I love my HTPC. I’m one of those guys. When my idiot neighbors decide to plug-check their dirt bikes on a beautiful Sunday morning, I can fire up the PC, crank the Hans Zimmer, and drown out the buzz. Or, I can kick back on a Friday night and watch Blu-rays with a bottle of wine. Or, my wife can hop on any time during the week and knock out her World of Warcraft dailies on a 55” screen.
But what if you didn’t need an HTPC permanently installed in your man-cave in order to play your favorite music, watch your favorite movies, or game on your LCD display? That was the question I asked myself when Intel started talking about Wireless Display at this year’s CES.
Introducing Wireless Display
Intel went to great lengths to make Wireless Display a consumer-friendly technology. It did such a good job, in fact, that the technical intricacies aren’t readily available online. The flip-side is glorious simplicity. Once you've made the initial pairing between notebook and adapter, Intel's software handles subsequent handshakes automatically.
On one end of the connection, you have a notebook. That notebook sports an Arrandale-based processor (Wireless Display employs the integrated HD Graphics engine), a current-gen Centrino-branded wireless adapter, Intel’s My WiFi software pre-installed, and Windows 7.
At the other end sits Netgear’s Push2TV adapter with an HDMI cable running to your TV. In between? Nothing but air.
Because Intel requires that compatible notebooks have the My WiFi and Wireless Display software pre-installed and enabled, setting up the connection between notebook and adapter is a matter of turning both on, firing up the My WiFi software, entering a four-digit PIN, and watching the mobile system’s screen cloned on your TV. I demonstrate the process in the video below, and then show some high-def content being played back on our test platform.
Of course, what happens under the hood is a bit more complex—this wasn’t an easy capability to roll-out—and a deeper look into the technology helps explain why Wireless Display really isn’t the solution I was hoping might make my HTPC redundant.
Nevertheless, it’s still a cool feature that you can’t beat for the price. Wireless Display debuted on a trio of notebooks from Dell, Sony, and Toshiba selling at Best Buy. All three come with the Netgear adapter bundled, so Wireless Display is more or less a free value-add if you’re comfortable paying $1,000-ish for a Core i5-based system.
Not a fan of Best Buy’s inflexible configurations? Not to worry—Intel’s own channel-oriented Spring Peak shells also have Wireless Display support, giving you the opportunity to pick the components you want in your laptop and still get WiDi built-in. Whoops. Actually, Intel used to refer to this technology as WiDi. Apparently, that name has already been trademarked, so it’s Wireless Display from here on out.