A couple of months ago at CES I spent some time talking to several of IOGEAR’s experts about their latest & greatest products. They walked me through their booth and showed me some very cool stuff. Everything from HDMI switches to video capture, to wireless audio/video “extenders”. IOGEAR (or, as my wife calls them “Log ear”) has been around for a couple of decades and they have a large catalog of computer and AV accessories. Their products are high quality and they give a lot of thought to design. CES is chaotic and crowded, so I found myself running to the booth to make my appointment with them.
I’m glad I did. While at their booth I was introduced to one of their newer items, a wireless audio/video extender that boasted 4K output at 30Hz. The setup looked cool, but wireless 4K seemed to be pushing things. But it was getting rave reviews. Fortunately, they were kind enough to send me a kit to evaluate, so I could see whether it lived up to the claims on the box. This was a loaner unit for testing, so it’s going back when I’m done with it.
What’s it For?
I’ve had many occasions where wireless audio & video would have been handy. In more than one, they’d have made things possible that otherwise wouldn’t be. Let’s say your device (like a NUC) is on the opposite side of the room, and you don’t want to run a 20 or 30 foot HDMI cable. Or what if you want to display video from your laptop but you want to keep it on the couch with you. Or maybe you had a bad experience and it created a phobia for messy wiring.
Whatever the reason, companies like IOGEAR have been making wireless audio & video possible for years, and they keep getting better at it.
The GW4K30GH60 boasts some impressive features on IOGEAR’s website:
- Wirelessly send 4K UHD video from one HDMI source to one HDMI TV/Projector
- Extends signals up to 60 Ft. line-of-sight
- Uncompressed audio and video at near-zero latency – ideal for gaming and streaming
- Resolutions up to 3840 x 2160 @30Hz
- Minimal interference with existing Wi-Fi devices via 60GHz wireless frequency
- Support 7.1 surround sound audio, Dolby® True HD and DTS-HD® Master audio format
- Plug-n-Play – Transmitter and receiver come pre-paired from factory
- Dedicated closed wireless system – Requires no Wi-Fi network
- Advanced wireless technology speeds to 18 Gbps
- LED status lights for source/display connections and wireless link
- Supports dual power option via USB or included AC adapter
- Compact mountable design for easy placement
- HDMI 2.0 & HDCP 2.2 compliant
- Supports 4K UHD High Dynamic Range (HDR) TVs and content
The kit consists of a wireless transmitter, a wireless receiver, power adapters for both, and a pair of three foot HDMI cables.
Also included is a simple fold-out quick start guide. And I do mean simple. There are diagrams and instructions, but they’re mostly unneeded, as the setup is about as simple as it gets.
The very last page had some interesting information:
“The advantage (of 60GHz) over 2.4 and 5GHz bands is that there is zero latency and the video is uncompressed which makes this device ideal for gamers where latency is number one concern. Video streaming is pure 4K @ 30Hz…”IOGEAR
Poor grammar and aversion to commas aside, this sets the expectations high for transmission quality.
The transmitter and receiver are identical in appearance; were it not for the stenciled “TX” and “RX” on their fronts, they’d be difficult to tell apart.
They have an attractive, angular design and a brushed aluminum finish. They’re also surprisingly small, given what they have to do. As with the rest of their products, IOGEAR clearly put a lot of time and energy into the design. They are featureless on all but the left side, where all connections are made.
There you have a power connection, an HDMI port (IN on the transmitter, OUT on the receiver), a micro USB port (more on that later), power and data LEDs, and a set button.
There’s a tiny set button next to the LEDs, but I never had occasion to use it. I assume it’s for connecting the two devices, but they connected automatically.
Setup is simple; connect one end of an HDMI cable to your output device (computer, streaming device, bluray player, etc.), the other to the transmitter. Connect one end of the other HDMI cable to your TV or monitor, and the other end to the receiver. Connect the power adapters to both transmitter and receiver. Next…well, actually there is no next. You’re pretty much done. The LED indicators will let you know when the two devices are talking to each other, and that’s it. From that point on, it’s as though there was an HDMI cable directly connecting your device and your display. Unlike other implementations of wireless displays (Intel’s old wireless display, for example), there were no extra steps; no drivers, no firmware updates, no tweaking. Once both boxes were powered on, it just worked.
A cool feature of this kit is that the transmitter and receiver each have a micro USB port on the side that can be used for power. So rather than attaching the power adapter, you can run a USB cable from your TV or device to them. I tested this out by connecting both pieces via USB to ports on my NUC. They powered right up and worked exactly the same as when they were plugged into AC.
I love the addition of this option. It means in a home theater environment like mine I can plug the transmitter into a USB port on my NUC and connect the receiver to the USB port on my TV. No extra adapters necessary. Nice touch!
To start I just wanted to see the process work, so I hooked it up on my workbench. I connected the transmitter to a NUC on one end, and the receiver to a 1080P monitor. The transmitter and receiver were positioned about a foot apart. At this range and low resolution, I expected perfection.
And that’s exactly what I got. Windows immediately detected the second display and extended my desktop to it. I ran several Youtube videos on my extended display, and they played flawlessly. I could see no difference between this setup and just using a straight HDMI connection. But this was child’s play.
Next I decided to use IOGEAR’s extender to connect my home theater NUC to my 4K TV. This would tell me whether 4K at 30Hz was for real. So I connected everything up in my living room, this time with the extender boxes a couple of feet apart. I turned on my NUC and let it boot into Kodi. In Kodi’s display settings, I saw it was already set to 4K@30Hz.
I noticed 4096x2160p was listed as well, but I got a blank screen when I tried that one. Not unexpected, since it was known to be beyond the extender’s capabilities.
I went to the Youtube addon and search for 4K videos. The first video I played was a 4K sample video from Sony of various nature scenes. Playback was again flawless. It looked absolutely beautiful. So I went through several other videos. I tried other samples and a whole series of movie trailers. Everything looked great. I saw no artifacts or stuttering, no freezes…it just worked.
I was curious to know how limiting the “line of sight” requirement was, so I moved the receiver back into my TV stand and left the transmitter outside, pointed away from it.
The video never hiccuped, not even while I was moving things around. Clearly line of sight, at least at short distances, was more of a guideline than a rule.
For the last test, I decided to connect the transmitter to the NUC I recently migrated to Linux Mint. This was to check two things: first, I wanted to see how Linux would react to the extender, and second I wanted to see how it performed at a distance. The claimed range is “up to 60 feet line-of-sight”. I measured the distance from the NUC to the TV and it was just shy of 30 feet.
That was about as far away as I could get and still be in the house. Also, it wasn’t directly line of sight, as there was a wall blocking the view. There was a doorway a couple of feet away, but there was no way for me to line the transmitter and receiver up directly. So I was expecting less than stellar performance.
But I was wrong. The transmitter and receiver connected with no issues, and Linux detected a new display. Looking at the display settings, it was 4K.
I again played a series of 4K videos from Youtube, and they played perfectly. I saw no degradation, no choppiness, no loss of signal. Everything looked and sounded…well, perfect. I tried standing in front of the receiver to see if I could block the signal. Nope. Then I put my hands close around the receiver and finally got it to hiccup. The video went choppy and the audio stuttered. As soon as I moved my hands, playback went back to normal.
Just as with Kodi, the higher resolution was listed, but when I tried it the TV went blank again. so while their “line-of-sight” requirement isn’t too strict, the resolution limitation is.
Warm to the Touch
I ran the extender in this configuration for a while. After about an hour I touched the transmitter and it was warm to the touch. Not hot by any means, but warm. I’d guess the aluminum case acts as a heat sink. Nothing to be concerned about, just thought I’d throw it out there.
This wireless extension kit is impressive. It nails every aspect of what makes a great product. It’s great looking, with a sleek, modern design. It’s beyond easy to set up and use, requiring no drivers or software configuration. And it performs beyond its own stated limitations. Other than a typo in the manual, I can’t find a single thing about this kit I can criticize. At $250 it’s not cheap. But if you have a need for wireless audio/video, this kit is definitely worth checking out. There’s nothing in my house that requires wireless video, but I still find myself wanting to find a reason to use it.