Belkin ScreenCast review
There’s always a lot of debate when covering products that wirelessly send video from your laptop to your TV. To some they’re a Godsend, allowing you to control your viewing from the comfort of the sofa; to others they’re an expensive replacement for an HDMI cable. Belkin’s ScreenCast will likely reignite the argument.
Sleek and black, it looks like a miniature router, but don’t expect a router’s wide array of ports. Sticking to its core task, you get the choice of HDMI or composite video. Open Intel’s WiDi software on a compatible laptop, connect to the Belkin, adjust the picture size to fit the TV and start sending. That’s it. The ScreenCast is the very definition of the cable-replacing gadget.
Before you do any of this, however, there are some vital steps to take. First, as with the Netgear Push2TV, WiDi requires a laptop with a Core i3, i5 or i7 processor, Intel graphics and one of Intel’s latest Wi-Fi adapters – a full list of compatible hardware is here.
But that alone isn’t enough. On a brand-new Core i5 Dell laptop satisfying those criteria, performance was initially sluggish, and downloading Dell’s official driver set didn’t help. Instead, it’s imperative that you download drivers directly from Intel – the very latest WiDi, Wi-Fi and graphics drivers will ensure you’re running on WiDi version 2.1, which makes a huge difference to performance.
Streaming a 1080p YouTube video under Dell’s drivers had all four cores of the CPU running above 95% and proved choppy. After upgrading to WiDi 2.1, CPU usage fell to 65% and the video became totally smooth. Other 1080p clips also played fine – only BBC iPlayer’s HD video remained very slightly beyond the ScreenCast’s limits. It’s watchable, but not perfect.
The ScreenCast can send full 5.1 audio as well, and Belkin’s website claims it supports “Blu-ray movies”. If it does, we saw no evidence of it, with CyberLink PowerDVD 9 citing HDCP incompatibility when we tried to screencast a disc, even with all drivers up to date. We can’t say for sure that it wasn’t our test laptop, but nothing in it fell short of Intel’s specifications.
That aside, for its core task of sending web or local video files to a TV, the ScreenCast generally works well – better, in fact, than any of the other screencasting devices we’ve tested. But that’s all it does, and it’s hard not to conclude that this whole fledgling category remains grossly overpriced for its function. Were this a £40 add-on we’d have no hesitation recommending it, but at close to £100 it’s still a luxury we can do without.
Author: David Bayon
What about projectors?
Working in a school, this sounds like it would be a useful addition to allow staff to connect their laptops to a projector, without having to mess around with VGA cables? What's the range? For things like presentations using PowerPoint in our main hall it'd be great to use a laptop on a lectern with no trailing wires.
By altecsole on 30 Jun 2011
I'd avoid it like the plague, if this works to the same standard as Belkin's routers & wireless adapters you won't need this to see a horror show, It will be the star of the horror show.
By SKINHEAD1967 on 30 Jun 2011
Don't rush out!
Although you clearly state the hardware limitations, it would be useful to point out that this is a far-from-open standard. Old hardware(>3 months), AMD Hardware and your sparkling new tablet will not work with this!
By milliganp on 30 Jun 2011
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