Sunday, August 4, 2013

Not so quick reply to veryannoyingname's comment on my previous post, "Chromecast isn’t Miracast/WiFi Direct/WiDi/Airplay… at least not yet"

Sorry to have to post instead of reply, but I seem unable to keep my replies under the character limit. :)

I'll have complete details later, but in short- I assure you I have set it up correctly (per manufacturer instructions). The connection to the S3 did work better out of the box (as your videos also show) with the Netgear PTV-3000 (I haven’t tried it with the Actiontec Screenbeam pro yet). The major issues I’ve had are not, in fact, with Wi-Fi Direct (Miracast certified) devices (like the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4) connecting to it, but with Intel WiDi connections (from laptops and tablets running Windows 7 and 8). I've tried it at ranges of less than three feet up to sixty for both making the initial connection and testing the “walk away” support and automatic connect/disconnect options. The problem isn't that it never works, the problem is how inconsistently it works depending on the display you are connecting it to and the device you are transmitting from, again for WiDi based connections (not Wi-Fi Direct/Miracast certified). I've tried about a dozen displays and a half dozen WiDi devices so far, and the same devices, with the same receivers, behave differently with different displays--particularly bad with monitors that have default resolutions other than 1920x1080, especially slightly plus sized not quite 16:9 aspect ratios running 1920x1200 as their default resolution. I tried both receivers out of the box, and neither worked with every device perfectly (transmitting or display). Many just wouldn’t connect, some would initially connect just fine but then would run into “connection lost” issues, even when the tablets/laptops in question where within a few feet and stationary. I had the most up to date drivers on all transmitting devices, as supplied by the manufacturer. I then tried another round of testing with the most up to date firmware (as of a few weeks ago) for the Netgear PTV-3000 and Actiontec ScreanBeam Pro. The Netgear performed even more dismally with my WiDi devices when it had the latest firmware, but the Screenbeam started working like a champ- every device, every display, perfect connections at a range of resolution (including 1920x1080, but even fro some truly ridiculously higher resolutions beyond that). I then tried the Intel recommended driver updates for my laptop (from their WiDi support pages) and it didn't improve the performance with the Netgear at all, though the Actiontec continued to work just fine. However, my laptop actually started having a host of display issues (not related to WiDi) caused by the Intel suggested updates (no control over screen brightness anymore, etc.) so I rolled back to the latest drivers as supplied by the device manufacturer. Based on my experience, I do not recommend people use Intel's automatic check/update suggestions tool for Windows 8 laptops to resolve WiDi issues expect as a last resort—and be prepared to roll back if things go awry. Instead, look to your device manufacturer for their latest recommended drivers. My brief Miracast test (more of a sad last resort after a frustrating day of trying to get WiDi connections to work) with the S3 didn't result in it not connecting, just some oddities in how it connected (default was portrait with extreme letterboxing instead of landscape, extremely long lags when—and if—it would decide to switch from portrait to landscape when I rotated the phone, image quality didn’t appear to be a pixel to pixel match, but a zoom/blurred version in several apps) but, in its defense, the S3 test was just a quick try with a colleague's phone (to see if it would work) so that bit won't be included in my final review. I will post the full review for WiDi devices (including a table listing transmitting devices on one axis and display on the other) for both the Netgear and Screenbeam soon, and once I get my own S4 in a few months I’ll post another update on how well it performed with both the Netgear and Actiontec receivers using a broad range of displays (I need to know how well it works not just with HD televisions, but computer monitors and projectors). Again, I’m not saying they don’t ever work, nor that they can’t be cajoled into working with enough effort for a user’s particular setup. What I’m attempting to evaluate is how universally (or not) these devices will work. Should they be deployed as connection options in smart classrooms and conference rooms? Should people traveling to make a presentation pop one in their laptop bags as an additional connectivity option (so they can wirelessly transmit to whatever projector/display they may find when they get to their destination)? This is a more than a “can I get it to work with my one display and couple of devices” review—I want to do a more rigorous, broad set of tests to help answer the questions: are these enterprise-ready/level devices? So far my experience leads me to think the answer to that is a ‘no’ on the Netgear PTV-3000 and a ‘cautious yes’ on the Actiontec ScreenBeam Pro (especially if you get the kit that includes the USB transmitter for more “universal” support- at least for Windows 7 and 8 devices). I suspect, though the technical details aren’t clear on this, that the USB transmitter that comes with the Actiontec ScreanBeam Pro is a Wi-Fi Direct transmitter (though I can’t find any Miracast certification on it or the materials it shipped with). This might explain why ever time I’ve installed the software and drivers for it and tried it on several windows 7 and 8 computers that failed (or acted buggy) when connecting over WiDi that they always managed to connect to the ScreenBeam Pro when using the USB transmitter instead (and I suspect possibly even the Netgear as well, more on that in a future post). Your own testing (as you show on your youtube videos) seems to back up my hunch that Miracast works better than WiDi does (as far as being more plug-and-play style) at this time, which is disappointing, since most people I know want to be able to connect their laptops and tablets to their display more than their phones (although connecting a phone is a nice fringe benefit). I didn’t see any videos from you that showcase connecting to your PTV-3000 using WiDi on a Windows 7/8 device… am I missing them? I’d be very interested to see some if you do have them (or would be willing to make them) to see if they match, or contradict, my own experiences.