- Review Price: £401.35
We’re in 2009, with 2010 approaching fast and if you don’t know what that means let me elaborate: we are in the 21st century. The future has already arrived, people! So why is it, therefore, that the communication between my oh-so-modern high definition Blu-ray player and my high definition television is still a decidedly old fashioned cable? HDMI might well be a modern connector, that can transmit an almost inordinate amount of data but I still can’t shake the feeling that, at some level, we’re still tying tin cans to opposite ends of a piece of string. It’s all so… archaic.
Luckily, as you’ll have already gleaned from this article’s title, a solution is available. Wireless HDMI transmitters are slowly filtering onto the market. We’ve already seen examples integrated into televisions, such as Sony’s Bravia KDL-40ZX1 but the problem with such integration is twofold – the TVs are expensive and, by dint of being integrated, they can’t be used with a replacement screen should one be required down the line.
This is where Asus’ HD-BR3 Wireless HDMI Kit steps in. The simple transmitter-receiver setup is fairly simple, in that it only has a single input and output. Further, because it uses 802.11n wireless, there is insufficient bandwidth for full 1080p, so 1080i or 720p is the best quality you’ll be getting using this kit; alas that’s the sacrifice you’ll have to make to eschew the physical connection between your TV at its source, or sources.
On the plus side, although the kit uses ‘normal’ wireless, it does at least operate in the 5GHz band. In the UK this is particularly useful as it keeps the signals separate from the almost too prevalent 2.4GHz band in which most wireless gear operates in the UK. The upshot should be interference free data transfer, which I’m sure you’ll agree is pretty important with a video signal.
Asus claims a working range of 30m, which sounds plausible. If you live in a cave in the middle of a desert, that is. In the real world constraints such as walls and humidity have to be considered. Nevertheless, I was able to get the kit working with a separation of about 10m, through a single wall which should prove more than enough. I think this is more useful for keeping your sources separate from a TV or projector in the same room, than for streaming Blu-ray movies to a bedroom TV wirelessly; but maybe that’s just me.
The biggest issue the BR-HD3 has is its price. At £400, it’s not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. As such, this is one of those products that you’ll really have to ‘need’ to invest in. Hopefully as the technology matures we’ll see prices dropping to more pedestrian territory. For now, though, this is decidedly not an impulse buy.
You’d be hard pushed to tell from looking, but the two boxes are slightly different with one working as a transmitter and the other a receiver. That’s entirely logical, but it would be nice if there was more indication than just the different placement of the HDMI port and power switches for differentiation. On the transmitter the HDMI port is placed on the rear, whereas the receiver has it placed at the side. Place them the wrong way around and you’ll be treated to a blank display on your TV.
Both the receiver and transmitter are pretty much aesthetically identical, made from fairly attractive glossy black plastic. A folding segment at the rear houses three antennae (for MiMo WiFi). There are holes in the rear to accommodate screw heads should you wish to wall-mount either of the two base stations, but I’m not particularly convinced you’d want to – they’re not exactly works of art.
The front end of the top surface is home to three status LEDs. From left to right these indicate whether the device has power, a video connection and a wireless connection to the other. As these can’t be turned off, they could be annoying in a darkened room while you’re trying to watch ”Blade Runner”, or possibly just ”Gossip Girl” – we’re not judging.
A possible problem is the lack of any IR pass-through which means that although the transmitter and receiver can be placed in separate rooms, there’s no way to control your Blu-ray or HD DVD player. A PS3 or Xbox 360 would have no such issues, of course, as both of those have wireless remotes. In a projector set-up the wireless connection would really excel. Placed on a ceiling the receiver becomes much less intrusive and being able to place your source devices anywhere in your living room, without having to worry about laying cables, should prove a boon.
The single-port-only restriction is a little annoying, but nothing a cheap HDMI switcher can’t solve. A three-port version is mooted for release in the middle of next year, if you really can’t be without more than one HDMI input on the transmitter itself. However, I can’t help but think that anyone who can afford a £400 wireless HDMI kit probably has an AV receiver in their setup, which will consolidate all those HDMI devices into a single video output anyway.
Asus reckons that the BR-HD3 provides lag-free wireless transmission of video and, to the best of my ability to discern it, this does appear to be true. In an attempt to test this claim, I passed the HDMI signal through an Onkyo HDX-22HD to extract the audio, before then plugging the output of that system into the BR-HD3 transmitter. I’m not the kind of viewer to tolerate out-of-sync audio so I was most pleased to see (or should that be hear?) a complete lack of issues with this setup. I was also pleased to see that there was no discernible loss of image quality using the wireless connection.
While we’d have preferred the BR-HD3 Wireless HDMI Kit to offer support for 1080p video, there are plenty of situations where the 1080i/720p limit won’t be an issue. As such, the biggest issue is the price; at £400 this kit is simply far too expensive to recommend to all but the richest of fat cats.
Score in detail
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