Q-Waves Wireless USB AV Kit review
Strange to say, these are interesting times for the humble USB interface. High-speed wireless USB devices are starting to trickle into the shops, while DisplayLink allows you to connect a monitor to your PC via a single USB port. On paper, that means a device that combines the two should be a success.
Enter the Q-Waves Wireless USB AV Kit. Comprised of two wireless USB dongles and a base station with a USB socket, D-SUB socket (an HDMI version is also available) and a 3.5mm-out audio port, the kit promises to allow you to stream your PC’s display to an external monitor. The potential applications are huge – store your video on your PC and play it through a projector in another room without needing to go through the rigmarole of plugging everything in. The marketing claims are impressive: up to 1,400 x 1,050 resolution, and the kit supports HD video up to 720p, with a range of up to 30ft.
Our first impressions were good. Setting it up and installing the software is simple, and the USB dongle used to transmit your PC’s display has a useful pivoting end. The software detected our LCD TV with no problems, even going so far as to correctly tell us the brand. It doesn’t necessarily cut down on wires, though. You still need a D-SUB cable between the receiver and your display, plus an audio cable, as well as another cable for mains power.
We set the system up to show only our test laptop’s display, leaving the laptop blank. Initially, things were impressive – the motion of the mouse cursor was smooth and, from 10ft away, we had no complaints about quality. Photographs displayed clearly and with the correct colours.
However, once we started playing a video, the Q-Waves’ terrific start was blunted. Although video displayed with correct colours (diminishing only when viewed from up close), the AV Kit had trouble with motion. We tried watching a video on the BBC’s iPlayer service, and it would play at full tilt for a few seconds, then drop a few frames, then play smoothly again. Attempting to stream HD video worsened the problem. We tried a standard definition DVD, and again noted that data didn’t seem to be being transmitted and received fast enough, with stuttering frame rates. Audio, over a 3.5mm cable, was fine.
Q-Waves claims the AV Kit provides wireless coverage only if the transmitter and receiver are in the same room – admirably forthright, but not terribly useful. We managed to keep things running smoothly from a maximum distance of about 16ft, at which point we ran into the size limitations of a London living room. Putting a wall between our test laptop and the receiver resulted in the signal being dropped completely. Q-Waves claims the device should work at USB’s highest speed – 480Mbits/sec – at 10ft, but with the likes of Yoyotech selling 16ft of HDMI cable for less than a tenner, you’ll need to be seriously adverse to cables before shelling out ten times that for this AV Kit.
There are a few potentially useful applications. If you find yourself in meeting rooms trying to hook up your laptop to a distant projector, the AV Kit will handle all but the most explosive of demonstrations, even if it doesn’t cut down on clutter. Just don’t expect it to form a central part of a decent home entertainment setup.