- Cheap, well designed hardware, good line of sight performance handles 1080p
- Outdated software, streaming easily broken and better solutions on the way.
- Review Price: £129.99
- Stream Full HD video wirelessly to any TV without breaking the bank.
Games consoles, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, media players, media PCs – it’s no wonder the cables surrounding our TVs are starting to resemble the back of our PCs. The good news is that we have a unified standard, HDMI, to link them all together. The bad news is the seemingly obvious solution: wireless HDMI has no standard and is dogged by price and performance issues. So could something remarkably simple actually be the answer?
From Q-Waves comes the QuickLink HD, the follow-up for the QuickLink it launched last year and – as the name suggests – adds High Definition capabilities to its wireless streaming. Unlike the various wireless HDMI standards, Q-Waves has taken a much more straightforward route: it has employed Wireless USB. With a peak theoretical transfer rate of 480Kbps both 720p and 1080p are on the menu. Unlike wireless HDMI, its price is also closer to £100 compared to the £400-500 wireless HDMI setups we’ve seen to date.
In theory it is also very simple to setup. Plug one dongle into your PC, plug the other into a neat dock. The dock has an HDMI port to connect to the TV and a power lead to plug into a wall socket. Install the supplied software and you should be all done. So was the answer staring us in the face all along? Sadly not really.
Open up the box and everything starts very well. The QuickLink HD bundle is generous enough to include a one metre HDMI cable and the wall plug has detachable pins with both UK and European connectors supplied. Given the QuickLink HD is fairly portable it means there would be no reason to stop you taking it on holiday and streaming some movies from a laptop to the hotel TV or using it for presentations. Documentation is also clear and easy to follow and everything suggests you’ll be up and running in no time. Problem is, you won’t.
Getting set up is – to put it mildly – a faff. This review is being written late at night because of the hours spent wrestling with the installation software. There’s no Mac compatibility so you’d think the Windows focus would ensure everything works. It doesn’t. A simple Windows 7 64bit install failed three times across two different laptops producing Runtime and DirectX errors and knocking desktops out of Aero mode. The install also stopped Microsoft and Logitech wireless mice working until a reboot and twice each machine refused to boot until they were restored to their state prior to the software install. For something as simple as wireless USB, things should be a lot easier – drivers should really be on the dongles – and the software (despite it being obtained via the official website) is in desperate need of an update.
Thankfully once you ”are” up and running things get better…
Much like physically plugging in another display, a successful setup will see a second monitor turn up in your display properties with the option to duplicate or extend your Windows desktop to it. Normally I’d advise extending the desktop so you can keep doing what you want on the main screen, but dragging active video playback causes the QuickLink HD to get confused and often results in playback locking up completely. The solution is either duplicate your screen or don’t start a media player’s video playback before the player is dragged to the second screen.
Overcome these niggles and you’ll be annoyed they were there in the first place because the QuickLink HD actually works rather well. The instructions emphasise that a line of sight be maintained between dongle and receiver and keep that distance within 6m and both 720p and 1080p video plays back without any problems. Furthermore because the codec support is being done on your PC there’s no fear of incompatible files. Enjoy sites like YouTube, BBC iPlayer or Lovefilm? Again because of the direct connection you don’t need to worry about widgets, just load up the website and click play. If your PC can handle it then so can your second QuickLink HD display.
With HDMI all sound is also sent to the TV (a prompt pops up a shortcut to swap over your audio playback from PC speakers to wireless USB) and everything is rosy. Meanwhile for legacy users the dock has a VGA port and optical out for audio. That said, for a supposedly wireless solution that’s one more wire added to your setup.
In fact here lies a fundamental problem with not just the QuickLink HD, but wireless USB in general. If the aim is to cut down on wiring then it doesn’t work because a long HDMI cable may have to pass under the carpet or around the skirting boards, but it is super fast and just one wire. Wireless USB still requires an HDMI cable (just a shorter one) and it requires a power socket. Yes it brings freedom, but this is limited because – unlike WiFi – line of sight is essential. Playback can be made to stop just by putting your hand in front of the dongle and it can stutter even when someone briefly walks between the dongle and receiver. Anything other than a model setup and you can kiss smooth 1080p streaming goodbye.
The other problem all wireless HDMI products face is Intel’s WiDi 2.0 which is included in all Sandy Bridge chipsets. WiDi again needs a receiver to be attached to the TV (Intel estimates prices will be circa $99), but it requires no line of sight, eliminates the need for a dongle to be attached to the laptop and is part of any new Sandy Bridge laptop or PC. Intel also claims WiDi will be fitted as standard into many new TVs meaning the receiver won’t be needed for long either. Yes you have to purchase a new computer to enjoy this, but it looks as if it may gain major industry momentum.
Ultimately while it promises much in theory the Q-Waves QuickLink HD has too many caveats to recommend it in reality. The installation software needs overhauling, optimum line of sight restricts wireless freedom and you’ll actually be using more wires in this setup than by keeping a single HDMI cable spare around the back of your TV. The price isn’t unreasonable and for some it will prove a worthwhile solution, but cinephiles will require a wired connection and the rest of us should probably wait for Intel’s Sandy Bridge and WiDi 2.0…
Score in detail
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