If you recall, we were demonstrating the Windows Media Extender
technology with the Xbox 360 for high-def. I'll say right up front, it
works as advertised: you can stream high-definition content to the 360
that's hooked up to an HDTV set. I've been completely impressed with
the quality of the streaming; both recorded HD as well as live. The
best way to say it: there is no noticeable difference if I'm watching HD
via my over-the-air tuner or from the Xbox 360.
So what's the
kicker? Bandwidth, baby...bandwidth. Those MPEG-2 streams I used to
watch OTA can be up to 19.39 megabits-per-second. If you don't have the
pipe for that bandwidth, your video will be choppy, will stutter, or
will even be dropped for a time.
"OK," you say, "so for me to
do this via WiFi, I need to have fast WiFi capability." You guessed it,
but your options are VERY limited if you want to use the Xbox 360 for
one reason and one reason only. The WiFi adapter for the unit is
capable of the three main 802.11x standards: a, b, and g. Don't even
consider the 802.11b network for this purpose. It's fine for Xbox Live,
but the 11 Mbps speed won't even come close for high-def streaming.
gives you the 802.11a or 802.11g choices, both of which are advertised
at up to 54 Mbps. Sounds plenty fast enough, right? On paper, yes; in
practice, not necessarily as evidenced by the graph below. For example: I'm using an
802.11g router in my office. My office is on the second floor of my
home and the Xbox 360 is in the room directly below the office. The
direct distance between the router and the 360 is roughly 15 feet and
there are no metal vents or anything else in the floor between the two.
I also have the Linksys Range Extender antennas on the router that
boost the signal 7 dbs.
can see that until I positioned the router antennas "just right" I
didn't have a signal stable enough for high-def streaming. Even when I
did, I'm cutting it really close as evidenced by hours of actual
testing. All it takes is for one of our cats to walk past the 360 and
we get a stutter or two (on the video, not on the cats!)
what can you do? Well, Microsoft does provide a website that makes some
suggestions, but most of these were common sense to me. "Don't hide your
router behind a plant" should be a standard rule for WiFi users in
general. There were some valid suggestions that might help, however.
off, if you can use an 802.11a router, you're less likely to have
interference from other radio signals. The 802.11a routers run at 5
Ghz, while the 802.11b & g routers run on the 2.4 Ghz spectrum,
making them more succeptable to interferance. You can also try
different radio channels on your router to see if that helps.
thing that did help was getting my router out of "mixed mode". Mixed
mode provides backwards compatibility for 802.11b routers, but it slows
down the network as a whole. Your router configuration may be
different, but on my Linksys, it was a simple task to run in the faster
"g" mode only. This will prevent devices that have a "b" radio from
accessing your network, but it does keep things humming a little faster.
The other thing I did on my own (this wasn't indicated as a tip from
Microsoft) was to enable Frame Bursting. Again, your router may not
have this function or it may be called something different.
After trying to take advantage of the WiFi streaming for high-def, I'm
a little disappointed. As I mentioned, the quality of the video is
great, but only when you can see via your network. 802.11 a, b, and g
standards for WiFi are getting a little old and tired. Additionally,
the real throughput is essentially half of the advertised speed; and
that's a best case scenario.
It would have been nice for Microsoft to offer a wireless network
adapter with one of the newer WiFi standards, such as Super-G, MIMO,
pre-N, etc.... I'm sure they will, but of course then I'll have to
shell out more dollars and dump the $99 adapter I bought! In the end,
I'll likely go with a wired connection, so watch for updates on the
If you have any other suggestions to help speed up the HDTV over WiFi, we're all