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.

The ASUS WiCast Conclusion: Lots of Wires for "Wireless"
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  • mmatis - Monday, November 01, 2010 - link

    Well, for the way some folks play it, this might even be an improvement! Reply
  • Exelius - Monday, November 01, 2010 - link

    So would the range be bad for say, connecting a laptop to my TV from the couch? Is there any way this can be improved with a directional antenna?

    All I'm really looking for is a way to connect my laptop to the TV from across the room. I could stretch an HDMI cable, but that's annoying. I just dislike having to maintain an HTPC; I have 2 other desktops to keep going and the HTPC never gets maintained since I only ever use it like once a month.
    Reply
  • Akdor 1154 - Monday, November 01, 2010 - link

    Yep, lag testing would be nice, as would some measure of the picture quality beyond "it looks darker". This article is okay, but not up to Anandtech's usual meticulous standards. A surround sound test would also be nice... Reply
  • clarkn0va - Monday, November 01, 2010 - link

    " On the receiver the mini-USB port is covered, but it can be used to power the receiver if for some odd reason that's more convenient than just plugging it in."

    It may be a minor difference to some, but there are reasons to use the USB power connector.

    -your power bar is full or too cluttered
    -taking DC from a powered device is more efficient than powering yet another wall wart
    -it shuts off when the device its plugged into shuts off, like a smart switch.

    Waste not, want not.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Monday, November 01, 2010 - link

    But that USB has to either come from a USB wall wart or have the USB cable plugged into a USB port on a TV or computer that you don't want to use for other things, and that assumes those ports provide enough power, which is questionable if they are designed for a flash drive. I'm also not sure how the transmitter gets by on USB power, as 5.3-5.8W is significantly above what you would expect 5V*500mA to get you.

    Ultimately I still think WiDi makes more sense for the target market, which IMO is more about presentations and quickly showing off figures or photos than about being able to play Blu-Ray or game. In something like a smartphone or netbook it could make a lot of sense to quickly pull up some photos of the kids on TV or similar actions. Other than the projector scenario mentioned before I'm not sure what use WiCast is, as I don't see people keeping the transmitter handy to pull out and hook up much when needed.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, November 01, 2010 - link

    The transmitter uses *two* USB plugs via an adapter cable to get the necessary 5.7W. I'd think the receiver side would need to do the same, as most USB ports are only specced to provide up to ~2.5W (500mA @ 5V), and presumably the wall wart has some conversion inefficiencies that a direct DC connect over USB wouldn't have. So call it 5W from two ports. Reply
  • mars2k - Monday, November 01, 2010 - link

    This isn't just about running a long HDMI cable to your HT rig. I would gladly install the sender and receiver boxes if the distances were more than 5 ft. My main computer area is well over 50 feet from the media room. Never going to run Cat 5 that far let alone a bulky HDMI its just out of the question.
    This WiCast would be a perfect solution for a hi end theater setup if it had good wireless performance.
    All those power supplies and usb connections don't mean a thing if you can stash them out of site and avoid a long run of any type of wire.
    Problem with this is the shaky wifi.
    By the way my wireless Roku works great but it streams in a different way but still it works pretty much flawlessly.
    Reply
  • Wardrop - Monday, November 01, 2010 - link

    Unless something really miraculous happens in the field of wireless data transmission, it's really a dead horse for high-bandwidth applications, especially as bandwidth demands continue to increase. Compared to fibre, or even copper, wireless is inferior on so many levels. The only convenience is the lack of wires and the portability that comes with that. But for most high-bandwidth applications, portability isn't really critical, it's more the lack of wires which becomes the main attraction. The main reason being, is probably because people don't want to run ugly cables around their house, or drill holes in their wall.

    But... that's only because the houses of today are built with the same limitations as the houses of last century. To run a cable out of site, you need to someone to drill holes in your wall, and climb in your attic or under your house. The process needs to be repeated any time you decide to move your equipment.

    What would be nice, is if building were made to accommodate easy routing of cables to any room, via duct or tray systems. The skirting along the bottom of all your walls could easily be made hollow and easily removable, to accommodate installation of cables by simple home users. How you get the cable into and out of this skirting could be achieved in any number of ways. Drilling holes is one option, but I'd like to see pop-out plugs or something every one or two feet, either at the top of the skirting, or just on the face of it. If done cleanly, it should just look like a faint repeating pattern on your skirting. Over time, it will become accepted, much like power points, and light and fan switches are today (I bet they looked petty ugly when they first come to be).

    So my point is, instead of relying on wireless technology to get around limitations of today's homes, why not build homes which are designed to accommodate flexible cabling configurations. It just seems like the logical thing to do in the 21st century.
    Reply
  • somedude1234 - Tuesday, November 02, 2010 - link

    You're asking the home builders to incur an extra cost so that some homeowner (not necessarily the original buyer) at some undetermined point in the future will have an easier time re-wiring for A/V/Data/whatever?

    Never going to happen. Home builders are the cheapest / greediest individuals you will ever encounter. If the original buyer isn't paying cost + an insane markup, why would the builder waste their money? Hint: the original buyer has the option to get cables, conduits, and/or trays run wherever they like, no need for a whole-house generic solution.

    I would settle for a minimum requirement that each building have a core that can be used to get cables between floors, and then let me worry about the horizontal runs.

    In lieu of that, I have a 4' flexible drill bit, and my drywall patching kit =/
    Reply
  • mckirkus - Tuesday, November 02, 2010 - link

    I was going to buy two PCs, one to power my work PC and one as my HTPC. Now I can just invest in one solid PC and set up wireless HDMI on my second monitor out port. Audio over HDMI should work and with a bluetooth keyboard I can control media center from a distance.

    I think this just saved me $1000.
    Reply

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