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Technology Untangled: Intel WiDi laptops provide wireless HDTV display

Stephen Bour
February 1, 2012
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technology-bourIntel Wireless Display Technology, WiDi (pronounced why-die), is the clever extra feature that may already be on your latest computer. If you are shopping for a new model, it is a feature worth seeking out because it can simplify the process of connecting your laptop computer to a bigger display for court or for a boardroom presentation. This article will look at a simple-to-use technology that allows you to wirelessly connect to a big-screen high-definition television.

Typically, the best method to present your computer screen on an HDTV has been with a VGA-type computer monitor cable. Virtually all HDTVs have a monitor port like this (also often labeled as RGB). For a courtroom setting, that usually requires a long VGA cable, and a long audio cable for full multimedia capability. Most laptops now come with an HDMI output port allowing transmission of high-definition video and audio to an HDTV. While HDMI has made connecting simpler, it still requires a long cable running across the room.

WiDi allows you to cut the cable and present high-definition 1080p video to a large screen HDTV without being limited by the length of your HDMI cable. This technology uses a WiFi signal, so you can expect a wireless range similar to that of a typical WiFi Internet link.

This technology is ideal for users who have wide-ranging multimedia collections stored on their home computers. Sharing photos, videos and music with others can get a bit cramped when everyone is crowded around a 15-inch laptop screen. But this technology is a great way to present PowerPoint slides, deposition videos and legal documents on the existing HDTV screens that have become common in law firms and are becoming more common in many courtrooms.

Intel essentially incorporated a wireless transmitter in many of its laptops that use its 2nd Generation Core i3/i5/i7 processors with Intel HD graphics (in my case the processor is an Intel Core i7-2670QM quad core). This wireless transmitting technology has been built into many new laptops for about the last year, and it seems that more models have been coming out with this feature. To determine if your computer already has it, click on the “Start” icon on the lower left of your screen and type “WiDi” in the search window. See if WiDi shows in the “programs” list and launch from there.

If shopping, you have to read pretty far down into the specification sheet of any computer you are considering. Even if a computer has an Intel 2nd Generation Core processor, the WiDi feature may not be included since not all computer models are configured to take advantage of it. Sometimes you might see an extra sticker on the palm rest area of a new computer that says “Intel WiDi Wireless Display.”

While the transmitter is already built in, you still need a separate receiver that plugs into the HDTV ($79-$99). Two of the best are the Belkin Screencast TV Adapter and the Netgear PUSH2TV HD Adapter.

I found the setup of the Belkin Screencast refreshingly uncomplicated. I simply connected the HDMI and power cables, followed a few simple on-screen instructions and was up and running. I had to make only one adjustment, increasing the image size to eliminate black bars from around the edges of the screen. These receivers also have standard resolution jacks (video/yellow) and (audio/red and white) to allow connectivity to older TVs. These jacks could also be used to connect an LCD projector. You won’t have the stunning resolution of HDTV, but you will still be able to run your laptop wirelessly.

One security question answered itself as I prepared the receiver. A unique code is displayed on the TV that must be typed in on your laptop to couple the transmitter and receiver. This prevents you from accidentally beaming your exhibits to the courtroom next door. You can choose between duplicate display or extended display by pressing the Windows + P keys (the Windows symbol key is on the bottom left row). I like extended display because it allows you, for example, to play a video on the big screen and simultaneously sort through your exhibit spreadsheet during a trial. You can also use Windows + P to blank the TV display or the laptop display.

If you are in the market for a new laptop, shopping for models with Intel Wireless Display Technology could help narrow your search. WiDi is a feature that doesn’t seem to cost much more, but it does substantially increase the utility value of a computer if you think you will ever need to make presentations with it.•

Stephen Bour (bourtech@iquest.net) is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. Areas of service include legal videography, tape analysis, document scanning to CD and courtroom presentation support. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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