The 9 Best Wireless Display Adapters
Why Do We Want Wireless?
Engineers have gone out of their way to make it simple to enjoy digital entertainment.
The home entertainment industry has exploded in recent years. The latest image processors and panel configurations deliver brightness, realism, and immersion that were unimaginable at the advent of television, and the sheer volume of content available is unmatched throughout history — and it only continues to grow. Just a few decades ago, taking advantage of the latest hardware and content often required painstaking efforts, sentencing would-be DIY home theater installers to hours of lugging heavy equipment; measuring, stripping, and hiding cables; running power to amplifiers; and making sure all analog media was in solid, dust-free condition.
Not so anymore.
Engineers have gone out of their way to make it simple to enjoy digital entertainment. Gone are the massive, wood-paneled 1970s sound systems, and the monstrous, first big-screen TVs. In their places are slim soundbars and low-profile subwoofers, along with widescreen LED TVs that can be surprisingly lightweight. Where coaxial cables once ruled the roost and shared signal-distorting interference behind huge cabinets, right-angle connectors, optical audio, and digital transmission are now the order of the day among hi-fidelity setups. The need for an actual, physical cable has dwindled with the rapid development of powerful wireless transmission methods. After all, whether you own a home or rent an apartment, who really wants to pull up baseboards, cut wires, and hide Cat-7 cable throughout every room? Some people need the assurance of a wired connection, and are quick and talented at minor construction and electronics projects. The rest of us might want to consider a wireless display adapter to take all of that extra handiwork out of the equation.
Blockbuster: A Requiem
Another home-entertainment staple nearly gone the way of the dinosaurs is physical media itself. Formerly recorded on formats like VHS and DVD, movies and TV shows are almost all now available digitally, downloaded or streamed directly from the web. The days of the family trip to the movie store are history; now everything from Ben Hur to Baby Driver is available with just a few keystrokes and the right subscription service. Entire seasons of the most popular broadcast programming are offered on a variety of websites, and many of the distribution outlets now produce their own, high-quality, original content. This unprecedented availability has completely changed the way the entire movie and TV industries operate.
So, you've shelled out big bucks for the fastest fiber internet, and perched your 85-inch flat panel atop a reliable stand. Meanwhile, your satellite speakers and center channel are all properly configured. In order to avoid general overexertion and unnecessary labor, you'll need a way to get that stream from the ISP, through the router, and to the television, without using any tools or making permanent changes to the space. There are several different methods of connecting the whole outfit, each with its own advantages and drawbacks.
An Abundance Of Transmissions
There are a few general classes of wireless adapters, and the right choice depends on what kind of media you're transferring, and where it's coming from. The simplest method is a very straightforward receiver that plugs directly into the television. This is a great choice if you're already supplying a source of media, like a collection of downloaded movies, a business presentation, or multiple streaming services via PC.
The simplest method is a very straightforward receiver that plugs directly into the television.
On the other hand, if you'd like to cover the entire process with one new piece of equipment, devices like the Roku and the Amazon Fire have been around since the beginning, and still host a huge range of programming. Keep in mind, though, if you intend to watch new releases in all their 4K HDR glory, you'll need not only a relatively fast internet connection, but also an adapter that supports the most recent HDCP, the anti-piracy verification protocol. If you're transmitting from a computer to a simple wireless receiver on your television, your 4K access may be restricted, and there may not be a way around it. And for what it's worth, with a little expertise and possibly an inexpensive app, it's not too difficult to configure a major-brand streaming stick to receive a wireless broadcast from your PC or smartphone. With that being said, not all TV sticks are created equal; some are faster and easier to use, and different services offer varying shows and movies, especially now that original content seems to come from every direction.
Certain gaming consoles feature built-in access to quite a few video games in addition to film and television services. The Xbox was actually the initial development and release platform for what would become Kodi, one of the most popular open-source streaming protocols ever. Such devices are great all-in-one solutions, and they're usually a breeze to set up and operate.
Speaking of gaming, there's another upstart technology that may revolutionize parts of the internet experience. It's not very widespread yet, but the 802.11ad standard, also known Wi-Gig, takes short-range transmission to a new level. It raises the frequency level of the transmissions from the 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz Wi-Fi bands to the similarly unlicensed 60-GHz band. This high-energy signal carries a theoretical maximum of 875 megabytes per second, about five times the top speed of 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The 60-GHz transmission is nearly impervious to electromagnetic interference, and reaches the screen with almost zero latency — ideal for fast-paced, action-packed gaming. However, it's limited to a range of only 30 feet, and it requires line-of-sight contact with the receiver. Since it can't pass through walls, and few people need such ludicrous speeds, Wi-Gig is a bit of a niche product, albeit an advanced one.
While there are many different wireless display adapters to choose from, a lot of them work quite well. Whether you're a frequent business traveler, avid online gamer, or devoted binge-watcher, you'll no longer be tethered to the TV, and you won't have to sacrifice the quality of your multimedia experience.