USB video emitters are all the fad these days, but as I’ve said in the past that’s really all they are, a fad. And a bad one at that. Sending video, especially HD video, over a USB-connection is just asking for a world of pain, especially if you’re on a laptop that isn’t brand new or an ultrabook. Even my relatively new MacBook Air 13″ can’t process video through USB at SD quality, let alone HD quality.

That’s why I have a lot of respect for the Nyrius High Definition Digital Wireless Audio/Video Sender. Aside from the absurdly long name (we’ll just call it the Nyrius from now on), it actually takes everything that USB transceivers disregard into account. Things like distance from the receiver, laptop processing power, and ease of use. And it also isn’t completely annoying in almost every way imaginable.

The reason for that is simple enough: the Nyrius uses HDMI for video out and uses a power transmitter and receiver. HDMI beats out USB for a simple reason: HDMI has access to graphics processing while USB does not. This means that your computer’s GPU, as poor as it may be, can handle a significant portion of the video processing and let the CPU not run at full burn. If you want to stream HD video, meaning 720p, you need at least a 2.3GHz CPU with USB. With HDMI, it makes almost no difference how powerful your CPU is. If you have a laptop with an HDMI port, it can stream HD video out, period.

The receiver and transceiver, labeled, are identical in every way except for data transfer

As for power, the other significant problem USB transceivers have is that they require power from the USB connection. USB provides enough power to slowly charge today’s smartphone, not really enough to beam HD video distances of up to 30′. Most USB dongles say they’ll match that range, but that’s only with direct line of sight. It’s also the maximum, and most lose quality at around 20′. And if someone even blocks the signal for a second, instant stutter or signal loss.

With a constant stream of power from any traditional power outlet, video streaming is constant and always has enough energy supplied. That means the Nyrius can go through thick walls, people, and other radio interference with little to no video fragmentation. Which means after installing the Nyrius you can actually hide the receiver box in your media center and it’ll work just fine, even if it doesn’t match the decor.

The only advantage USB streaming has is the design to keep the laptop nearby. This may or may not be an advantage, depending on how you plan on using a system like the Nyrius. The Nyrius is made to plug your laptop into and watch, or perhaps control with a media remote or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Plug the laptop in, throw in a power connector, and forget about it. USB streaming on the other hand actively requires the laptop to be either in use or nearby, which many of us actually want, depending on the scenario. Like when showing off family photos or projecting something on the big screen for everyone else to see while you control the laptop directly.

As for the Nyrius, because it relies on HDMI, any device that uses HDMI is compatible. That means plenty of today’s smartphones, game consoles, cameras, and much more can be used with the Nyrius instantly. There are several Xbox 360′s in my household, one of which used to sit beneath the main TV. Now it sits hidden behind the bar, connected only to the Nyrius, where I was able to connect it to the internet. Because of my media center setup, that was previously impossible.

There are some complications when it comes to peripherals of course. With the 360 so far wired controllers don’t work, and at a certain distance the wireless controllers will have trouble connecting and reading. And of course setting up new wireless devices is a chore. Also, if you have Kinect it won’t work, because that requires a wired connection. The point is it is possible, so depending on your needs the Nyrius may be the perfect solution.

It is for me in another case. I regularly use a 360 and Playstation 3 in my office for work, played on computer monitors, but also have a TV in the next room. So I set up the Nyrius for the 360 so if I want to go to the big screen, I just switch HDMI cables and go to the other room. That’s way easier than disconnecting everything, carrying the Xbox over and reconnecting again.

The best part is that the whole system acts like either an external or primary monitor, so it requires no installation and no additional hardware. Both the transmitter and receiver come with heavy (albeit easy-to-break) stands and everything else you’d need, with the sole exception of an optical cable port for speaker systems. If your TV already has an optical audio out or you use a 2.1 stereo system, that won’t be a problem, but some low-end TVs don’t have those ports, meaning users will be stuck listening through TV speakers.

Overall I’m very happy with the Nyrius system, far more than I’ve ever been with any USB streaming devices. It’s smooth, solid, takes full advantage of any computer’s capabilities, and although it’s only worthwhile in certain home situations, it fits right in. And with the vast majority of laptops not made by Apple shipping with HDMI-out, nearly everyone with a laptop made within the last five years can enjoy video streaming, hassle free, instantly.

Editor’s Rating:

Rating: ★★★★☆

Great

Bottom Line: A video transmitter that takes full advantage of your laptop or game console without compromise

Pros:

  • Can play 1080p video streaming, or higher, on most any device with HDMI
  • Can send signals through walls and people without losing image quality
  • Simple two-pronged system that acts as secondary/primary monitor
  • Requires no software setup and minimal hardware installation
Cons:
  • Requires the laptop or device to be near the transmitter
  • Includes a lot of hardware, and a lot of cables, to be set up
  • Isn’t suited for all households or situations










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.