Belkin ScreenCast TV WiDi adapter

Belkin's ScreenCast TV adapter makes it easy to view laptop content on your TV through Intel Wireless Display technology

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Belkin Australia ScreenCast TV WiDi adapter
  • Belkin Australia ScreenCast TV WiDi adapter
  • Belkin Australia ScreenCast TV WiDi adapter
  • Belkin Australia ScreenCast TV WiDi adapter

Pros

  • Very easy to use
  • Supports up to 1920x1080 resolution

Cons

  • Slight lag between laptop and TV
  • 1920x1080 performance wasn't super-smooth

Bottom Line

Belkin's ScreenCast TV WiDi adapter is a good solution for getting the contents of your laptop shown on your TV. It's very easy to set up and use and it was reliable during our tests. There was some choppiness when we used a resolution of 1920x1080, but overall its performance was very good. Consider it if your laptop supports WiDi and you want to watch downloaded videos or Internet streams on your TV with a minimum of fuss.

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A WiDi solution aims to make it simple for you to use a big-screen TV with your laptop. There are no physical connections required on the laptop, just a compatible Intel wireless adapter and its WiDi software. It's a solution that gives you the freedom to connect wirelessly, but it does also require a strong and reliable connection from your laptop's wireless adapter. A WiDi adapter such as Belkin's ScreenCast TV is required for your TV (unless it has WiDi built-in, and not many do), which will form the link between your laptop and your TV.

What it does

The main purpose of the Belkin ScreenCast TV is to make it easy to throw content up on your TV (or other big-screen device), without having to fiddle with cables or excessive configuration settings on your laptop. In its most basic form, the Belkin ScreenCast TV duplicates your laptop screen exactly — in my tests, it used a default resolution of 1280x720. Using Windows 7's Display Properties, you can set the ScreenCast TV adapter to be an extended display, which will allow you to use a maximum resolution of 1920x1080. Shortcut keys to perform this task will also be shown in the WiDi software.

Setting it up

The Belkin ScreenCast TV doesn't take a lot of expertise to set up. Simply connect the adapter to your TV using either HDMI or a Composite connection, and switch your display to that input. On the laptop, you will need to make sure that you have the latest version of Intel's WiDi software installed. If you do, simply launch it, do a scan for the adapter, and connect to it. You will need to enter a PIN that the Belkin will show you on the screen, and that's a one-time deal; subsequent connections won't require you to enter a PIN, unless you use a different laptop.

To use WiDi, its application will need to run in the background while you are connected. If you exit the application, your connection will be lost. The mouse pointer can be hidden from view if you only want to use WiDi as a presentation tool, and the screen's edges can be adjusted if they fall from view on your screen or if they don't fill it completely. In my tests using a Samsung Series 6 LCD TV, the Belkin filled the screen with my laptop's output perfectly.

You don't need to be connected to a wireless router in order for WiDi to work; the connection is made between your wireless adapter and the Belkin WiDi adapter directly. If you use the Internet heavily while also using WiDi, you might experience a noticeable performance hit to the video quality on the screen as your laptop's wireless adapter works to stream the video as well as handle all your Internet traffic.

That said, I found the performance of the Belkin adapter to be quite good. I tested in a close-proximity environment with the adapter located about three metres away from my test laptop. The signal quality and strength was excellent in this setup and it represents an optimal situation.

Performance

I set up the ScreenCast TV as a secondary display, which allowed me to watch video on TV while still being able to use the laptop to browse the Web and type up documents and edit photos on its main screen. The resolution on my laptop was kept native, while the WiDi adapter used 1280x720. If you want to watch 1080p content such as Blu-ray discs from your laptop, then you can change the adapter's resolution through Windows. I tested both resolutions in my setup and found that there was a lot more noticeable jerkiness in the video when using 1920x1080. As the majority of my content is standard definition, I had no problems using the lower resolution and the performance of the video was a little smoother.

While moving the pointer around on the screen and resizing and moving windows, I noticed a slight delay between my movements and the movement on the screen. It was by no means terrible, but it was sometimes a little disorienting. If you'll be giving a presentation or demo while duplicating your laptop screen, then you can simply look at your screen while you move the pointer and the delay won't affect you at all.

For watching videos, WiDi is a good solution and this is primarily how I used it. I was even able to stream online video with great success. That said, using WiDi, plus streaming video from the Internet to my laptop really put a strain on the wireless adapter in the laptop and dropped frames were sometimes noticeable. When the bandwidth wasn't enough, green artifacts and choppy audio became the norm. I found that full-screen mode was more susceptible to these things, and when I used windowed mode the results were a lot smoother.

I also streamed Internet video using the NBA LeaguePass Broadband service through a Netgear N900 router to my test laptop, which is equipped with a Second Generation Core i7 CPU and an Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 wireless adapter, and from there to the Belkin ScreenCast TV. It handled this task with aplomb. The stream I used was at a quality of 1600 kilobits per second (Kbps), but I wasn't able to successfully stream at the highest quality of 3000Kbps — they video quality was just too jumpy. I streamed using both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz modes of the laptop's adapter and the video performance under either network was virtually the same using the same video sources. The 5GHz connection could be of benefit if you're in a environment with lots of other 2.4GHz networks around you.

Conclusion

As a user of online video streams such as the aforementioned NBA LeaguePass that was used in my tests, I've gone through a few different ways of getting this video onto my TV, including plugging the laptop directly into the TV using HDMI, and plugging the laptop in to a wireless HDMI transmitter such as Belkin's ScreenCast AV4. WiDi has proven to be the best solution for this task so far, allowing me to lounge on the couch while making the video connection. However, it also means that I can't watch streams at their highest quality, nor extensively browse the Web while streaming a game and using WiDi, because the laptop's wireless adapter sometimes can't handle all those tasks simultaneously. Those are things I can live with.

For business use, the Belkin ScreenCast TV offers an easy way for workers to tap into a big screen to give presentations, and it can make a boardroom setup look much neater.

WiDi should come into its own once more laptops and displays start shipping with WiDi-capable wireless adapters. If your laptop already supports WiDi but your TV doesn't and you want to give it a go, Belkin's adapter is definitely worth a look. It was painless to set up and it proved to be a reliable performer.

Wireless adapter support

You'll be able to use WiDi if your laptop has an Intel Core processor and one of the following Intel wireless adapters with Intel Wireless Display software:

• Intel Centrino Wireless-N 1000
• Intel Centrino Wireless-N 1030
• Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200
• Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205
• Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230
• Intel Centrino Wireless-N + WiMAX 6150
• Intel Centrino Advanced-N + WiMAX 6250
• Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300

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