Maximum PC Staff Aug 31, 2009

Gefen Wireless for HDMI UWB

At A Glance


HD video and surround sound without wires; doesn't interfere with other wireless devices.

Wide Load

Limited to HDMI 1.2a in many respects; very expensive.

Wow! It actually works!

The fact that Gefen’s wireless HDMI extender works at all is remarkable enough; the fact that it works better than the manufacturer claims borders on the miraculous. So why aren’t we giving it a higher score? First, it would be cheaper to hire an electrician to install a hardwired HDMI connection; second, the extender is limited to HDMI 1.2a.

You can use HDMI 1.3 sources and cables, but the Ultra Wideband technology Gefen relies on just doesn’t have the bandwidth to accommodate losslessly compressed multitrack audio (Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio); it falls back instead to either Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound or simple stereo, depending on the source. The system can’t accommodate Deep Color (video with 30-, 36-, or 48-bit color depth) either, but it does support HDMI 1.3’s lip-sync feature.

If your home has masonry walls and ceilings, on the other hand, it might not be possible to create a new cable run. And if your A/V receiver and home-theater PC or Blu-ray player are on the same side of the room, and what you need is a means of getting video to your projector on the opposite side of the room, the audio issue won’t matter (neither will Deep Color, for that matter, if your projector or display doesn’t support it). In short, Gefen’s product is amazing, but its appeal is limited to a small circle of consumers, which is why the company has to charge so much for each unit.

The transmitter and receiver are fairly conspicuous, being housed in 6.75-inch-wide aluminum boxes with large fixed antennas.

The transmitter is equipped with two HDMI inputs, one component video input, one stereo input, and an IR blaster jack. The receiver has one HDMI output, one stereo output, and an IR extender jack. Plug Gefen’s $25 IR extender into this port and you can send commands from the receiver back to an emitter plugged into the transmitter to control A/V gear in the same cabinet. But the transmitter doesn’t have an IR receiver of its own, so the only way to switch inputs is to walk up to the device and push a button.

We tested the system by sending video from both a Blu-ray-equipped home-theater PC and a stand-alone Samsung Blu-ray player to an Epson PowerLite Cinema 500 mounted on the ceiling 15 feet away. Gefen recommends placing the transmitter and receiver as high as practical to prevent obstacles—including people walking past—from disrupting the signal, so we were surprised to discover that we could close the plywood door on our entertainment center without creating any issues at all. We sent the HDMI signal through a Sherwood RD-7503 A/V receiver first, so the fact that the Gefen unit doesn’t support Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA didn’t matter a bit.

The system operates on a frequency range between 3.1GHz and 4.8GHz, so we didn’t encounter any conflicts with either our dual-band router (which operates radios on the 2.4- and 5.0GHz frequency bands) or our DECT 6.0 cordless phone (which operates in the 1.9GHz range). The transmitter achieves its magic by compressing each video frame using the JPEG 2000 compression standard before zapping it through the air, but we were unable to detect any visual artifacts, dropped frames, or any appreciable difference when we compared its image quality to the hardwired HDMI connection we usually use.

Gefen’s HDMI extender is undeniably expensive, but it’s a remarkable technological achievement that delivers even better performance than its manufacturer advertises, so we can’t complain.


Gefen Wireless for HDMI UWB

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