We don’t mind admitting that we were more than a little sceptical about DVDO’s claims that the Air system ships all of its picture and sound with no loss of quality. But we’re happy to say that the Air system quickly set about battering our doubts about the head with an attractive full HD stick.
First impressions were that detail levels in HD 2D and 3D feeds look completely unaffected by the wireless HD system, as do colour saturations and motion reproduction. To be more certain of this gut feeling, we switched between a direct cabled and a wireless HD version of the same few movie sequences more than 30 times, 15 of them in blind testing circumstances, and it remained our opinion throughout that nothing is lost from the image in the wireless transformation process.
That said, we were sometimes able to spot when we watching the wireless image rather than the cabled one due to something that was sporadically added to the picture: namely low-level white ‘sparklies’ – dots of white that pop up like little quarks every now and then.
The good news is these white dots didn’t occur all the time during our tests (annoyingly we couldn’t actually figure out a pattern to their appearance, other than that they mostly occurred when using our Panasonic Blu-ray player), and are only a tiny part of the image even when they do appear. We suspect they were caused by some momentary electrostatic interference of some sort, but as we said, we couldn’t detect a consistent cause.
With the DVDO Air handling video so well, it’s no surprise to find it also working superbly with the less demanding audio aspect of its delivery system. We couldn’t detect any difference at all between 7.1-channel 192kHz feeds sent through the DVDO Air and those sent through a standard HDMI cable.
One final test we ran on the DVDO system was its level of latency – a potentially significant issue for gamers. And we’re pleased to report that we measured less than 10ms, which can be considered a negligible amount in gaming terms. Excellent.
Rather less excellent, though, was the way that the generally ultra-stable connection occasionally (about 15 times during our two days of testing) dropped for as much as 10 seconds at a time while playing on our Xbox (set to 1080p/60) while using our Epson TW5500 projector. The sudden blank screens caused by these drop outs clearly don’t help if you’re in the middle of a game of Call of Duty online. However, we did not suffer the same drops at all while using any of our various TV displays instead of the projector. Odd – but hopefully symptomatic of a very isolated phenomenon.
The Epson factor
Before we wrap up, we should briefly cover the elephant in the room. Namely that an extremely similar wireless HD system is available with a couple of Epson’s current 3D projectors (the TW9000W and the TW6000W). These Epson systems actually use chipsets licensed from DVDO, but they are more limited in their scope. For starters, they don’t use an external receiver, which means they’re less flexible when it comes to installation options.
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The system used by Epson also doesn’t support HDMI’s Audio Return Channel functionality while the DVDO does, and the DVDO system additionally supports special CEC functions that identify the input as DVDO Air as well as passing back CEC commands to the source. These latter two functions could certainly be useful in certain home installation situations.
Although it’s maybe £50 dearer than we’d like and suffers the occasional HDMI handshake and video sparkly issue, the DVDO Air is pretty much a dream come true for anyone who’s experienced cabling nightmares while trying to set up an AV system or even been completely put off an ambitious AV project simply because of the hassle of getting everything connected. A great idea done well.
Score in detail