Wireless explanations

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Consumers today can choose from WHDI, wireless HD, WiDi, wireless USB and Wi-Fi Direct. Confused? Check out our guide to these emerging wireless streaming-media technologies.

WHDI

Wireless Home Digital Interface, or WHDI, was finalized in 2009 to give consumers a way to link the PC to the TV. Think of it as the wireless equivalent of HDMI. The technology has a latency of less than 1 millisecond, which means it’s good enough not just for watching movies but should also work well to stream games from your browser to the TV.

WHDI can stream 1080p video at up to 3 Gbps (gigabits per second). All you need is a wireless HDI dongle that can plug into your laptop and a little receiver that goes behind the TV. That set will cost about RM464.48 and will be available early next year.

Meanwhile, TV makers such as Sharp and LG are rolling out TVs with built-in support for WHDI standard.

Slowly, the WHDI consortium hopes to convince PC makers integrate WHDI chips into laptops, similar to the way Wi-Fi chips are built in today.

WirelessHD

While other wireless technologies focus on streaming content from the PC to the TV, WirelessHD targets the most common electronic eyesore in homes: the black HDMI cables that snake out from behind the TV towards the set-top box, PC or the DVD player.

If built into TV sets, WirelessHD can offer fast data transfers of up to 10 GBps to 28 Gbps. That makes it the fastest of the lot for point-to-point data transfer.

So far, TV makers such as Panasonic, LG and Vizio have said they will offer wireless-HD–enabled sets by the end of the year.

Wireless USB

When the familiar USB port decides to go wireless, it means steaming-media companies can piggyback on to a powerful, widely understood technology.

Wireless USB is based on the Ultra-WideBand (UWB) radio platform. It can send data at speeds of 480 Mbps at distances of up to 10 feet and 110 Mpbs at up to 32 feet. Companies such as Logitech already offer UWB-based kits that can be used to connect your PC to the TV.

A startup called Veebeam launched a box that uses wireless USB to stream internet video from your laptop to the TV.

Wireless USB is more powerful for point-to-point connectivity than traditional Wi-Fi, because it offers more bandwidth and less interference, says Veebeam. It estimates 420 Mbps bandwidth for its wireless USB implementation.

WiGig

Picture yourself downloading a 25-GB Blu-ray disc in less than a minute. That’s what WiGig can do for you, says the Wireless Gigabit Alliance. The Alliance is a consortium of electronics companies that has established a specification for a wireless technology. WiGig could offer users data-transfer speeds ranging from 1 Gbps to 6 Gbps — or at least 10 times faster than today’s Wi-Fi.

The alliance had hoped to make WiGig commonplace by the end of the year, but it has been slow going for the standard, which has not been implemented in any consumer products.

Wi-Fi

The latest version of the ubiquitous wireless networking technology is 802.11n, also known as Wireless N. With speeds up to 600 Mbps, it’s fast enough to sling plenty of data around your house. Plus it can support up to four simultaneous streams of high-definition video, voice and data, and it’s already built into many devices.

The standard has a powerful backer in Qualcomm, which has been working to create Wireless-N chips that can be embedded into devices like set-top boxes and TV. But while many computer makers have jumped on the technology, consumer electronics companies have been cool to the idea.

Part of the problem is that Wireless N requires you to have a router, which introduces complications many consumer-oriented companies would like to avoid. One possible alternative: Wi-Fi Direct, which supports peer-to-peer connections and can work on 802.11 a/b/g/n. Wi-Fi Direct, formerly known as Wi-Fi Peer-to Peer, lets devices connect to one another easily for permanent or temporary connections, without requiring them to join the network of a nearby wireless router.

In addition to wirelessly streaming HD content, Wi-Fi Direct will make it easy to send images from your camera on a friend’s HDTV, display PowerPoint slides from your smartphone on a client’s video projector, or send web pages from your tablet to a printer wirelessly.

The Wi-Fi Alliance claims that Wi-Direct will have a range of about 600 feet and about 250 Mbps to 300 Mbps of real throughput. The alliance has announced it will begin certifying products that comply with the standard. That means manufacturers can begin building compatible products, get them tested by the alliance and start marketing the products to consumers, perhaps as early as the next few months.

There are some limitations: Not all Wi-Fi Direct devices will be able to connect with one another. Devices will only be able to connect with devices that have compatible Wi-Fi Direct support. And of course, device makers will have to explain all this to consumers. Good luck with that marketing budget.

WiDi

Meanwhile, Intel has taken the 802.11 standard to create its own service called WiDi that will be preloaded into many laptops that have Intel chips. Some 44 models of notebooks sold at Best Buy have the WiDi technology already. But consumers will need to buy an additional RM309.65 adapter from Netgear to complete the connection to their TVs.

The wireless streaming is currently to limited to 720p resolution, and it can’t handle Blu-ray content, although Intel plans to support higher-resolution video in the future.

Intel’s WiDi technology, maxes out at about 9 Mbps and suffers from latency issues. So while it works fine for video, it could be difficult to play a game on a TV that’s wirelessly being streamed from a laptop.

For a handy reference guide, check out the table below to see the different technologies and how they compare. The speed and range are listed per each standard’s theoretical specifications. In the real world, these speeds are likely to be much lower.

Courtesy of wired.com

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