DVI, HDMI and VGA ports for connecting laptops and computers are commonplace with modern televisions. In fact, many newer LCD and LED TVs ship with all three types of connectors to make using your notebook or desktop PC with a large screen easier than ever. Nevertheless, to use one of these ports, you must place the laptop or computer near the television to connect the cables.
With modern wireless technology, you can skip adapters, ports and wires altogether. Some new televisions support integrated technologies that enable you to stream content from your PC without the clutter and hassle of cables, but those models are usually expensive. Even if your set does not have integrated wireless support, though, there are still plenty of options for streaming videos from your PC to the TV wirelessly.
The hardware configuration needed to stream video wirelessly from a computer to a TV varies depending on the type of connection supported by the television or the type of adapter you want to purchase. If your set already offers integrated Wi-Fi support, or if you intend to connect your computer to an A/V receiver with a wireless receiver, your laptop probably has everything you need to connect without any special adapters or transmitters. With a desktop PC, though, you’ll probably need to install a special adapter to connect to the wireless-enabled TV or receiver. If your TV or receiver does not have built-in wireless support, you’ll need to purchase a separate adapter or receiver that connects to your television to receive wireless streams. Types of wireless adapters and receivers vary considerably and use different protocols for streaming. When buying an external wireless receiver or adapter for your TV, try to purchase one that is compatible with the current wireless adapter in your laptop or desktop – if it has one. If you need to buy adapters for both the computer and the TV, it’s probably best to purchase a kit to ensure compatibility between the devices.
USB PC to TV Transmitters
The easiest way to stream content wirelessly from a PC to a TV without integrated Wi-Fi support is to use a USB transmitter. The biggest advantages of a USB transmitter are that it will work with just about any PC and TV and is easy to install. To use the wireless transmitter, all you need is an empty USB port on the computer and a free set of RCA A/V ports on the television. After installation, USB PC to TV transmitters enable you to stream music, photos or video to the TV within minutes. The only drawback with most USB transmitters, though, is their limited ranges. Most USB transmitters provide streaming rates of about 480Mbps and have an effective range of approximately 10 feet. Wireless USB transmitters are fast enough to stream Web, DVD and HD video content without skipping or buffering and have a maximum range of about 10 meters. At ranges greater than 10 feet, though streaming speeds start dropping considerably. Popular manufacturers of Wireless USB transmitter include Diamond Multimedia, RF-Link and Veebeam.
Intel Wireless Display
If you have a laptop equipped with an Intel processor, it may support Wireless Display, or WiDi, technology. Intel WiDi enables laptops to stream video to compatible televisions directly without additional adapters. WiDi compatible televisions have the Intel Wireless Display logo. However, if your TV doesn’t support WiDi, you can purchase a WiDi adapter made by manufacturers such as Belkin, D-Link and Netgear. You can tell if your laptop supports Intel WiDi by looking for the WiDi application shortcut on the desktop or in the Windows Programs menu. Using Intel WiDi is relatively straightforward, and the protocol supports the streaming of virtually any type of media. Nevertheless, transfer rates with the original version of WiDi are slow at about 9Mbps. This means you cannot stream true 1080p HD Video without skipping but can view 720p HD and lesser resolution streams without any issues. If you have a newer Intel Centrino-based laptop that uses an 802.11n wireless adapter, though, WiDi can stream videos of any resolution- including those encoded in 1080p HD. Intel WiDi supports streaming from the laptop to a television or adapter up to 32 feet away.
Similar to Wireless USB transmitter technology, Wireless HDI, or WHDI, is another protocol that enables you to stream wireless video from a desktop or laptop to a television using adapters connected to both devices. Unlike other wireless technologies, though, WHDI compatibility is not limited to streaming to just TVs. With WHDI, you can also stream content from your computer to smartphones, set-top units and even some Blu-ray players. WHDI streams over the unlicensed 5 GHz radio band and can transmit wireless signals for graphics, music, videos, apps and webpages. Because WHDI uses the 5 GHz band, it provides fast transfer rates easily capable of streaming all video types, including 1080p HD clips. In addition to its fast wireless transfer rates, WHDI also has significant range advantages over other protocols and is effective up to 100 feet. Because you can connect WHDI adapters to HDMI ports on laptops or video cards, many refer to the protocol Wireless HDMI. Nevertheless, there are USB versions of WHDI adapters available as well. Major manufacturers of WHDI adapters include Asus, Belkin and HP.
If you’re only interested in streaming media files to your television, then any of the above mentioned wireless protocols will suit you well. However, if you need to stream 3D games between your PC and TV, you’ll find they lack the bandwidth needed to play without skipping or ghosting (delays in screen refresh.) With Wireless HD, though, slow bandwidth is not an issue as it transmits over the 60 GHz band and delivers transfer rates that range between 10 and 28 Gbps – easily making it the fastest wireless protocol available today. Some high-end LCD and LED include integrated Wireless HD support right out of the box. Additionally, you can purchase and install a kit for your PC to stream Wireless HD to a compatible TV or set-top box adapter. Basic Wireless HD adapters have an effective range of about 10 meters. More expensive Wireless HD kits, though, include signal amplifiers that extend the range of the PC transmitter to about 45 meters. Most Wireless HD adapters require an empty HDMI port on the laptop or video card of the computer, while you can connect others to a USB or VGA port. Prominent manufacturers of Wireless HD adapters and set-top boxes include Actiontec, IOGear and Vizio.