PC2TV doesn't directly support it.
Our Quartics preproduction unit came with a remote control, but at press time Addlogix was still deciding when to start packaging the remote with the InternetVue 2020. To control content from the living room, you have to use the remote's awkward, almost unusable scroll wheel to make your selections. We could only get the remote scroll function to work from from five feet or less, yet the other remote control functions worked from across the room. To type anything, the remote provides a phone-like keypad, which is annoying to use. It's just easier to just walk over to your laptop.
InternetVue 2020 Verdict
While the concept of a device that gets around some DRM issues holds great promise, its execution in the InternetVue 2020 is a major letdown. The video and audio quality is poor, controlling media is awkward and difficult, and the device does not directly support any multimedia. If Quartics can produce a box with faster 802.11n technology for smoother video streaming and HDMI support, then it might be worth a look.