Most modern TVs have at least one compatible port you can use to connect your PC and display content or videos from the computer. With most computers, you can display content on a TV using a VGA, DVI or HDMI cable. However, using a cable means your computer must be relatively close to the TV to make the connection. Using wireless technology to connect your PC and TV provides you much more freedom and lets you avoid the hassle and clutter of more wires than absolutely necessary. While you could purchase a Blu-ray or TV with built-in wireless capability, these types of models are usually expensive and may not offer the features or flexibility of other wireless connection alternatives designed specifically for computers.
The type of hardware you'll need to connect your PC or laptop to a TV wirelessly depends on the type of connection you intend to use. If your television already has a built-in Wi-Fi adapter, or if you connect the television to a high-end A/V receiver with such a device, you probably need no more than a laptop with an integrated wireless network card or a desktop PC with a USB wireless adapter. However, if you want to use other wireless protocols for connecting your computer and TV, you may need a separate adapter or receiver device that you connect to the television in order to receive wireless signals from the PC. These types of add-on receivers are adapters vary considerably depending on the protocol you use, and there is no one device that supports all wireless streaming protocols.
If you're looking for a relatively easy-to-use method for connecting your PC and TV wirelessly, then a wireless USB PC-to-TV transmitter may be your solution. The primary advantage of these transmitters is that they work with virtually any type of computer and television. As long as your desktop or laptop computer has a free USB port, and your television has RCA inputs for audio and video, you can connect the device and stream virtually any type of content from the PC to the television. Another advantage of wireless USB transmitters is that installation and setup is relatively straightforward and takes only minutes. One of the drawbacks with the technology, though, is its limited range. Wireless USB provides a reasonably fast transfer rate of about 480Mbps -- as long as the transmitter and receiver are within 10 feet of each other. As you move the PC away from the TV, the bandwidth speed drops considerably. Wireless USB has a maximum range of about 32 feet. At this range, the protocol offers transfer speeds of about only 110Mbps per second. Nevertheless, wireless USB is fast enough to stream all types of video including that encoded in HD format. Companies that produce wireless USB PC to TV transmitters include RF-Link, Veebeam and Diamond Multimedia (links in Resources).
Many newer model laptops powered by Intel processors include special Wireless Display, or WiDi, chipsets that enable direct video streaming to compatible televisions and receiver adapters. Consequently, if you have a 2010 or later Intel-based laptop, you may not have to connect anything at all to the notebook in order to stream video. You can easily verify if your Intel-based laptop has the WiDi feature supports by typing "widi" into the Windows search box and pressing "Enter." If the Intel WiDi application shortcut appears in the search results list, then your laptop supports the feature. To use Intel WiDi, you'll need a television with the Intel Wireless Display logo or a WiDi receiver adapter. Manufacturers that currently produce WiDi receiver adapters include Belkin, D-Link and Netgear (links in Resources). One drawback with early-model laptops equipped with the technology, though, is its limited bandwidth speed. With a maximum transfer rate of about 9Mbps second, first-generation WiDI only supports the streaming of DVD-quality and 720p HD videos. If your Intel Centrino-based laptop has an 802.11n wireless adapter, its WiDi chipset is capable of streaming videos to a TV in full 1080p HD resolution.
Wireless HDI, or WHDI, is another wireless protocol used to stream video from a laptop to a television using adapters you connect to both devices. Unlike Wireless USB or WiDi, though, WHDI is also compatible with many other devices such as mobile phones, set-top boxes and some Blu-ray players. Wireless HDI uses the unlicensed 5 GHz radio band to transmit graphics and videos from a computer to a television at bandwidth speeds that easily handle 1080p high-definition video. WHDI also offers much greater range than other wireless protocols used to connect computers and televisions. Using a WHDI receiver and transmitter, you can stream video from a laptop to the television up to 100 feet away without signal amplification or line-of-sight placement. Many users and manufacturers also refer to WHDI as Wireless HDMI, as you can use an HDMI ports on a laptop or other player device to stream video wirelessly to a television. However, some manufacturers do produce USB versions of WHDI transmitters. Major companies that produce WHDI devices include Asus, Belkin, Galaxy and HP (links in Resources).
Transmitting over the 60 GHz band, Wireless HD is currently the fastest type of technology available for streaming videos from a computer to a TV wirelessly. With transfer rates ranging between 10 and 28 Gbps, Wireless HD easily handles any type of media streaming from a computer to the television. While other wireless protocols are fast enough to stream high-definition video, the speed of Wireless HD makes it a viable option for playing and streaming fast-paced 3-D games on your television as well. Many high-end LCD and LED already offer built-in Wireless HD support, and you can add the technology to your PC with an add-on kit. If your TV supports Wireless HD, you can stream video from your PC by adding an adapter from companies such as Actiontec, IOGear and Vizio. Some wireless HD adapters require a dedicated HDMI port on the computer, while others offer VGA or USB connectors on the transmitters. Wireless HD devices have an effective range of about 33 feet. However, some Wireless HD transmitters include signal amplifiers that boost the range of the protocol to approximately 150 feet.
- Intel: Laptop to TV with Intel Wireless Display (WiDi)
- Intel: 6 WiDi Questions, Answered
- D-Link: DHD-131 TV Adapter for Intel Wireless Display
- Gigaom: 3 Wireless Ways to Connect Your Laptop to Your TV
- WHDI: About Wireless High Definition
- Wired: Wired Explains Wireless Tech to Connect Your TV and PC
- WirelessHD: Introduction to WirelessHD Technology
- PCMag.com: Definition of WHDI
- Belkin: Belkin Screencast User Manual
- Wired: Veebeam Uses Wireless USB to Stream Media From PC to TV
- Diamond Multimedia: Video Stream
- Radio Shack: RF-Link (AVS-5811) 5.8GHz Wireless A/V Sender System
- Radio Shack: Actiontec MyWirelessTV HD Video Kit
- WHDI: Products
- PCWorld: New WiDi Adapters Let Notebooks Wirelessly Stream 1080p, Blu-ray Content to HDTVs
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