Rating: ★★½☆☆

Pros:

  • Properly clones a full computer screen to any TV
  • Streaming video works

Cons:

  • Minimum requirements are too high for most laptop owners; netbooks are out of the question
  • Drivers are buggy, does not adapt to TV screens properly
  • Expensive

Update: At Gadget Review, it’s our aim to properly review any and all products to perfection, so you, our readers, can understand exactly what you’re going to purchase, before you purchase it. That said, we are not infallible, and have an open-door policy for any reservations users or manufacturers may have with our reviews, an appeals system if you will. We welcome them with open arms. So thanks for the comment!

Here’s our updated review of Veebeam.

Veebeam is a device whose sole purpose is to stream media from a computer to a TV, wirelessly. This functionality is simple enough: a base connects via HDMI or composite cables to a TV, and receives a wireless signal from a USB transmitter connected to a computer. With the proper software installed, that transmitter then acts as a wireless VGA/DVI cable, cloning the computer screen onto your TV.

Update

In my original testing, I only included information on the product. That clearly was a mistake, because there is documentation that’s extremely relevant to Veebeam which I was not privy to, because in the box I received there was no paperwork whatsoever. All I received was  a non-descript cardboard box with just the hardware, and some legal paperwork all products include, plus a tiny note that says drivers must be downloaded from the website. No reasonable person would need an installation guide, but of course Veebeam’s website has downloadable PDFs, just in case.

Veebeam is as bare-bones as it gets. You plug your media cables in and go. Go to the website and install the drivers, and you’re set. It was only after minimum specifications were brought to my attention that I even realized there were any. This, of course, makes me wonder why it isn’t a more outspoken requirement, since so many of us now use netbooks instead of laptops.

So I tested with a desktop, and with a laptop, that far exceeded the minimum requirements. And you know what, Veebeam did work fine. Colors were still off, but it didn’t run slowly. That’s great, though when using it on my desktop it failed to use the whole screen, leaving black bars all around. But yes, the picture quality was fine.

My bigger problem is that so many of us now own netbooks, or only mid-range laptops, that the vast majority of users don’t meet the minimum requirements. I personally don’t own a laptop that powerful, and ended up borrowing a Macbook Pro and a very powerful 2-year old HP laptop to retest. So why bother if you can’t even run it.

The remainder of the review has been edited with the updated look in mind.

The process is far from perfect. On my 32” TV, a 720p Vizio display, the screen didn’t display all of the picture, and some spilled over every edge of my TV. Veebeam has no fix for this, nor do the adapters automatically change the resolution of the computer to accommodate. If Veebeam is meant to be the simplest solution for non-tech savvy users, this is a significant problem.

Using a USB transmitter is a smart idea, but either it is not powerful enough, or the signal used is too weak to get through even a single wall. In fact, it can’t go through most surfaces at a reasonable distance. At 20’, I stood between the base and transmitter, and the signal cut out after just two seconds. I tested it multiple times, including just walking past like a family member or friend would to take a bathroom or snack break. Every time, the signal cut out, and took anywhere from 15-30 seconds to reconnect. As I later discovered, which is only listed in the downloadable user guide, the maximum distance is 20′, and USB wireless does not worth through walls. So if you aren’t in the same room, tough luck. At about 10′ away from the base, walking in front of the direct line-of-sight can still cause a shudder.

Next, I tested it with my laptop, an ultraportable Gateway EC1437u, which is fairly weak, but more powerful than any of today’s netbooks. Testing within a 10’ radius with a direct line of sight to the base, the signal worked fine, and didn’t cut out with a minor interruption, such as someone walking past. Staying in the way, however, did cut the signal. This notebook does not meet the bare minimum requirements, so if you own a laptop that does not have 2.2GHz, 2GB of RAM or better, Veebeam will not work well for you.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Veebeam is that it has no control over video playback, especially for web video. Streaming content from CBS.com or Hulu works fine, thanks to the laptop, but should the signal cut out, the video will continue playing on the laptop. Veebeam does not pause the video. It has no control over the media playing. In fact, it has no control over any computer applications…it simply streams the video displayed on the screen.

Worse yet, the drivers are not user friendly. On both Windows Vista and Windows 7, they turn on automatically when booting the machine it’s installed on, and can’t simply be set to only activate when using Veebeam. It also crashes every time I shut down or reboot. The media playback options for Veebeam are difficult to understand and mostly useless, because Veebeam’s selling point and main function is to display the computer screen on a TV.

In that sense, Veebeam is also too slow, with 2-3 seconds of lag time for video playback. Even just 5’ from the base, the image on the TV was actually three full seconds behind what played on my laptop. Controlling a PC with that much lag is troubling. Typing with a wireless keyboard this way proved annoying, because the changes on-screen are too slow.

Video quality depends on the strength of your computer. If your computer meets the minimum requirements, video quality is close to what you see on-screen.

What Veebeam can work well with is business presentations, but only if the drivers weren’t necessary. In several meetings I used Veebeam, connecting the base to a projector, and the transmitter to my laptop. It worked within seconds, and removed any need for the VGA cable that is most typically seen in the board room lying about.

At first, I stated that Veebeam was flat out garbage. That’s not true. It works, but only if you have the minimum requirements, which is undoubtedly a small audience of people. For those of you who own a laptop with 2.2GHz and 2GB of RAM or better, and have decent enough battery life to leave your laptop on and playing so you can watch on the big screen, then maybe Veebeam is for you. It’s certainly convenient. But if you’re like me and use a light notebook or netbook, something that indeed can play 720p and 1080p content and do so over a VGA/HDMI cable, then Veebeam is useless for you. The price users must pay, both for having a powerful laptop and for using this wireless system, may be too much for some users, but it does indeed work.










James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.