Asus WiCast: Wireless 1080p to your TVby Dustin Sklavos on November 1, 2010 12:01 AM EST
Conclusion: Lots of Wires for "Wireless"
If we take practicality out of the equation, we're left with a solution that is more or less directly superior to Intel's WiDi. That's not too outlandish to consider; WiDi uses a notebook's internal wireless connection, which means it has a peak throughput of 300Mbps. Compare that to the ASUS WiCast's advertised 3Gbps connection and it's obvious why the WiCast is capable of handling 1080p video, multichannel audio, and doing all of that with near-invisible latency. Even better, WiCast works with anything with an HDMI port, while WiDi is limited to Intel HD graphics and Intel wireless hardware.
The problem is we can't take practicality out of the equation, not really. WiDi's big advantage is that it doesn't require an extra box on the notebook side, but the trade-offs are horrendous. In the meantime, WiCast requires you to connect three cables (two USB and an HDMI) to your notebook (or an AC adapter in place of the USB) and a receiver box to your television. The receiver isn't the issue, but the box and cables on the notebook can turn into a mess in a hurry. You're making an awful lot of sacrifices just to transmit 1080p video wirelessly to your television, and given the number of connections that need to be made, that "wireless" part almost feels like a bit of a misnomer.
Range and interference are a concern as well. Five feet isn't an unreasonable request to make for a wireless home theatre or presentation technology, but the WiCast sometimes had problems with interference even at that distance. There weren't any signal drops, but the lines of artifacting that appeared in the picture during Iron Man 2 weren't exactly easy to ignore.
This all circles back to the essential problem with wireless display technologies, at least at the present time: it's a hell of a lot of work just to get rid of one cable connection. For WiDi, I have to hunt down a notebook with the specific configuration needed to use it, and then drop $99 on the receiver box for the television. For the ASUS WiCast, I have to pay $199, but at least it'll work with whatever I need it to work with. Or I can just order a fifteen foot HDMI cable off of NewEgg for under ten bucks and not have to worry about latency or interference.
So that in mind, I will say this: as far as wireless display goes, the WiCast is in my opinion a superior solution to Intel's WiDi. If this is something you have a need or a use for, then it's an easy sell. But for everyone else, this technology is a tough sell from any vendor. It's just too cumbersome and asks too many trade-offs just to replace one of the cheapest wired connections in a home theater. Yes, you can use it with desktops and even PS3/Xbox 360 if you'd like, but as long as you're still running an AC adapter and range is realistically less than 10 feet, we can't really see this as anything but a niche product. Some will love it, and it's much cheaper than previous 1080p wireless solutions, but $200 is still a fair amount to spend unless this fills a specific need.