Asus WiCast: Wireless 1080p to your TVby Dustin Sklavos on November 1, 2010 12:01 AM EST
WiCast in Practice
Getting the ASUS WiCast to work really is a breeze. The manual notes the transmitter and receiver may take as much as a minute to sync, but my experience was much better. With the two boxes about five feet apart, syncing was actually very quick once Windows loaded, and within Windows the solution was as transparent as it should be. The WiCast-connected monitor appeared the way any wired monitor would, and I was able to switch audio over to the WiCast easily.
My first test was to see if the WiCast could hit 1080p, and sure enough it could. Latency, at least on the Windows desktop, was invisible. At 1080p (60Hz), the solution was largely seamless. In fact the only artifacting I really saw was in high-contrast areas, where there would be slight flickering on the edges of shapes and letters. The whole image appeared slightly darker than it did on a wired connection.
The next step was to see how well it handled audio, so I fired up WinAMP and put my usual audio testing whipping boy, The Prodigy's "Spitfire", through its paces. Audio quality between wired HDMI and the WiCast was indistinguishable, though it did serve to highlight how poor the speakers in my television are. It's reasonable to assume the WiCast probably handles multichannel audio perfectly fine, but I have a hard time imagining a home theatre enthusiast who would opt to use the WiCast instead of a hard line for reasons that will become clear soon enough.
For me, the big test was latency, something Intel's WiDi has a real problem with. I fired up Quake Wars (yes, some of us still play this), set it to 1080p, and was up and running. Gameplay was nigh-indistinguishable from a wired connection. ASUS advertises a latency at or below 1ms and while I can't confirm that, I can tell you that from a gaming perspective the WiCast is remarkably fluid and responsive. It's worth noting that this is one area where the WiDi simply can't compete: while I was able to use the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650 in my notebook to push polygons in Quake Wars, WiDi is restricted to Intel HD graphics only. So in this test we've already exposed two things WiCast can do that WiDi can't: game, and game at 1080p.
Finally I wanted to test Blu-ray playback, and it was here that things started to get a little hairy. There weren't any HDCP issues, but when I tried to play Iron Man 2, the WiCast started to have trouble with interference. It wasn't anything game-breaking, but there were five horizontal lines of artifacting on the screen, evenly spaced. Adjusting the transmitter seemed to help a little, and often the lines would go away on their own, but nonetheless the WiCast seemed to have a hard time keeping a clean signal at just five feet away.
With the above in mind, we did some additional testing of the signal quality at five foot intervals. Keeping in mind the WiCast is rated at "up to" 33 feet, we were unimpressed with the amount of blocking and other artifacts even at close range with Blu-ray, and it quickly gets worse as we move away from the receiver. Oddly enough, we had better experience testing the WiCast with a Gateway ID49C than we did with a Dell Studio 17—the former worked at up to 20 feet without any noticeable problems while the latter had periodic issues even when the receiver/transmitter were nearly on top of each other.
The signal ended up being more of a case of all or nothing: it either worked or it didn't, though sometimes other factors seem to come into play (a person moving in between the transmitter and receiver, or interference from other electronic devices). Since the WiCast is also device agnostic, you can use it with a PlayStation 3, Xbox360, or any other HDMI-equipped hardware. Again, the most likely use seems to be laptops, simply because anything else is already hard-wired for AC power. Also worth noting is that we measured power draw on the transmitter of 5.7-5.8W, which means if you're running off a notebook's battery, you'll take a pretty significant hit to battery life.