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Q-Waves wireless USB AV kit

Review Send HD video to your TV
Thu Dec 17 2009, 15:52

Product: Q-Waves Wireless USB AV Kit
Specifications: Wimedia-certified PHY and MAC; USB-IF Certified Wireless USB; Operating frequency 3.168-4.752GHz (Wimedia band group 1); power consumption: 1W per USB adapter; maximum remote resolution 1280x1024, 1440x900 (widescreen).
System requirements: Windows XP, Vista 7; 1.6GHZ Atom or Celeron-class for office work, web browsing; 1.8Ghz Core 2 Duo for full-screen 720p video; 1GB RAM.
Price: £99.99 (inc VAT)

ULTRA WIDEBAND (UWB) for consumer use has had a chequered history - now you see it, now you don't is probably the best summary - with the result that this fascinating low-power, short range wireless technology has never really taken off. The ill-fated Wimedia Alliance handed its standards to the USB-IF and others, and these form the basis of Certified Wireless USB. The Q-Waves AV Kit is one of the few examples of Wireless USB you can actually buy and do something useful with.

q-waves-usb-wireless-av-kitThe hardware's based on a reference design from fabless chip maker Wisair, which makes the CMOS single-chip WSR601 Wireless USB solution that's inside the AV Kit. In the box you get two paired USB dongles and a small powered docking station housing the VGA and HDMI video connectors. For VGA connections audio output is via a 3.5mm jack. No connector cables are supplied, which is a bit of a blow considering the price.

With a theoretical data link speed of up to 480Mbps at 1m range or 110Mbps at 10 metres, it should certainly be up the task in hand, that is, streaming up to 720p video with stereo audio - sorry, no surround sound - to any suitable TV, monitor or projector.

In practice, it's not that simple. Wireless USB's low power makes it strictly line-of-sight, so forget trying to stream through any kind of wall. Q-Waves' brochure mentions 'full-room coverage', but sadly this clarification is missing from the box. Judging by our tests on the Q-Waves Data Kit that we've also reviewed, USB protocol overheads mean you'll be getting around 40 to 60Mbps actual throughput on a good day.

Get a reliable connection, though, and it works well. Streaming a 720p movie over about three metres was perfectly watchable, although the frame rate seems to take a bit of a hit during slow panning scenes. For casual web video watching, office work or presentations it's fine. We found about five to six metres to be the maximum reliable range in an ordinary living room. An Intel Atom-powered or similar netbook is fine for presentations or watching fluffy kittens on Youtube, but for full-screen 720p video you need at least an Intel 1.8GHz Core2 Duo CPU or equivalent.

The beauty of UWB is that using low-power pulses, it doesn't interfere with other wireless technologies. We found Bluetooth, WiFi and DECT to be unaffected. In Europe, the AV Kit operates between 3.168 to 4.752GHz on a single PHY channel, channel 15.

The AV Kit contains a DisplayLink125 chip that configures your remote display as a second monitor - there's no Linux or Mac support. It's identical to using a normal dual-monitor setup. In Vista and 7, you control it via Display Properties, in XP you use the DisplayLink tray icon. The maximum resolution of the remote display is 1280x1024, or 1440x900 widescreen at 32-bit colour depth.

The only other software installed is a Wireless USB Manager tray applet showing the connection status. There's no extra configuration possible or needed.

If you just need a non-permanent way to hook up a laptop or PC to a TV or projector, it's worth a try. Just don't expect miracles.

In Short
It's a great device for hooking up a laptop or PC to a TV or projector over short distances for watching video, but you need to be aware of its limitations. µ

The Good
Good picture and audio quality, easy to install, no wireless interference.

The Bad
Short range, won't work through walls, expensive, full-screen HD video playback is not perfect.

The Ugly
Dongles get very warm, no video or audio cables supplied.

Bartender's Score



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