As for picture quality, I saw no blatant degradation with either
system. These are pass-through devices only, so no scaling or
deinterlacing is involved. Resolution test patterns revealed no
meaningful loss of detail with either unit; the finest lines in the
resolution patterns were perhaps a shade dimmer with the Wireless for
HDMI products in the chain, but it was nothing significant. Real-world
HDTV (720p and 1080i) and Blu-ray (1080p/24) content had excellent
detail, and there were no dropped frames to lead to choppy motion. Fine
black details were still evident in demo scenes from The Pirates of the
Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Blu-ray disc (Buena Vista Home
Entertainment) and The Bourne Supremacy DVD (Universal Studios Home
Video). The only minor issue I noticed was with the UWB model, which
does use compression. In the opening of chapter 17 from the Kingdom of
Heaven Blu-ray disc (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment), I saw a
slight banding, or uneven transition, from light to dark blue in the
sky, which was not evident with a hardwired HDMI connection. This
suggests a lack of bit depth. I did not see the same issue with 5GHz
sample, which uses an uncompressed transmission method.
Beyond the main performance parameters, the primary reason to adopt
a wireless system is convenience, and these products are certainly
convenient. As I said, they're very easy to set up and it takes just
seconds to move them around the house to accommodate different A/V
gear. I successfully used both models with lots of different
components; I even added a distribution amplifier and used both models
simultaneously to wirelessly transmit the signal to multiple displays.
As an example of just one set-up, I own a single DirecTV HD DVR,
located downstairs in my theater room. In the upstairs rooms, I use
basic HD satellite receivers. The 5GHz multi-room model allowed me to
watch recorded content from the downstairs box in any other room in the
house just by moving the receiver unit and using my RF universal
remote. Similar functionality in the wired world would require running
cable through walls all over the house.
The UWB model, meanwhile, is a good solution for those who want to
mount their flat panel on a wall away from the equipment rack or for
those who want to ceiling-mount a projector without having to run video
cables through the walls. Once again, there's a freedom to move things
around that you just don't get with wired solutions.
The biggest drawback to both the UWB and 5GHz models - one that could
very well be a deal-breaker for many - is that neither unit supports a
1080p/60 resolution. They support 1080p/24, which suits them for most
new Blu-ray players, but the inability to pass 1080p/60 is problematic
for people who own early-generation HDMI products. If your Blu-ray
player lacks 1080p/24 output or your TV won't accept 1080p/24 input
(which is very common with older HDMI sets), then you're forced to set
your player to output 1080i instead. Most 1080p-capable upconverting
DVD players don't output 1080p/24, nor do cable/satellite set-top
boxes. The latter may not matter as much now, but it may become more of
an issue as cable and satellite providers offer more 1080p
video-on-demand content. Given the price premium that these wireless
products demand, the fact that they can't support the same resolutions
as their wired counterparts is less than ideal. It's worth noting that
this is a technology issue, not a Gefen issue. Competing standalone
products, which have not yet hit the market, don't support 1080p/60
either. Also, Gefen has announced plans for the July/August release of
a 1080p/60-capable wireless HDMI solution based on WirelessHD
technology; WirelessHD works in the 60GHz band and can send
uncompressed 1080p/60 up to 30 feet.
Even if you do own a 1080p/24-capable Blu-ray player, you need to
make sure it's set up correctly, or it might confuse the Gefen products
and lead to "invalid format" messages and handshake errors, which was
the case with one Panasonic player I used. Go with the Auto resolution
setting (as opposed to a locked 1080p setting) and, of course, make
sure to enable 24p playback.
The Gefen products also don't support the transmission of
uncompressed multichannel PCM audio, like decoded Dolby TrueHD or
DTS-HD soundtracks from a Blu-ray player. This is less of a concern in
my book. It's really only an issue if the destination of your wireless
signal is not a TV or projector. Most TVs have a two-channel (and
usually sub-par) audio system anyhow. However, if for some reason you
wanted to send the signal wirelessly from a remote Blu-ray player to
your A/V receiver, then you'd have to sacrifice the higher-quality
Both products are somewhat slow to switch between resolutions, which
is more of an issue with a satellite/cable box than it is with a disc
player. You can remedy this by configuring your set-top box to output a
single resolution (some set-top boxes only let you output a single
resolution) or by feeding all of your sources into a receiver or video
processor that outputs a single resolution. Also, the Auto switching
function on the UWB model doesn't work reliably, especially if one of
your sources is an always-on HD DVR.
Finally, all of those bright, blue LEDS on the UWB sender and
receiver units can be pretty distracting in a dark or even a
moderately-lit room, so you'll want to make sure to hide the units as
best you can. The UWB units also have an audible hum that's quite
noticeable in a silent room and may distract during quiet scenes, so be
mindful of how close you place them to the listening area.
The wireless HD revolution has arrived, and Gefen deserves props for
helping to usher it in with two standalone product solutions, both of
which have convenience, reliability and good performance on their side.
As with any hot new technology, though, the price of being an early
adopter is fairly steep. The 5GHz model's $899 asking price makes
sense, as you could easily spend that much to run cables through your
walls to remote locations and still not have the flexibility you get
here. Additionally, the 5GHz model costs several hundred dollars less
than the competing Belkin multi-room unit that has yet to arrive on the
market. However, the $999 asking price for the UWB model is harder to
justify, compared with a 30-foot HDMI cable. Even when you factor in
the three-source HD switching and IR repeater functions, it's still a
pricey in-room solution. If you don't need the switching and IR
features, it makes more sense to get the 5GHz model and use it as an
in-room solution: it costs $100 less, it's quieter with fewer
distracting LEDs, and it offers slightly better video performance.
Otherwise, you might want to wait and check out the WirelessHD model,
which will do 1080p/60.
For those of you who simply can't abide the sight of A/V cables and
are unwilling or unable to run wires through your walls, the good news
is that there's finally an easy, high-performing wireless HDMI
solution. But, until the technology trickles down to the mainstream, be
prepared to pay for it.
• Look at plasma HDTV and LCD HDTV options for Gefen's system.
• Find a Blu-ray player to integrate with this system.