At first look you may be wondering what exactly this little black box is. It is subtle, sleek and rather attractive, weighs about as much as a pack of biscuits and is designed to plug into your TV and assist you in hiding your unsightly AV equipment. The technology itself is actually dependant on two devices in order to function – a larger transmitting device (which you plug your HDMI devices into) and the smaller receiving one (which outputs to your monitor or Television). These can talk happily with one another over their 5GHz wireless spectrum, at a range of around 30 metres. As with all wireless devices, testing the range is a little harder to do than just walk 30 metres away from the transmitter and see if the receiver picks it up. You are more likely to be affected by obstacles (like solid concrete walls) inside your average home than you are by distance.
For what it is worth we managed to transmit through three solid concrete walls, over a distance of around 10 metres, without any interference or loss of bandwidth. Blu-ray quality was superb, and from what we could tell there was no loss of quality or stuttering whatsoever. Due to the unique frequency used by the Belkin Screencast AV 4, there should be minimal chance of interference from other wireless devices in the home.
Essentially the way this technology works is by sitting in the middle of the HDMI connection and turning it wireless. This means laptops, PCs, consoles, DVD, Blu-ray and any other device you own that uses HDMI (even mini HDMI, like your camera) can be plugged into the Screencast, and have its content streamed wirelessly to your TV or monitor.
This reviewer, for example, was playing Xbox on the small bedroom television, while the console remained in the lounge room. Of course, this usage scenario is ultimately limited by the range of your wireless Xbox controller. If you are too far away it will not register on the console.
Regular infra-red remote controls (standard TV and DVD ones) do not suffer from this same problem. Belkin has ingeniously included IR repeaters with the Screencast. This means that your regular remote controls can have their IR signal picked up from where you are watching TV, giving you the freedom to store your HDMI devices out of sight. This means you can pack your HDMI player and Foxtel box in the cupboard with the Transmitter, and all you need visible in the lounge room is a tiny little black IR receiver (which is about the size of a match stick). You can place this anywhere it is convenient, with the only requirement being line of sight to your remote.
From what we could make out, the IR repeaters / receivers are compatible with most controls and devices. We were even able to control our media laptop with its remote control, opening and playing movies stored on the internal hard drive. The same was true of our Xbox and PS3, with the media centre remote working from the other side of the house, as long as we had line-of-sight to the IR receiver.
If anyone has the money or crazy desire to do so, you can actually pair up multiple transmitters with a single receiver, expanding your HDMI connectivity from four Ports, to eight (or more). Unfortunately the reverse is not possible, in that you cannot attach a single transmitter to multiple receivers (thus sharing the same HDMI content over multiple TVs). That is indeed a shame, as it would be a good way to make sure your HMDI devices can be enjoyed on any TV in the house, not just the primary TV with the connected receiver. Of course you can move the receiver from TV to TV when you need it, but that seems awkward.
Overall the Screencast AV4 is useful to anyone sick of the clutter around their TV. It gives the ability to store your AV gear away out of sight and still enjoy the ease of your IR remote control on the couch. It is a little more expensive than we would have hoped, but given the wireless streaming quality and the ability to connect up to 4 devices at a time, the price is certainly justifiable.