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Imation Link Wireless Audio/Video Extender

Wireless is a big topic for my Holiday Gadget talks this year, so part of the demo is decoupling my laptop using some of the wireless peripherals that I've been covering this season, including wireless broadband networking through the Verizon MiFi cellular hotspot, a wireless mouse like the Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse, and wireless audio with the Logitech Wireless Speakers.

But what about showing the video display? Video requires another cable plugged into the laptop, and at two recent talks the projector was set up halfway up the aisle, which makes running a cable even more clumsy.

Luckily, I had along another piece of equipment to demo -- the Imation Link Wireless Audio/Video Extender. This wirelessly transmits video, and audio, from a PC or Mac to a television or projector, for only $149.

And showing the video over wireless does not require compromises -- The Imation Link supports HD video (720p / 1280 x 720), stereo audio, and still photos at 1080p.

The Imation Link is easy to set up. You connect the fin-shaped receiver unit to the projector or TV using a standard VGA cable (the same cable that you would otherwise plug in to your laptop), or using HDMI.

Then plug in the USB transmitter dongle to your PC to send the display to the receiver. This pivots vertically as a directional antenna to transmit up to 30 feet. It requires a line-of-sight path, but actually worked great for my talks for periods of up to an hour -- without any glitches, even with occasional obstructions as people moved through the transmission path.

To set up the new display on Windows, the Imation Link simply appears as a new available display device in the display properties. You than can choose to replicate the desktop on both your laptop display and on the projector, or you can extend the desktop across both displays, to work privately on your laptop and then drag windows to the second display in order to share them. (Actually, on my laptop, this can give me a third display -- the built-in laptop display, an external monitor connected to the laptop's VGA port, and the wireless Imation Link.)

The result is pretty impressive -- even through the desktop is typically rather static, you're actually wirelessly streaming HD video in real time, so there's no lag or glitches when you move the cursor, or drag a window, or launch an application, or play some video.

So how does this work? You can't stream video with Bluetooth, which was designed for lower-bandwidth devices like mice and printers and streaming audio. And we've all seen streaming video over Wi-Fi, which can have glitches from transient network hiccups or interference from multiple users.

Instead, the Imation Link uses Wireless USB (also known as Ultra-WideBand / UWB -- see the USB Implementers Forum and Wikipedia). Wireless USB provides a reliable connection, with faster speeds and lower power than Wi-Fi, with dedicated, one-to-one connectivity between the transmitter and receiver.

The Imation Link Wireless Audio/Video Extender is an early example of the promise of higher-speed wireless interconnections, with lower cost, power, and size requirements that are designed to span consumer electronics, PC peripherals, and mobile devices. Wireless USB performance is targeted at 480 Mbps at 3 meters (i.e., delivering the same bandwidth as wired USB 2.0), lowering to 110 Mbps at 10 meters.

The bottom line is that the Imation Link has already saved me from setup hassles and panics in unfamiliar facilities -- I now can literally carry around my laptop while giving a demo or talk, wirelessly streaming the video and audio to the projector, whatever its location across the room.

See my article on Holiday Gadgets 2010: Portable and Wireless for more on portable and wireless trends, devices, and accessories.

See my Consumer HDTV Gallery for more on High-Def TV, displays, and projectors

   Find the Imation Link Wireless A/V Extender on Amazon

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