Look Ma, No Wires!

Volume 38 Number 2

By

About the Author

 Nerino J. Petro, Jr. is a legal technologist and the Practice Management advisor for the State bar of Wisconsin. A former practicing attorney, he blogs on legal technology and practice management issues at www.compujurist.com.  

One of the banes of using a notebook computer is that you have to use wires to get video and audio out from it to use on other devices. If you have ever given a presentation using a projector or needed to connect to an LCD TV screen to display information, you know of what I speak.

Or how about using your notebook at home to turn your TV into an Internet-connected device? Generally, to send information from your computer or the Internet to your TV you needed: a) an Internet-enabled TV; b) a Home Theater PC (HTPC) connected to your TV; or c) specialized equipment to send the output from your computer to the TV. The good news is that there’s now an easier way to get video and sound from your notebook computer to a projector or LCD device using the SWP100A Wireless Audio/Video Display Adapter from Warpia (www.warpia.com).

Warpia is the name brand used by Source R&D, Inc., a San Jose, Calif.-based company, for a series of devices to send audio and video from a computer to your TV or other display device such as an LCD projector, including the SWP100A, as well as wireless notebook computer docks that allow you to connect your notebook computer to a monitor, mouse, keyboard, USB drive and speakers.

The Feature Set

The SWP100A Wireless Audio/Video Display Adapter can be purchased from retailers including Best Buy, Amazon, newegg.com, Walmart or the Warpia website for around $120.

The SWP100A device consists of a wireless USB adapter for your computer, the A/V base unit which has VGA, HDMI and audio (3.5mm) output ports, a power supply for the A/V base unit, a wireless USB adapter to be inserted in the A/V base unit, Quick Start Guide and installation CD containing the drivers, software and the full user’s manual and works on both Windows- and Mac-based computers. The SPW100A supports full 32-bit screen color at resolutions up to 1400 x 1050 and will work either in Mirror mode or Extend mode (monitor/projector/TV as a second screen) while handling 720pHD video and stereo audio. Range for the device is claimed to be up to 30 feet, but requires it be in line of sight and in the same room. All of the components take up less space than a Tom Clancy paperback book.

Setup

Installing the SPW100A requires installation of the USB adapter drivers and then the DisplayLink software from either the included CD‐ROM or the latest software downloaded from the Warpia website and updating the USB wireless adapters. Plug the PC adapter into a USB port on your running computer. Combine the A/V base USB adapter and A/V base and then connect the A/V base into your projector/LCD/TV via either an HDMI cable or a VGA and audio cable. Then plug in the power supply.

Display options are generally done in your computer’s operating system. In Windows 7, you would go to Control Panel>Connect to a projector to set the display option. Select Duplicate (Mirror) mode display to display the same information on both the computer screen and the second display device. Select Extend mode to display something different on the second display device than what is shown on the computer screen.

An example of using Extend mode would be when doing a PowerPoint presentation and you wish to use Presenter Mode in PowerPoint. This way, your presenter slides and notes appear on the computer screen and the presentation from the projector. On a Mac you would go to Settings > Display. 

Main Pros and Cons

I tested the SWP100A on an LCD projector, LCD monitor and a 47-inch HDTV. Connected to the LCD projector, and properly configured, the output was excellent. Slides changed smoothly and the embedded video worked without any issues or noticeable delays.

I was able to use the A/V base and connected speaker from up to 20 feet between the notebook and the A/V base. However, I had to be in the same room and had to maintain a clear line of sight between the two adapters.

When connected to the LCD monitor, I watched several hours of DVD video sent from my notebook to the monitor with the notebook a short distance from the A/V base. I then tested the unit by connecting it to a 47-inch HDTV via an HDMI cable to provide both video and audio. From 10 to 15 feet between adapters, I noticed some lagging and other video issues, as well as audio synchronization problems. I think this was due more to the distance and specifications of the notebook used than anything else. When doing full high-definition video, maintaining a clear line of sight was even more important as when the signal was broken: Even for a moment, the effect was noticeable on the HDTV.

I had some problems with the first notebook I tried to use—an HP EliteBook 6930p. For whatever reason, when using Extend mode, it would not display the PowerPoint presentation in Presenter Mode via the projector. However, when I moved the presenter view to the projector and the presentation to the computer screen it worked.

Warpia Technical support was very prompt in responding to this issue, but at the time of writing it had not been resolved. However, I tested the SWP100A on a Lenovo Thinkpad running Windows 7; an HP Pavilion running Windows XP; and finally, a MacBook Pro running OS X Snow Leopard without any issues. Therefore, I’m going to chalk the initial difficulties up to something in the hardware on my EliteBook and not an issue with the SWP100A.

According to a response from DisplayLink technical support, they are aware of the issue on certain computers and graphic components, which can’t handle the video demand of the device. If your computer can’t use the Windows Aero effects on its desktop or is running Windows 7 Starter or Vista Home Basic (they don’t support two displays), do not purchase this unit.

The primary issue with the SWP100A is the fact that it requires line of sight to provide complete functionality. While this is attainable in most circumstances, when presenting to groups you run the risk of the speaker or attendees moving around, which may break the signal. The very lightness of the A/V base means that even a standard three-foot VGA cable can move it out of position when you connect it to the A/V base. The PC USB adapter has an integrated 90-degree elbow connector that cannot be removed or flattened, which may indicate a potential breakage issue with heavy use.

Bottom Line

The SPW100A can potentially replace the 25-foot VGA cable that presenters carry around with them and significantly lighten the load with this very small device. The ability to add a second video display without having to first add another video card (internal or USB external) is a nice plus for this device. It also allows you to use your notebook as an HTPC when connected to your HDTV without the expense of having a dedicated HTPC, an Internet-enabled TV or other expensive video-streaming hardware.

Scorecard:

With a maximum possible score of 20, here is how I rate the SWP100A:

Ease of Use:
Quality of Materials:
Feature Set:
Value for Cost:
Total Score:





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