Belkin’s Screencast AV 4 allows you to wirelessly connect up to four HDMI video sources (Blu-ray player, game console, etc) to a single display, such as an HDTV or projector. It advertises a range of up to 30 metres line-of-sight and support for 1080p Full HD.
From a glance at the toaster-sized box, you can tell that this is no miniature plug-in adapter. The Screencast consists of two lightweight but bulky units: a transmitter that you situate with your AV gear (235 x 145 x 35mm), and a receiver that goes with your display (175 x 132 x 35mm). Each uses its own mains adapter, so you’ll need a spare power point by your AV sources and your TV.
Setting up the receiver is simple: plug in the power adapter and connect the receiver to your TV using the included metre-long HDMI cable. Transmitter setup is a little more complex, but only barely. Four HDMI ports on the rear connect to your devices: we tested with an HDMI-enabled DVD player, Blu-ray player and Freeview tuner, leaving one port free. You’ll need to supply your own HDMI cables to connect to the transmitter. Finally, plug Belkin’s ‘IR Blaster’ into the transmitter – this is a nifty little four-headed cable, each head tipped with an infrared LED. You run one of these to the front of each of your devices, lining it up with the infrared receiver – where you’d point the remote control.
While the transmitter sends Full HD video from your Blu-ray player or Freeview box to the receiver and thence your TV, the receiver sends back any infrared signals it receives from a remote control. You can stash your AV gear in a cabinet – or in another room – and still control it. It’s a common feature among wireless AV devices, not unique to the Screencast, but a good one to have.
Once youve plugged everything in, you use the three-button remote to go through some minor on-screen setup (it took us less than a minute), then you’re ready to go.
1080p video comes through beautifully and without stuttering or artefacts, along with 5.1-channel surround sound. None of our test AV devices posed a problem. Video also streamed fine from an HDMI–equipped PC, though we were unable to make a successful connection from a MacBook Pro using the official HDMI adapter.
We couldn’t test the full 30 metre line-of-sight range, but ten metres posed no problem and five metres through a couple of indoor walls worked equally well.
There’s minor lag when running at 1080p, but not enough to be noticeable – even if you’re running audio from your AV gear and sending video via the Screencast, the two seem perfectly in-sync. Lag becomes noticeable when gaming, however, especially in twitchy first-person shooters. It’s not really the ideal setup for competitive Call of Duty multiplayer. Keep your console connected directly to your TV, and save the Screencast for less-interactive experiences.
The only other downside is the price. At $400, it’s likely to be cheaper than a professional home-theatre wiring job, but not a clever-Kiwi’s DIY job. If you have a cinderblock room that makes wiring difficult, or you’re in a rental that you can’t drill holes throughout, the Screencast is worth every cent. Otherwise, cabling is likely to be the cheaper and simpler option.
Belkin is distributed in New Zealand by Exeed, Ingram Micro, Monaco, Renaissance, Brightpoint, and Cellnet.
This review first appeared in the June issue of New Zealand PC World.