Wireless HDMI technologies are still relatively young, but we have already seen quite a few projectors with built-in wireless receivers at surprisingly low prices, with varying levels of quality and user-friendliness. However, the DVDO AIR3C is the first third-party wireless HDMI product we've had the chance to work with.
Priced at $189, the AIR3C is DVDO's newest addition to their line of wireless HDMI products. The AIR3C promises to send full 1080p signals to your projector or TV at distances up to 30 feet. The AIR3C is a strong product that will appeal to the do-it-yourself crowd and anyone who wants to avoid running long HDMI cables through their walls.
DVDO AIR3C transmitter and receiver
The AIR3C is not DVDO's only foray into WirelessHD. The company also makes the AIR3, which includes MHL and costs $10 more, and the AIR3C-Pro, which includes configuration software and can be "locked" to a certain transmitter or receiver. That can be useful when you need multiple devices to operate at the same time.
When you bring home the AIR3C, everything you need is already included. Inside the box are the transmitter, the receiver, a mounting bracket that will work on either device, and all of the necessary cables - including two short HDMI cables, which is a nice surprise. The transmitter and receiver do require power, but they can draw from any powered USB port if an outlet isn't available. The mounting bracket can be attached with Velcro (some is included), but you can also attach either device directly to a wall using a pair of mounting holes on the case.
The AIR3C system is about as simple as it gets. The transmitter has one HDMI input and the receiver has one HDMI output, so there's very little to tinker with. There's no remote control. There's not even a power button. Once you've got everything plugged in, there's nothing more you have to do.
Look ma, no cables. The obvious benefit of the AIR3C is in reducing cable clutter. Ceiling mounting a projector is difficult enough without also running long HDMI cables through your walls. Using the AIR3C, you can connect the output of your A/V receiver to the HDMI input of your projector, so all your projector needs is power. And since many projectors have powered USB ports, you may not even need a second power outlet.
But ceiling mounting is not the only application. If you place your projector on a rear shelf, you might still want to place your source components near the front of the room. The AIR3C allows you to do so without running any more cables. The same goes for table-mounted projectors, or just about any situation where you want to physically separate the display from the source devices. The AIR3C gives your installation a clean, professional appearance without the expense or aggravation of running cable through your attic or wall.
Any projector, any source. We tested the AIR3C using our Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player and a Sony VPL-HW55ES projector, but you can use any HDMI-equipped device. Unlike the built-in wireless solutions found in some projectors, the AIR3C is completely platform agnostic.
Easy to use. The AIR3C seems pretty foolproof. We didn't have to configure any options, as with WiFi, or pair the devices, like you need to do with Bluetooth. Once we plugged in the transmitter and receiver, our projector detected a signal almost immediately.
Long Distance. We tested three different scenarios to see how well the AIR3C handled both distance and obstructions to its line of sight. The first scenario was a clear line of sight at roughly fifteen meters - a little under 50 feet, for those who don't speak Metric. The second was a little trickier, with the transmitter in the middle of our equipment rack and the receiver on top of our projector shelf at a distance of five meters with no clear line of sight. The last test, which we expected to fail, was a worst-case run: a ten meter separation, with the transmitter placed around a corner. The AIR3C performed flawlessly in all three scenarios. We can only assume that the last scenario was possible because the transmitter bounced the signal off of the walls until it found the receiver. That doesn't mean the technology will work through walls; it explicitly will not. But the AIR3C's ten meter in-room rating is not a "marketing number," and you can trust in it.
Low Input lag. WirelessHD is advertised as a latency-free technology. In our own testing, we found that the AIR3C added only six milliseconds to overall input lag, or about a third of a frame at 60 frames per second. While that's not latency-free, it's a small increase that doesn't preclude gaming use, provided you have a low-lag projector.
HDMI-CEC. If you currently control your devices using HDMI-CEC, you're in luck. The AIR3C will pass HDMI-CEC signals along, so you can continue using this technology to control all of your devices from a single remote control.
Low interference. WirelessHD operates in the 60GHz radio frequency band, so you won't ever have to deal with interference from Wi-Fi networks or other RF devices.
Reasonably priced. Projectors with built-in wireless come with a higher price tag, typically a few hundred bucks. For example: Epson's "e" model home theater projectors, which include WirelessHD, uniformly cost $300 more than the otherwise identical non-"e" models. While we anticipate the price coming down as the technology matures, $189 is a sane and reasonable price for a product like the AIR3C.
No MHL. Mobile High-definition Link, or MHL, allows mobile and streaming devices (like phones, tablets, or the Roku Streaming Stick) to be used with the projector. For MHL capability, you have to step up to the AIR3.
Slight synchronization delay. When switching between sources on an A/V receiver, you may encounter a few moments' delay as the transmitter and receiver resynchronize. The delay is never longer than a second or two, but it is noticeably longer than the re-sync delay you get from a wired HDMI connection, so it's something to be aware of.
Configuration. If you have more than one AIR3C or WirelessHD product in your house, you can use the AIR3C's sole button to instruct it to find another receiver or transmitter and connect.
The relative newness of WirelessHD hasn't kept DVDO from releasing a fantastic product. The AIR3C is cheap, easy to use, and functions flawlessly. It also costs a whole lot less than hiring someone to crawl through your attic and run cables, and it's a lot less aggravating than doing so yourself.
You can buy the DVDO AIR3C from Amazon. Until the end of December, you can use promo code PRCENT50 for a $50 discount when you purchase direct from DVDO, bringing the price to $139. Purchasing the AIR3C using this code also supports Projector Central, so if you're already in the market for a wireless HDMI product and want to support our site, you can accomplish both goals at the same time.