Intel Wireless Display - Nice, but 'Where's the Beef?'
Recently there has been some interesting brouhaha in the news about truth in advertising regarding Taco Bell's meat product 99 cent taco - is it meat or is it filler with some meat additive? I guess the courts will decide. In a similar vein, Intel's new WiDi-2 Intel Wireless Display seems to be a case of taking some liberties with the technologies' naming. WiDi-2 does not perform what consumers might expect of a display gone wireless. However, WiDi-2 is a perfectly useful Laptop-2-TV wireless video viewer. To avoid the conundrum that Taco Bell is in, perhaps Intel should call their technology Intel Wi-ViV for Intel Wireless Video Viewer.
So you may be asking yourself, what's my beef with the distinction?
The WiDi-2 product works only on brand new laptops that use the Sandybridge processors, but has made improvements from the first generation by increasing the video resolution to 1080P and using the 5GHz 802.11N frequency bands of Wi-Fi. Moreover, Intel has expanded the number of OEMs building viewer boxes to Buffalo, IOData, DLink and Logitech (audio only) in addition to Netgear. I expect more OEMs to announce viewer boxes in the coming months. All of these efforts by Intel make the product better for watching videos from your laptop wirelessly up on your HDTV. With all of these changes, why am I calling out Intel WiDi-2 and suggesting perhaps a move to a name like Wi-Viv? Simple.
First, since the design is still Wi-Fi the problems of interference and the shared pipe still didn't go away. What does that mean to the average consumer? Well, it depends if you are in your 3500 sq ft house or your city apartment. In congested areas the problem of everyone using the same frequencies and interfering with each other still exists. In addition, as I have mentioned many times before, the issue of everyone sharing the same pipe can severely hamper your bandwidth, and ultimately the picture on your screen.
Second, WiDi-2 didn't noticeably improve the latency versus the original WiDi. What does that mean? Latency is the lag time between when something happens on the users Laptop screen and the time it is shown up on the HDTV. For WiDi-2 this lag time seems to be about 1 second, though I haven't measured it precisely. To the end user this means the following. When you are typing on your laptop there is a noticeable lag before you see the characters up on the HDTV. A long enough time differential to be annoying - and clearly a much longer time lag than a normal desktop display might have when connected to your laptop. In other words - WiDi-2 doesn't behave like a wireless version of a display. This long latency also means you can't do other real time applications - like Skype video conferencing. The delay drives you crazy.
Further, if you are doing any on line real time application, such as PC gaming, the long latency is too long to be able to use your HDTV as a big monitor/display. Again, WiDi-2 doesn't behave like a display. WiDi-2 is perfectly suitable however for projecting videos such as YouTube, Hulu or Netflix from your laptop up on to your HDTV since the user doesn't really care about the 1 second delay from clicking the play button to the time it shows up on the HDTV. However you'd never use it for a true wireless display - the long latency time is just a killer for time sensitive usage typical of a true display or monitor application.
In conclusion, I see Intel's WiDi-2 technology as a nice effort by Intel to make laptops more useful for watching videos on our HDTVs- be they movies or video clips. It certainly is bringing us that much closer to the days of Life without Wires™. But a wireless display it isn't - it just has way too much latency. I don't think I am really being that picky here - so that is my beef with WiDi-2.