The concept of wireless display is not a new one. Many designs and devices have been built to give the ability to connect to a display without the need for long cables strung across the floor. The idea has caught on in many sectors of the market so much that both AMD and Intel have their own built-in wireless display APIs (and hardware subsystems). Most of these are built into newer mobile products, which means that if you are trying to connect a desktop or another device without WiDi (wireless display) already built in you are out of luck. Fortunately for all of us someone came up with the bright idea of combining the USB display concept with WiDi to deal with that little issue. We are taking a look at one of these today in the form of the Diamond V-Stream WPCTVPRO USB 1080p Wireless Display adapter.
The Box and Goodies -
The box that the WPCTVPRO comes in is designed to be shaped like a diamond. Which is a pretty cool design in reality and also allows for fairly easy access and even storage if you need it. The outside is fairly uninteresting with images of the WPCTVPRO and not a whole lot more.
After removing the slipcover and splitting the box open things are much more interesting. Nestled inside a foam “tray” we find the two major components of the WPCTVPRO. These are the USB adapter and the display transceiver (for lack of a better word). Opposite them is a CD-ROM that contains installation information for Windows based systems (you will probably never need this CD).
Behind the CD is a flap that conceals all of the other items that you need to get the WPCTVPRO running. Diamond has included an HDMI cable, power cord and a small quick install guide.
The WPCTVPRO Vstream -
The WPCTVPRO is a DisplayLink device at its core (DL-165) and this is the technology it is using in the main tranciever to take the wireless USB signal and convert it to display information. Although DisplyLink is the technology for video Samsung is who actually developed the wireless chip that is running the show. You get a Samsung S3C2680A wireless chip that is capable of low-power, high-bandwidth transfers. When you first plug things in you will see it as a Samsung Audio/Video device, but the driver you need is all DisplayLink. There is also a C-Media CM108AH audio chip with headphone amp which is used to power the 3.5mm stereo jack.
The USB portion of the WPCTVPRO is small and discrete with the USB plug attached at a 90 degree angle. This means it is not going to stick out of your laptop awkwardly.
The main transceiver unit is also small, but by necessity it needs to be much larger. For display connectivity you get HDMI and VGA. We found this a little bit odd as we expected DVI to be a more logical choice. DVI has become much more common than Standard VGA, but in the end you are much more likely to use this with an HDMI enabled monitor anyway.
Using HDMI you also get 5.1 digital audio with your video stream. If you are stuck with VGA all is not lost that is that the 3.5mm stereo jack on the side is for. There is also a MiniUSB port on the side that is not explained in any of the manuals included or available online.
Testing something like the Diamond V-Stream WCPTVPRO will incorporation multiple facets. The one that most people will be concerned with is video quality, but no less important are range and battery life. If you drop the WCPTVPRO into your laptop and it cuts battery life in half it is not going to be of as much use as a more efficient product. Range is also very important; if you are limited to 5 feet then what is the point of paying for a device to give you more distance (unless you are just that concerned about cables. To test these we used a couple of different types of video output to ensure that the WPCTVPRO was up to the task of sending a wide array of video to your monitor. We used our Samsung Series 7 Chronos (NP780Z5E-S01UB) laptop. The Chronos is not stock as we have upgraded it to 12GB of RAM and added in an ADATA 256GB SX900 which makes things a little snappier than the original 8GB and 1TB 5400RPM HDD. This new configuration also improved battery life so our results will be different than someone using a stock Series 7 Chronos.
For our first test run we started about 7-feet away from our display unit. This is a 50-Inch Panasonic Viera S1 (TC-P50S1). Our test medium was going to be Netflix streaming, but we ran into a small problem.
Fortunately this was easy to resolve. The drivers that ship with the WCPTVPRO are not truly meant for Windows 8 which causes them to fail if used for some streaming media applications (we saw that same thing with Amazon Prime). If you are running Windows 8 you will want to grab the latest version of the Display Link drivers from Diamond’s website… in fact you should probably do this no matter what OS you are using as they do provide some stability and performance fixes.
After that we watched Netflix video until the battery hit 20% (from a full charge). This gave us about 4.5 hours of viewing time which is not that much different from the 5+ hours we get normally using the same test on the local display. Pushing an Amazon Prime Full HD (1080p) video was still solid, but here the batter drain was much more obvious with a life of just under 4 hours.
The next stop was at 15 Feet where the video began to get a little choppy and the power used to push the 1080p video started to have an impact on battery life. Here our battery only lasted around 3 hours (2 hours 48 minutes) for NetFlix and just over 2 for Amazon.
Outside 15 feet the video was so choppy (and audio began to stutter) that it was not worth the effort. We still had good line of site, but it did not make any difference.
We tried gaming using the WPCTVPRO, but none of the games we tried (Civilization V, Napoleon Total War, HalfLife) would use the remote display. Typically we would get a black screen or the game would crash back to the desktop. As the DisplayLink adapter does not support DirectX this was not surprising. We imagine that some of the basic Windows 8 games will work, but nothing that requires advanced graphics.
The ability to connect to a monitor without the need for cables is one that is valuable. If you are using your laptop for a mobile presentation it can be handy to tap into available video resources (monitors or projectors. The Diamond V-Stream WPCTVPRO is smaller and lighter than a cable long enough to connect to a monitor 15 feet away. On the downside it is not going to have the range to really reach out to the full 30 feet listed on the box. The question to ask is, are these things worth the $99.99 it is going to cost you to buy this. In general, even with the issues we encountered, the $99 is going to be worth it for what you are most likely to use it for; presentations. Although Diamond says it can be used to stream almost any media, in practice it is limited in the range you can actually send this type of stream. If you pull back and send PowerPoint or other basic presentation data you get more stability and battery life. The value of having this in your bag Vs needing to ask for a cable or connection when you kick off a presentation is well worth it.
In the end the DIAMOND Multimedia WPCTVPRO VStream Wireless USB PC to TV Adapter does not exactly live up to the claims on the box. Yes you can stream most media types from your laptop or desktop to a monitor, but the distance for media streaming even at 720p is certainly not 30 feet and when you push up to 1080p your range is cut quite a bit (15-feet max). If, on the other hand, you are just pushing basic presentation data (PowerPoint, etc.) then you can get out to around 20 feet from the monitor as long as you maintain good line of sight between the base and the USB transceiver. This I where the real money is for this product. I know that I have run into technical difficulties with finding the right cable, that cable fitting the laptop I brought and worse. Knowing that you have a small and light device that will remove these obstacles gives can mean the difference between a professional and winning presentation and a frustrated potential client. The Diamond WPCTVPRO can certainly do that. I know it has found a permanent spot in my laptop bag for just that reason.
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