What is it?
If you fall into either of the following two categories, Belkin thinks it has the product for you: someone who hates clutter as much as a Today Tonight viewer hates shonky builders; or someone thinking of wall mounting a brand-spanking-new TV, but who has been put off by the prospect of a mess of wires.
With the new Belkin ScreenCast AV4, the only wires you need to connect to your television are the power cable, an HDMI cord linking it to the ScreenCast receiver and, possibly, an antenna cable. All of the equipment that you'd normally hook straight up to the TV, such as your Blu-ray player, cable television box or game console, are connected to one of the ScreenCast AV4 transmitter's four HDMI inputs. The transmitter and receiver communicate on the 5GHz band via a proprietary wireless format.
Does it work?
Yes, yes it does. We're still scratching our heads as to how it all comes together — let's just assume for now that it's black magic.
According to Belkin, the transmitter and the receiver can live up to 30m apart. We managed considerably less than that in our office, around 15m on a good day — although one could reasonably assume that our CBD office has considerably more radio interface than the average household.
With the transmitter and receiver comfortably within their range, picture quality was for 2D and 3D 1080p content, as far as our eyes could tell, identical to over a wired HDMI connection. Place the two units towards the limits of their range and picture quality remains pin sharp, but is marred by missing chunks of pixels. We were able to play racing and shooting titles without a hint of lag.
Setting the ScreenCast AV4 up is a cinch, as the transmitter and receiver are paired up in the factory. Once all of the appropriate cables are connected, and you switch your ScreenCast AV4 and TV on for the first time, you may be prompted to jump through some set-up tasks, such as naming your inputs, but they have no bearing on the performance of the system, and can quite easily be skipped. The remote for the ScreenCast AV4 is a simple affair, with an OK/Menu button flanked by up and down buttons, which, outside of the menu system, simply cycles through the available inputs.
If the devices you connect to the transmitter are hidden away in a cabinet or in another room altogether, you'll need to utilise the set of infrared transmitters included, and place them pointing towards your devices' IR ports. Getting this set-up right can be quite fiddly, as the weight of the IR transmitter cable often overwhelms the transmitter itself. If the alignment is even slightly out of whack, remote control clicks can take several attempts before they register. Devices with Bluetooth controllers, such as a PS3 or an Xbox 360, will need to be within range, but they don't require any extra mucking about.
On the first unit we tried, after about a week of use, the remote control became unreliable. If we were in the set-up menus, it operated perfectly, but, once an input had been selected, none of the buttons responded to our repeated jabs. This may have been a minor inconvenience, as the system features an input selection button on the rear of the receiver, but we were unable to dismiss the on-screen menus without a working remote.
With a list price of just AU$299, the ScreenCast AV4 is recommended to anyone with a wall-mounted TV set-up, or just looking to de-clutter.