quite possible your main computer system only relies on cables for
power -- and even then, only sometimes. But try to hook your laptop to
your HDTV, and you're plunged back into unsightly spahgetti-hell again.
Or you were until now, that is. Meet the Imation Link Wireless A/V
Extender, a neat piece of hardware which promises to stream high-def
video and audio from your laptop (or, indeed, any PC or Mac) to your
TV, with no intervening wires to trip you up.
The Link comes in two parts: one that looks like a USB storage
device, and another that resembles a 10-inch-long TV antenna and hooks
to your TV like any other video device -- we suggest HDMI for best
results. Once you've installed the software on your laptop, all you
need to do is plug in the USB transmitter, and you're set: video from
your laptop will appear on your TV set.
Yeah, you've probably heard that before. But in our tests that was
pretty much how it went. Considering the complexity of the data stream
the two devices are exchanging, it's remarkably slick. It supports up
to 1080p for stills and 720p for moving images -- enough for just about
any TV, and it'll stream audio, too.
Once it's up and running, you'll be able to do just about anything
on your TV that you can do on your laptop's screen. It has its
limitations -- fast-paced games like shooters or office favorite
Bejeweled Blitz will overwhelm it, especially if your laptop is slower
-- but if you want to kick back and play Farmville or your favorite
hidden-object whodunnit on the big screen, you'll be set. We especially
like the way you can opt to have your laptop's screen and the TV
display different content: good for throwing a Hulu or Netflix vid up
on the big screen to entertain the kids while you grab a few minutes'
quiet browsing on your lap.
Any caveats? For one, you do need line-of-sight to the screen for a
reliable link. Considering that it's a screen -- and you probably want
to be looking at it while you use it -- that's unlikely to be a problem
in practice. We also found our TV tends to trim the edges off the
picture, making some window controls hard to access. That's really the
fault of the TV, though, and you may or may not experience it depending
on your exact setup.
Of more concern is the price: around $150
at Amazon, and while that may raise a few eyebrows, it's only a
$80-$100 or so premium over a good-quality HDMI or VGA cable that's
long enough to reach the couch.
If that's an acceptable price for a clutter-free floor, you'll
likely be very pleased with the Link. Wireless devices have a
reputation for being finicky, but the smooth plug-and-play operation of
this one makes it an easy recommendation.
- USB storage device
- TV antenna