House brands are a common sight at the grocery store: Shop Safeway (a large chain on the west coast) and you can buy name-brand yogurt, or buy Lucerne and save a few pennies. Best Buy has been doing the same thing with consumer electronics products with its Insignia and Rocketfish brands.
Best Buy is now expanding beyond commodity products such as A/V cables to offer highly specialized components. The $600 Rocketfish WirelessHD Adapter (model RF-WHD100), for example, can stream an HDMI signal (with surround sound and 1080p video) across a room without wires. It’s comparable to the $1,000 Gefen Wireless for HDMI UWB.
The WirelessHD chipset at the heart of Best Buy's Rocketfish WirelessHD Adapter operates on the 60GHz frequency band--and that's no typo.
In fairness to Gefen, Best Buy’s RF-WHD100 doesn’t offer as many features and isn’t as well constructed. Nonetheless, both products are strictly point-to-point devices capable of streaming media a maximum of 33 feet inside a single room—their signals can’t penetrate walls. The Rocketfish is based on the WirelessHD standard and the Gefen product uses proprietary technology (although Gefen offers a different wireless HDMI device that is also based on the WirelessHD standard). You should also be aware of a competing standard on the horizon: WHDI (Wireless Home Digital Interface) promises to deliver a wireless HD media network with a range of 100 feet that can operate all around the home. But WHDI products aren’t expected to hit retail channels until the third quarter of this year.
Now that you have the lay of the land, let’s discuss performance. Like Gefen’s solution, Best Buy’s consists of a transmitter with an HDMI input, and a receiver with an HDMI output. Both company’s boxes are actively cooled by muffin fans (Best Buy’s emits a pronounced whine, although the fan on our video projector was considerably louder).
In addition to HD video, the RF-WHD100 has enough bandwidth to stream up to eight channels of LPCM audio with 24-bit resolution and a sampling rate of 192kHz. It can’t stream Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, but that won’t matter if you have an A/V receiver in the same cabinet as your HTPC or stand-alone Blu-ray player.
Best Buy recommends that the transmitter and receiver be placed facing each other at the same level in open spaces (not inside cabinets). In our tests, we took the HDMI output from a home-theater PC (and a stand-alone Blu-ray player after that) and input it to a Sherwood RD-7503 A/V receiver; we then routed the receiver’s HDMI output to the RF-WHD100 transmitter. The RF-WHD100 receiver, in turn, was plugged into a ceiling-mounted Epson PowerLite Cinema 500 video projector. The system worked as advertised as long as we left our entertainment center’s wooden cabinet door open, but we experienced drop-outs when we closed the door (we like our gear to be experienced more than seen).
If you must have a wireless HDMI solution today and you can live with the limitations of current technology, Best Buy has a solid and comparatively inexpensive solution. If you can wait, WHDI sounds like a much better solution: Yes, it’s currently vaporware, but it smells awfully good.