Nearly everyone has pictures and videos sitting on their computers that they'd like to view on their televisions. Warpia's $180 Wireless USB PC to A/V Display Adapter is designed to make wirelessly streaming this content to living room displays a snap.
Unfortunately, my experience with it was less than encouraging.
Here's how it's supposed to work: Plug the Audio/Video Base - a small, curvy, black plastic box about the size of an ashtray - into your television via either an HDMI or VGA cable (neither are included in the box). Next, plug what Warpia calls a "device adapter" - essentially a small wireless receiver - into the base. Then mosey over to your computer and plug in the USB PC adapter, the gizmo that beams an Ultra Wideband (UWB) wireless signal from your computer to the base. Install a few drivers, and you're done. Your PC will recognize your television as a secondary display; you can duplicate your desktop or extend it using familiar operating system controls.
Sounds simple, right?
Unfortunately, the first computer I tried installing it on - a powerful desktop running Windows 7 - refused one of the drivers. I restarted my system only to be greeted by Windows' infamous blue screen of death. Twice. I ended up needing to do a system restore to rectify the problem.
Unwilling to risk my primary desktop again, I moved to a spare laptop. Everything worked according to plan this time. Setup took only a couple of minutes and I soon found myself looking at my desktop on my TV. I tried duplicating displays and changing resolutions and it all worked as advertised. I wasn't able to make full use of my television's native 1080p resolution, but I never expected to. Warpia states clearly on the box that the adapter supports a maximum 1400-by-1050 image. Streaming HD video requires loads of bandwidth, so fair enough.
Sadly, things took a turn for the worse when I started streaming certain types of files.
My first challenge was sound. There wasn't any. I had to consult the user guide to figure out how to connect to the correct audio device - an annoying but relatively simple process for people comfortable diving into their PC's audio settings, a more daunting task for average consumers looking for a no-hassle solution.
Sound fixed, I began examining different types of visual media. Pictures looked surprisingly good, given that they had to be upscaled to fill my television screen. And standard definition YouTube video was completely acceptable. However, video of more demanding quality suffered noticeable lag. DVDs, home videos, downloaded television episodes all appeared choppy. They were unwatchable to my taste.
There was no problem with signal strength. According the gauge provided by Warpia, the connection was "excellent." Moving my laptop closer to the A/V base made no difference. I consulted the troubleshooting guide and tried a variety of fixes, including lowering resolution, switching channels and extending my display rather than cloning it. I eventually managed to improve video quality to the point that my relatively undemanding daughter deigned to watch the kids movie I was testing (she had walked out of the room in dissatisfaction when the picture was at its choppiest), but I couldn't imagine sitting through a video of any length with the amount of chop I witnessed.
Warpia's wireless streaming kit requires technical tinkering and delivers mediocre video quality. It might be suitable for office use - say, if you happen to need a means of wirelessly connecting with a projector for slideshows - but as a home entertainment device it's a bust.
If you have an existing wireless network I recommend just picking up a game console with wireless capability. It doesn't cost much more, you'll be able to stream all sorts of files from your PC with better quality, and you'll have a game and media system for your living room, to boot.