Intel's wireless display (WiDi) technology is not new. It was first announced in January at CES 2010, but it took a full 18 months for the first products to hit the market. Hindering things further WiDi was only compatible with Intel's latest Sandy Bridge chipset leaving the vast majority of PCs incompatible. Fast forward to an Ultrabook laden 2012 however and WiDi is suddenly worth revisiting.
Where the Belkin ScreenCast comes in is as a conduit. WiDi compatible laptops may not be mainstream, but with the first WiDi integrated TVs still to arrive (LG will be first in mid 2012) the ScreenCast works as an adaptor to make WiDi compatible with any existing television. It sounds like a simple role, but the elegance with which Belkin has carried it off deserves great credit.
Open the ScreenCast and the first surprise is how small it is. Belkin has created a device which is little larger than a paperback novel and roughly the same weight. Despite this the ScreenCast has all the connections needed: power, an HDMI port and RCA for those further behind the technological curve. The front right of the ScreenCast glows orange when in standby and turns green when on and the tasteful black finish matches well with the ongoing fad for piano black AV equipment. Interestingly the Screencast doesn't need a remote control because it automatically switches between on and standby when the correct TV input is selected and all other control comes directly from the PC streaming the content.
As far as the streaming goes, WiDi uses 802.11g/n WiFi and marries it with dual band wireless (2.4 and 5GHz) to create the maximum possible bandwidth. WiDi supports 1080p video, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and HDCP 2.0 in order to meet copyright standards for wireless streaming from Blu-ray discs.
Setup is a breeze. The ScreenCast plugs into a wall socket for power and Belkin supplies an HDMI (though not RCA) cable. Connect it to your TV, switch the TV to the correct input and the ScreenCast begins a one-off initialisation followed by the prompt message: 'Ready for connection. To get started launch Intel WiDi on your computer'. Compatible PCs should already have the WiDi software pre-installed, otherwise it can be downloaded here.
Once the software is started it scans for WiDi adaptors and finds the ScreenCast, which then displays a four digit security code that you enter into the WiDi PC software. Again this is a one-off and from this point onwards connection to the ScreenCast can be set to automatic whenever in range or simply by clicking 'Connect' when the WiDi software is launched. A nice touch is WiDi remembers your last screen setup (whether it be for the TV to mirror your display or extend it) so it really does become a near instant connection.
Simple as the ScreenCast may be this counts for nothing without strong performance and in this regard it does come through, albeit with caveats. The first - drivers. The ScreenCast is easy to get working (in real time it should take little more than a minute), but you will immediately find yourself faffing with software updates.