Brian Kahn is the longest tenured writer on staff at HomeTheaterReview.com. His specialties include everything from speakers to whole-home audio systems to high-end audiophile and home theater gear, as well as room acoustics. By day, Brian is a partner at a West Los Angeles law firm.
I have been searching for a wireless HDMI transmitter for our den for quite a while. Some of the units I've auditioned have worked fairly well; others were virtually unwatchable -- but all had one thing in common: none would reliably transmit an HDMI signal through even the most modest of physical barriers. My wife and I purchased our home a little over six years ago. The prior owners had the den wired for a wall-mounted television and a 7.1-channel audio system. The in-wall wiring required the receiver and all of the sources to be placed in a built-in cabinet just below and to the side of the wall-mounted television.
When we moved in, I contacted the local home theater installation company that installed the system for the prior owners and asked if they could run an HDMI cable from the cabinet to the display to supplement the pre-existing component video cable. They said "no problem." After two days of work and a hefty bill, they were unable to run the wire, as the conduit that they "always use" was omitted from the original install and the decorative tile on the wall precluded simply opening the wall. As a result, the television that our family uses the most was not able to be connected to HDMI sources without a cable hanging down between the television and cabinet. This is OK for short Apple TV sessions, but is not a long-term solution.
The IOGEAR GWHDMS52 wireless HDMI matrix system ($399) is the first product that I have come across that remedies this situation we've been living with for six years. As the product name could only be loved by an IOGEAR engineer, I will simply call it the Wireless 5x2 matrix. The matrix has two main components: a transmitter and receiver. The transmitter has four HDMI inputs and one component video input, one HDMI output, an IR output, and one mini USB port. The receiver has USB and IR ports and one HDMI output. Simple remotes and "wall wart" power cords are supplied for each. The system also comes with an IR blaster and sensor cables.
Setting up the wireless matrix was a bit tricky at first. At the beginning, I had a few component video sources of various resolutions connected to my Marantz AV8002 receiver, which I used to convert the video to HDMI and send to the IOGEAR unit. The performance was inconsistent, ranging from no solid video link at all to good but not great video quality. I spoke with IOGEAR and replaced the component connections between the sources and receiver with HDMI connections and changed the settings on the source components to make sure that they were set to a 480p or higher resolution. From that point on, everything worked smoothly. I can only surmise that there were some artifacts in the receiver's video-conversion process and will not hold that against the IOGEAR.
• The IOGEAR unit provided reliable, through-the-wall transmission of HDMI signals.
• The transmitter can accept 1080p and 3D video signals through four HDMI inputs, as well as component video through an included adapter cable and dedicated input.
• The unit has the ability to display the same or different sources to the local, hardwired display and to the remote, wireless display.
• In addition to HDMI transmission, the IOGEAR provides two-way control capabilities for A/V sources via IR and for computer sources via USB.
• When switching inputs on the transmitter and during any breaks in the video signal, such as switching sources on the receiver or pulling up the onscreen guide, there was a delay during which status icons were displayed on a black screen for approximately 15 seconds.
• The IOGEAR system does not accommodate 480i signals, making it important to ensure that all sources are set to a 480p or higher resolution.
• The system cannot transmit DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD signals. This will be an issue if you are seeking to transmit from a remote source. However, this will have no impact if the wireless link is just for the video display.
Competition and Comparison
There are many other wireless systems on the market, but the IOGEAR system is the only one that I've used with reliable through-wall transmission capabilities. It appears that the Geffen Wireless HDMI Extender at $399 may provide the same through-wall transmission capabilities, but it lacks the multiple inputs and outputs, as well as the USB control functionality. If the multiple inputs are not needed, IOGEAR also has a version with less functionality, priced at $249. Actiontec's $200 MyWirelessTV 2 also claims to work through walls up to 100 feet but has fewer connection options.
If you need to transmit HDMI video signals through something solid, the IOGEAR wireless HDMI system is priceless. At $399, it is a lot cheaper than having to cut open your walls to run cables. If you are renting your property, cutting holes may not even be an option. Other than a hiccup with the component video signals converted by my AV receiver to HDMI, the IOGEAR transmitted images that were indistinguishable from hardwired connections, which I was able to confirm with the wired HDMI output on the transmitter. Even though the IOGEAR spent most of its time transmitting from an enclosed cabinet only a few feet from the display, it also worked when transmitting across the house and through several walls.