Unsightly wires can ruin the look of the best home entertainment system. And hey, looks matter. So what if you can’t — or won’t — drill holes in your walls to hide the clutter of cords? Well, you don’t have many options. But now you have one more: Gefen’s Wireless HDMI Extender, which can transmit 1080p HD content wirelessly. It’s easy to set up and works very well, but, at $999, it comes at a steep price.
The Wireless HDMI Extender is actually two pieces: A transmitter and a receiver. You connect the transmitter to your video source (such as a cable box or Blu-ray player) via HDMI or component A/V. You then connect the receiver to your display, plug both units in, turn them on, and voila, you’re in business. The units automatically find one another within a matter of seconds. It couldn’t be easier.
I found the performance just as impressive as the setup. Gefen’s Extender uses UWB, or ultra-wideband, wireless technology, which is just one of the standards competing for dominance in the emerging wireless HD market. UWB works best with a direct line of sight between the transmitter and the receiver. Gefen says you can place the two pieces 30 feet apart if they’re not obstructed; I was able to place them 20 feet apart and HD content streamed flawlessly. (I couldn’t get them 30 feet apart in my small house without a wall getting in the way.)
Gefen says the transmitter and receiver need to be closer together if there’s an obstruction between them, like a wall, but doesn’t specify a distance. I set the transmitter behind a wall about 12 feet away from the receiver and the performance degraded noticeably. Video sometimes stuttered and blurred, and once I lost audio altogether. (I was able to get it back by stopping and re-starting the video.)
If the two pieces were in the same room, though, they worked well even when an obstruction, like a person or a chair, was in between them. I had several other wireless devices — including an iPhone, a wireless router, and a cordless phone — operating in the same room, and none of them caused any interference with the Gefen product.
The transmitter can handle up to three HD video sources (two HDMI, one component), so it can serve as a video switcher, too. An optional IR blaster allows you to use your existing remote control by pointing it at the Gefen receiver. Commands will be relayed back to the transmitter.
Gefen’s Wireless HDMI Extender makes sense in some situations. If you have a ceiling-mounted projector, or an HDTV that’s in an odd spot, it will certainly come in handy. But is it handy enough to justify its $999 price tag? If you really need a wireless HDMI setup, the Gefen product is one of the few options available. Sony’s Bravia Wireless Link is another, but at $800 it’s not much cheaper than Gefen’s system. More wireless HD setups are in the works: Belkin has shown a similar system, but it has yet to ship and Phillips also reportedly has one in the works. Some of these products are expected to use the WirelessHD standard, which should allow for cheaper products. We can only hope that once Gefen has some significant competition, the price will drop — at least slightly.