Review: Belkin ScreenCast AV 4
- — 08 July, 2012 22:00
|Name||Wireless HDMI transmitter: Belkin ScreenCast AV4|
|At a glance:||Full HD 1080p wireless transmission,Support 5.1 channel surround sound,Works with up to 4 video sources,Also serves as a repeater for remote control signals|
|Summary:||Works a charm, but the price is off-puttingly high.|
Belkin’s Screencast AV 4 allows you to wirelessly connect up to four HDMI video sources (Blu-ray player, game console, etc) to a single display, such as an HDTV or projector. Advertising a range of up to 30 metres line-of-sight and support for 1080p Full HD, it aims to solve the cabling problem inherent to all home theatre setups.
From a glance at the toaster-sized box you can tell, this is no ultraminiature plug-in adapter. The Screencast consists of two lightweight but fairly large units: a transmitter, that you situate with your AV gear (235 x 145 x 35mm), and a receiver that goes with your display (175 x 132 x 35mm).
Each of the two devices has its own mains adapter, so you’ll need a spare power point by your AV sources and your TV. The former is unlikely to be a problem, though the latter might pose a bit of an issue if your TV is wall-mounted. The receiver itself can be happily wall-mounted alongside such a TV, but although its power adapter is compact, it’s a little too tall to plug in behind a TV without some creative architecture or wiring.
Receiver setup is simple as can be: plug in the power adapter, and connect the receiver to your TV with the included metre-long HDMI cable. All done: your TV is now ready to receive sweet wireless video.
Transmitter setup is a little more complex, but only barely. Again, plug in the power. Four HDMI ports on the rear allow you to connect up your devices: we tested with an HDMI-enabled DVD player, Blu-ray player and Freeview tuner, leaving one port free. You’ll need to supply your own HDMI cables to connect to the transmitter.
Finally, plug Belkin’s ‘IR Blaster’ into the transmitter – this is a nifty little four-headed cable, each head tipped with a little infrared LED. You run one of these the front of each of your devices, lining it up with the infrared receivers on the front (where you’d point the remote control).
While the transmitter is busy sending beautiful Full HD video from your Blu-ray player or Freeview box to the receiver and thusly your TV, the receiver is busy sending back any infrared signals it sees from a remote control. This means you can stash your AV gear in a cabinet behind closed doors, or in another room entirely, and still control it all just by pointing remote controls at your screen. It’s a common feature among wireless AV devices, not unique to the Screencast, but a good one to have.
One all is plugged in, you use the three-button remote control to go through some very minor on-screen setup (it took us less than a minute), then you’re ready to go. That’s really all there is to it. The remote lets you switch from one video source to another.
1080p video comes through beautifully and without stuttering or artefacts, along with 5.1 channel surround sound. None of the AV devices we tested with posed a problem. Video also streamed fine from an HDMI–equipped PC, though for unknown reasons, we were unable to make a successful connection from a MacBook Pro using the official HDMI adapter.
We lacked the space to test the full 30 metre line-of-sight range, but ten metres posed no problem at all. Five metres through a couple of indoor walls worked equally well.
There’s minor lag when running at full 1080p, but not enough to be at all noticeable when playing video or watching TV – even if you’re running the audio directly from your AV gear and sending the video via the Screencast, the two seem perfectly in-sync. The only place the lag becomes noticeable is when gaming, particularly in twitchy first-person shooters. It may not be a game-breaker for everyone, but it’s not really the ideal setup for competitive Call of Duty multiplayer. Keep your console connected directly to your TV, and save the Screencast for less-interactive experiences.
The only other downside is the price. At $400, it’s likely to be cheaper than a professional home-theatre wiring job. Not, however, cheaper than a clever-Kiwi’s DIY job. If you have a cinderblock room that makes wiring difficult, or you’re in a rental that you can’t drill holes throughout, the Screencast is worth every cent. If cabling is an option, though, it’s likely to be the cheaper and simpler one.