Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) and Netgear Push2TV review


Recently I made a couple of posts about this cool new Intel Wireless Display technology that lets you connect your laptop to your TV wirelessly. Intel Wireless Display (or WiDi) is a feature that comes built into some laptops from various manufacturers, and it is paired with a receiver that then connects to your TV and allows you to easily display your laptop's activities on your TV wirelessly.

I've been using this now for a couple weeks and I've become very familiar with both the pros as well as the cons. I have to say, this is a great device for a lazy day when you want to sit on the couch in front of your TV and watch some Hulu, Netflix, or YouTube videos on your HDTV. Just press your WiDi button, connect to your TV, and then start up what ever video you want to see.

Netgear Push2TV Adapter for Intel Wireless Display

So how does it work?

Netgear Push2TV Adapter for Intel Wireless Display

In a previous post, I explained How to connect your laptop to TV using Intel Wireless Display, complete with video demonstration. Really, I was impressed and surprised at just how easy this was to setup. In the Push2TV box you'll find a small, shiny, and modern looking black box which connects to your power outlet and TV with the supplied power and HDMI cables. This box is small enough to just tuck away in  your entertainment center, or hide behind your TV as I did. That is it, really.

From here, just turn on the TV and set it to the correct input channel. Once the Push2TV adapter is connected, and both the adapter and TV turned on, all that remains to be done is to connect the laptop. Simply turn on your Intel Wireless Display ready laptop and press the wireless display button to launch the software.

The first use may take a minute or so to install the needed software before asking you to name your adapter and enter the security code displayed on your TV. For future use, it is fairly quick and is really as easy as setting the TV to the right input channel and pressing your wireless display button to connect to your TV.

Who would really love this?

Internet video fans. As someone who does not have cable, and watches all his TV on Hulu, Netflix, and various other websites, I've found it to be great for such activities. Despite sitting 6 feet away on my couch, I can casually surf the internet with my laptop, and load a video right to my TV, wirelessly. This is great if you don't want to use an HDMI cable, or simply enjoy the convenience of a wire-free experience.

Music lovers. Did I mention it transmits the audio as well? I was pleasantly surprised when not only the video displayed on my TV, but the audio was transmitted as well. Fire up your favorite internet radio station or music playlist, because what ever home theater audio system you have connected to your TV will be used for audio coming from your laptop. 

Photographers. What better way to display your pictures and slide shows to friends and family than right on your HDTV from the comfort of a couch?

Is it perfect?

Note: since posting this review there was an update described below which fixes many of the issues I mention in the following paragraph.

Unfortunately, few things are perfect, Intel Wireless Display included. Once in a while I did notice the picture would kind of distort and get horizontal lines across the screen on the TV, but not on the laptop's screen. However, this only seemed to happen if I just let the picture idle for a while on a still image. I never experienced any problems while watching video on my TV. I also noticed that the picture displayed on my TV did not quite fill the entire screen, there was about an inch border all around the video, and an inch or so on the left and right of the laptop's screen while connected to the TV. I'm guessing this was occurring because my laptop and HDTV were set to different resolutions, but I forgive this issue because I was using a laptop that did not have full HD resolution, and it still worked remarkably well.

Will this work for gaming?

Your results may vary, but my lower-end laptop was not built for gaming, so I could not test this out. There was a slight delay in the video and audio before it reached my TV. This did not affect the viewing experience on the TV though, because everything is synced on the TV, it just happens to be a half-second or so behind what is happening on the laptop. I think this would make gaming difficult due to coordination difficulties. As noted above, a recent update largely fixes this problem.

What you need to get started

  1. A laptop with Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) capability.
  2. A NETGEAR Push2TV TV Adapter for Intel Wireless Display (Amazon link).
  3. A TV with either HDMI (preferred) or the older RCA analog yellow, red, and white connections.

Compatible laptops

Look for laptops with the WiDi icon, meaning they have the Intel Wireless Display technology.I'm using a Sony Vaio model they no longer make, but many manufacturers such as Sony, Dell, HP and Toshiba currently produce compatible laptops. Just look for laptops that are marketed as having Intel Wireless Display capability. These laptops are equipped with the required HD graphics, and Intel MyWiFi technology. You can also find a list of compatible laptops at bestbuy.com/intelwidi or intel.com/shop. Also be sure to check the prices on those sites with the Amazon Laptop Store.

What HDTV is that?

And because people often ask, Samsung makes the best HDTVs, all reviewers agree. You can even order on Amazon often for cheaper than Sears or Best Buy and schedule a delivery right to your house. Mine is a 32 inch which Amazon no longer carries, but just check out the great reviews on Amazon to find the TV for you: Great Samsung HDTVs.

Pros

  • Extremely easy to use
  • All you need is a compatible laptop and Push2TV box
  • Your mom (maybe even grandma) can do it
  • Wire-free!

Cons

  • Not yet fully mainstream, so not all laptops have WiDi
  • May have minor display glitches such as frame around picture, or periodic artifacts

Update

There is a software and firmware update available that addresses the issues I described earlier in this review. The update can be found at http://www.intel.com/go/wirelessdisplayupdate.

The update actually solved the lag problem which wasn't even that bad to begin with. Now there is merely a fraction of a second of lag, which still doesn't make this an idea choice for gamers, but makes it usable for games that don't require split-second timing.

The update also fixed an issue which caused my laptop and TV screens to change and leave extra space on the top or sides. The TV still has a slight border, but it has been significantly reduced and is barely noticeable, while the laptop's black bars on the side are completely gone and the resolution does not change.

Lastly, the horizontal pink and green lines I mentioned seem to have been partially fixed by the update, but not eliminated entirely. They still do not appear while watching TV shows or movies though, so I do not find them bothersome.

Conclusion

I definitely recommend Intel Wireless Display and the Netgear Push2TV adapter to anyone who needs an easy and wireless solution for watching video or other media on TV from their laptop. It is truly a very easy system to setup and use, and lets you really take advantage of an HDTV and home theater audio system with the power of the internet. I wouldn't recommend this for hardcore gamers due to the slight lag issue, or for someone looking for a dedicated home theater solution due to the frame around the video on the TV that I experienced. However, this is a great solution for casual viewing for most people. I use it on a regular basis to watch both Netflix and Hulu shows, and will continue to do so in the future.

Also see:

Intel supplied me with the laptop and adapter free of charge in order to review. I've written my honest experiences, but your results may vary. Feel free to email me any questions or comments, or post them on the YouTube videos and I will respond.