Why you should trust us
Rachel Cericola has written about consumer electronics for over 15 years and has tested home-theater products from remotes and AV receivers to speakers. As a former editor for Electronic House and Big Picture Big Sound, Rachel has written buyer's guides for multiple consumer-electronics products and has also done tech-related work for Wired, Woman's Day, GeekMom, Men's Health, and others.
In addition to being the AV editor here at Wirecutter, Geoffrey Morrison has reviewed AV gear for 17 years and in publications such as Forbes, Sound & Vision, and CNET. He also had a seven-year stint as the technical editor of Home Theater magazine.
Who should get this
The products mentioned here are for the wireless transmission of HD video and audio signals from an HDMI source to a TV. There are four main uses for a wireless HD product:
- If your sources are in a different part of the room than the TV, you can send the signal wirelessly instead of running long cables (e.g., across the floor, under the floor, along the baseboards). This is an especially common situation with projectors.
- If you want to mount your TV on the wall, you need to run power and HDMI cables. With wireless, you only need to run power to the TV. The signal from your sources gets sent wirelessly to the small receiver box. In the case of the Iogear and Monoprice models, the TV itself can often power this wireless receiver.
- If you want to have your sources and TV in two different rooms. Most available options can transmit through walls, and dual-HDMI products often have a "local" HDMI out, so you can have a TV in the same room as the sources, with a second TV connected wirelessly to the same sources.
- If you have equipment specifically with HDMI outputs (e.g., Blu-ray players, cable boxes, Apple TV, Roku). This is not for products like Chromecast, or any of the Miracast or WiDi products (which wirelessly stream content from tablets, phones, or laptops). Those are a different category. These are replacements for HDMI cables.
Keep in mind though, there is a cost to the convenience. Wireless is always going be more temperamental than wired, taking a few moments to sync (connect) and potentially/occasionally dropping out.
How we picked
A few words about all wireless HDTV solutions. Pretty much every wireless HDTV product will transmit up to 1080p video from whatever HDMI source you send it. This includes Blu-ray (2D and 3D), cable/satellite, and gaming systems. Most will also transmit IR signals, so you can control the source that's attached to the transmitter (like your cable box) while you're in the other room with the TV. The crop of wireless products covered in this guide can handle all current 720p and 1080p, but they won't do Ultra HD 4K. However, 4K solutions are starting to pop up (see "What to look forward to" for more information on that).
When choosing the products, we searched through offerings on Google and Amazon. We also looked at the technology used on each product. (Warning: Jargon ahoy!) There are two main standards for wirelessly transmitting HDMI signals:
- Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI) operates on the lower 5 GHz frequency. This is higher than most Wi-Fi systems, so there is less chance of interference. It is also low enough in frequency to have decent performance through walls. The only drawback is that it requires a tiny bit of signal compression in order to function properly. Don't worry, though; you won't be able to tell the difference unless you're using a huge screen over a long distance.
- WirelessHD operates on the higher 60 GHz frequency. It's able to transmit uncompressed HD video, but at the cost of reduced range and robustness.
Devices that use the same wireless transmission standard will function similarly to each other, and each standard has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, products that work on the WirelessHD standard are capable of transmitting uncompressed video. However, they work only when there are no obstructions between the transmitter and receiver, such as walls or cabinets. In other words, you're out of luck if you want to place the TV in a different room from the sources. Worse yet, many cabinets will block the high-frequency signal, so hiding your sources away in furniture won't work either. In our testing, even walking between the transmitter and receiver seemed to disrupt the signal.
Models that use Wi-Fi, like the Actiontec My Wireless TV, are less common. However, the Actiontec is one of the few products that allows you to add additional receivers, so multiple TVs in your house can all use the same sources. For most people, any of our top picks would be a better choice, but if multiple receivers seem useful to you, the Actiontec is worth checking out.
There are also other wireless technologies coming to market that aren't widely available yet. For example, WiGig, or Wireless Gigabit, has the bandwidth to handle 1080p video (and then some). However, WiGig operates in the 60 GHz band, similar to WirelessHD, so it will likely have similar limitations.
Intel's WiDi is built into laptops, and doesn't have the anything-in-anything-out properties like the products here. It's worth noting that if your laptop has an HDMI output, you can use one of these products to send the computer content wirelessly to the screen, though you'll need to connect to the wireless transmitter via HDMI.
How we tested
We connected the receiver portion of each product to a TV on the first floor of a small house. Then we paired the various HDMI transmitters with a Blu-ray player and a Roku box, in four separate areas of the house. First, the source equipment was set on a table 10 feet directly across from the TV. Then, we moved the video devices to a room that's adjacent to the TV area, 20 feet away. This room doesn't have a door, but also isn't in the sightline of the home-theater setup. Next, it was moved to an adjacent room that's separated by a wall, 25 feet away. We then moved the devices to the farthest point of our house, in the corner of an upstairs bedroom, 45 feet away.
None of the devices performed well in our final test: 100 feet to a TV across the street. Many products claim to have this type of range, but you can take that with a grain of salt, unless you have absolute line of sight between the two products.
We wirelessly watched several Blu-rays, including action, animation, and comedy. Next, we tried streaming content from Netflix, Amazon, and Crackle. And finally, we played Angry Birds Space a bit longer than we should have, using a Roku 3 box.
Our pick: Iogear GW3DHDKIT Wireless HDMI Digital Kit
The Iogear GW3DHDKIT Wireless HDMI Digital Kit is the best HDMI transmitter for most people. Using WHDI, it delivers the best image from the lengthiest distances, has two HDMI inputs, and can be powered via an included AC adapter or your TV's USB 3.0 connection (cables not included). It's also the least expensive dual HDMI unit we tested.
The Iogear transmitter base unit has two HDMI inputs and an HDMI output. This means you can connect a TV, transmitter and sources (e.g., Blu-ray, cable/satellite box) in one room while wirelessly sending the same signal to another TV elsewhere in the house.
The unit performed very well throughout our testing, even when the transmitter and receiver were on separate floors. There was also no noticeable video lag. That means that gamers worried about their twitch skills shouldn't be overly concerned with wireless. It is likely adding a tiny fraction of a second due to the encoding/decoding process, but it was less than what's detectable using normal testing procedures.
Perhaps our favorite feature of the Iogear is the receiver unit can be powered using a USB 3.0 port (you'll need buy your own USB 3.0-rated A–to–mini-B cable). This means the Iogear can draw power from the TV without extra wires connecting to a power outlet. This makes it easy to hide and an effective alternative to cutting holes in your walls to hide cables. Not every TV has USB 3.0, and it's possible the receiver will still work with a lesser USB connection, but USB 3.0 is what Iogear specifies. If your TV doesn't have a USB 3.0 port, the Iogear comes with a power adapter too. Also, the receiver is small enough that it can fit behind many wall-mounted TVs.
Finally, it should be noted that the GW3DHDKIT transmitter is compact. Unlike our runner-up, the GW3DHDKIT has a horizontal design but can also be used vertically, making it easy to slide into your AV cabinet.
Who else likes our pick
In his review of the Iogear and two WirelessHD products, Daniel Kumin from Sound & Vision said, "Iogear's solution gets my pick as the mostest-for-latest: best range, most functionality, nice ergonomics." His only complaint was that it was a little pricey. But since his review, the price has been cut almost in half, which puts it in line with the WirelessHD products he didn't like as much.
Mark Anderson from HomeToys concludes, "If you're looking to locate a TV or projector in a place where it would be hard to run cables, or want to connect a TV in another room to your main home theater, the Iogear Wireless HD 3D Digital Kit could be just the ticket. It just worked flawlessly in all of my tests."
An incredibly talented writer for HD Guru (who, coincidentally, looks just like our own Geoff Morrison) gave the Iogear 4.5 stars (out of five). In a comparative test with three other wireless HD transmitters from an earlier review, he said of the Iogear, "Had the Iogear arrived in time to be a part of our initial review, it would have unquestionably won."
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Like all current wireless HDTV solutions, the Iogear isn't perfect. Though we had no serious issues during testing, a minority of Amazon reviews reported problems with transmitting distances. In our testing, we could get a decent image with the transmitter and receiver at opposite corners of my small house, but doing so resulted in a noticeable decrease in picture quality compared with a wired connection over the same distance. Keep in mind that results will vary depending on the size and construction of your house.
That said, it's unfair to expect any wireless system to work flawlessly at the maximum advertised distance, especially with walls in the way. On smaller TVs, like 50 inches and below, it's unlikely you'll see a picture-quality difference even at long distances. In the same room, the image was always perfect.
Also be aware that although the Iogear receiver can run off USB power, it works only with USB 3.0 and doesn't actually come with a USB cable (you'll need to supply it).
And finally, because the transmitter has only two HDMI inputs, it can't be used as a central HDMI switcher if you have more than two HDMI sources (an AV receiver or HDMI switcher would be better for that).
Runner-up: Nyrius Aries Home+
Priced slightly higher than our top pick, the Nyrius Aries Home+ is another good option for wireless HDMI use. That extra cost is because this product boosts audio support to 7.1. It performs very similarly to the Iogear model, with two HDMI inputs, one HDMI output, and a USB power option (but still no cables included).
The Aries Home+ performed well is all of our tests. It uses something called GigaXtreme Technology, which operates similar to WHDI, so it can go through walls and cabinets. It also features support for uncompressed 7.1 PCM, DTS, and Dolby Digital Surround Sound.
Android Authority's Kevin Nether says, "The overall experience with watching videos and TV certainly exceeded my expectations."
It's certainly a good performer, but we doubt the 7.1 would make most people want to spend the extra money. Unless you're setting up a full-blown home theater, our top pick would probably be the best option for most people.
Budget pick: Monoprice Blackbird Pro 16049
For people who can't drill holes, run wires, or spend a lot of money, the Monoprice Blackbird Pro 16049 is a great budget option. It can stream one HDMI source and has the USB power option we love so much in our top two picks.
However, this model operates on the 60 Hz frequency, meaning it's a great in-room solution. It worked well at moderate distances when line of sight was available. It won't work well (or perhaps at all) through walls or cabinets.
It can support 7.1 sound, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio streams, which is something that makes it unique to this category and price range. If you need a simple, short-distance solution, the Blackbird Pro is definitely a good buy.
A note about 4K wireless HDMI systems
Companies such as DVDO and IOGear have introduced or announced 4K-capable wireless HDMI systems (check out the What to look forward to section for more details). At this time, no 4K-friendly system that we know of can wirelessly transmit HDR, and only an expensive few support a full 4K/60 signal. Since these wireless systems can't deliver the full UHD/HDR experience, we are not comfortable making a pick in this category. For in-room setups, we still recommend using an 18 Gbps HDMI cable to get the most stable signal; for long-range UHD/HDR setups, you might consider an HDMI-over-fiber-optic system like this affordably priced Monoprice option.
We tested two samples of the Blackweb Wireless HD Video Kit, sold through Walmart, in both a house and an apartment environment. The Blackweb system, which supports up to three HDMI sources, can work through walls, and it produced a reliable signal across several rooms in the house. However, in the apartment, the signal was much less reliable; we saw video stuttering and blocking even when the transmitter and receiver were located in the same room. Also, both Blackweb samples crushed blacks, making the image too dark, so you'd have to readjust your TV's brightness control to compensate. If you're looking for an inexpensive way to wirelessly send HDMI around a house, the Blackweb kit may get the job done as long you don't mind having to change your TV settings.
Similar to our budget pick, the DVDO Air3C uses 60 GHz technology to deliver 1080p/60 uncompressed video and audio. That means it's best used as an in-room solution. Like the Monoprice model, it also has the USB power option and one HDMI input, but is priced slightly higher. The Air3C-Pro adds some features for commercial or professional home theater installers that aren't needed for most people.
If our top picks don't have enough inputs to meet your needs, you may want to consider the Iogear GWHDMS52 Wireless 5×2. This transmitter has four HDMI and an analog component input, which makes it a convenient, if expensive, option for people with multiple sources but no receiver to switch between them. However, we think most people can get by with one of our top picks and a $20 HDMI switcher.
Iogear's GWHDMS52MB Long Range Wireless 5×2 HD Matrix Pro should work similarly to our pick, but from much farther away. Plus it will let you stream uncompressed HD content to up to four different displays (with additional receivers). Because it's over $500 and specifically for longer range, we felt this was beyond the scope of this article.
The Nyrius Aries Home is similar to our runner-up, but drops the cost by dropping one of its HDMI connections. It does feature support for 7.1 sound, but is priced a bit too high for a single-source solution.
Peerless's HDS-WHDI100 is similar to the Iogear, with the addition of USB transmission so you can transmit content from a game controller, keyboard, or mouse, but it costs a little more.
What to look forward to
Nyrius has introduced the $150 Orion wireless HD kit. Like our Nyrius pick, it can transmit up to 1080p/60 video through walls, but it has less range (40 feet), supports only up to Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and supports just a single HDMI source. It has HDMI pass-through to a nearby TV, however. You can add more receivers, too, and you can power the transmitter and receiver via USB.
DVDO has introduced two new models, the $230 Air 2K and the $400 Air 4K. Both use 60 GHz technology to wirelessly transmit signals in-room up to 30 feet or line-of-sight up to 100 feet. The Air 2K supports up to 1080p/60, and the Air 4K supports up to 4K/30 (but not 4K/60 or HDR); both can pass DTS-HD Master Audio and 7.1 PCM soundtracks.
At the CES 2019 trade show, IOGear announced the $250 GW4K30GH60 4K wireless HDMI extender, which uses 60 GHz technology to wirelessly transmit 4K signals in-room up to 50 feet. The system supports resolutions only up to 4K/30, not the full 4K/60, and it can't pass HDR. But it can pass Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks up to 7.1 channels. It will be available in the first quarter of 2019.
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