HDMI has certainly had its growing pains, but the connection is finally beginning to deliver on its original promise: a single-cable solution for delivering high-bandwidth, all-digital HD video and multichannel audio. HDMI is nearly universal in the home video market, present on all current HDTVs and Blu-ray players, as well as nearly all HD-capable cable and satellite set-top boxes; DVRs; game consoles; AV receivers; upscaling DVD players and recorders; and network video streamers such as the Apple TV. In fact, you realize just how convenient HDMI is when you come across a product without it--I'm looking at you, Nintendo Wii--and then have five cables (three component video wires plus two-channel stereo) instead of one crowding the back of your home entertainment system.
But one aspect of the HDMI promise remains unfulfilled: wireless HDMI. It's an attractive idea, especially for anybody with a wall-mounted flat-panel TV or a ceiling-mounted projector: have all of your HDMI-capable gear running into an AV receiver or HDMI switcher with a wireless HDMI transmitter, and have the TV equipped with a matching receiver--thus allowing you to have all your AV sources across the room from the actual display. We've been hearing about it for years, but to date, there are few--if any--products that you can actually buy. Here's a quick update on the wireless HDMI products we've heard about to date--including when (or whether) we can expect to see them:
Philips Wireless HDMI Kit: At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2007, Philips showed off a wireless HDMI kit that offered the promise of wirelessly connecting any HDMI source and any HDMI TV. It was due to be released in mid-2007, but the year ended with the product never materializing. In November, Philips claimed that the product had been delayed until 2008. However, our attempt to get a clarification from the company's PR agency last week went unanswered, so we're going to move this one into the vaporware column until we hear differently.
» Crave: Philips introduces new wireless HDMI kit
» CNET TV video: Philips Wireless HDMI at CES 2007
Samsung FP-T5094W Wireless Plasma: This is another CES 2007 product. This one wasn't wireless HDMI per se, but it delivered the same de facto experience, thanks to a base station unit brimming with inputs that wirelessly transmitted to the standalone plasma panel. The product actually began shipping by the end of 2007, but the user reviews on Best Buy's Web site complain of terrible lag when playing video games.
» Crave: Samsung's wireless plasma TV snips the wires
» Crave: Samsung's wireless plasma coming in November
» CNET TV video: Samsung FP-T5094W
Gefen Wireless HDMI Extender: The Gefen Wireless HDMI Extender debuted at the NAB show in April 2007, and Gefen even began accepting preorders later that summer. The product reappeared in late 2007/early 2008 with a different look, but it remains only available for preorder on Gefen's Web site. Gefen's press representative says, "The unit is still moving forward, but FCC and other testings still need to be completed."
Belkin FlyWire: Despite the go-nowhere state of wireless HDMI in 2007, Belkin threw its hat into the ring at CES 2008 with the FlyWire. The unit one-upped the Philips one-in/one-out concept by including capacity for six AV sources, including HDMI, component, S-video, and composite ports. Originally slated for summer, Belkin says the FlyWire is now due in October and should retail for $500.
» CES blog:Belkin FlyWire wirelessly transmits six AV sources to your HDTV
» CNET TV video: Belkin FlyWire
While that list isn't a comprehensive selection of wireless HDMI products, it's enough of a cross-section to show that the technology hasn't hit the consumer mainstream yet. Likewise, that complaint about laggy video could be a major hurdle for gamers if it extends to wireless HDMI products across the board, since even a fraction of a second is quite noticeable when doing any interactive activities. But with many of these products using similar chipsets and integrated solutions from vendors such as Amimon, don't be surprised to see the trickle of wireless HDMI products become a flood just as soon as the baseline components and technology are ready for prime time.