Can you really watch TV anywhere? Well, Dish Network offers “The Hopper” so you can watch TV in any room with just one room actually connected to your dish. AT&T has wireless receivers that allow you to go anywhere there is a plug. So why can’t everyone do this no matter what service they choose?
Fo my current house I selected Verizon FiOS for the internet speed, TV was just a secondary consideration. My main TV is in my “Great Room” and I didn’t want to run a wire all the way around my house. Where I placed the TV and where the wires went were very different places.
My house was built in the late 60’s and remodeled in the late 80’s. Sadly it is a victim of predatory practices in the satellite and cable business. The original cable TV wiring that is built into the house was cut so short in the box by a satellite installer, it is now useless without ripping up stucco. A subsequent re-installation of cable tv left wires stapled all along the garage.
The DirecTV installation which occurred most recently was the laziest of them all with wires stapled to the stucco. The staples are only about every 8 feet so the wires have a very happy droop to them. Best of all they are stapled in plain site. The installer must have forgot his ladder.
Don’t let installers mislead you. 90% of the time your existing wiring is more than adequate for solid signal strength. There are two basic types of cable, the thinner RG59 and thicker RG-6. While the satellite companies prefer RG6, I have seen many installations work just fine with older RG59. Seeing the graveyard of wire at my house is just depressing. I just didn’t want any more unnecessary wire and that is why I set off on this quest.
So is there a way to watch TV in a room without a wire? Better yet, without a big set top box?
Yes you can.
There are two ways to do it. One is a “Wireless Extender”, the other is a “Place shifter”. The funny thing is only Place Shifters are on the shelves in stores. Three different Big Box AV store technicians told me it couldn’t be done and wanted to schedule wiring installation appointments. A local high end AV dealer said the same thing. Being a former high end AV dealer myself, I agree that when you can wiring is always better, but I also knew the technology was there, I just had to find it.
Place Shifting Boxes
The most common method is Place Shifting. This adds a box to your system like the Slingbox, Vulcano Monsoon or the Belkin @TV. I chose to try the Belkin @TV and use Mac Mini’s since I didn’t know anything about wireless extenders yet.
Using a Mac Mini and the @TV app which was free, I was able to watch and control the Verizon FiOS box in my bedroom quite nicely. It looked great on my iPad, and I opted to not pay for the iPhone version of the app. Watching TV on my Mac Mini though was another story. I have dual 32″ screens and the video quality was maybe 480i at best. While it was smooth it was quite pixelated. Still this was better than wiring the house, and for $199 I could get older Mac Mini’s for every TV in the house.
Not 100% satisfied with the video quality, I started researching the other two place shift boxes and only then did I stumble on a forum at Verizon that mentioned Wireless Extenders. I couldn’t believe that I had over thought my search terms and never found this. More importantly I couldn’t believe how many people claimed ignorance when asked about it. This is exactly what I was looking for. A small box at my set top box, and another behind my TV and Viola! I have HD in my living room on my giant flat panel.
Once I knew the difference in keywords for the search I found over a dozen wireless extenders with HDMI capability including the Belkin Screencast that allowed up to 4 HDMI inputs. This is great if you want to hide all of your gear in a closet and don’t want to run all the wires to the TV.
There are several less expensive brands that the Belkin, many with only one or two HDMI inputs, some with less range according to reviews.
Scott Bourquin is the former owner of a Custom Home Technology Installation business and business coach/writer. You can reach him through his website at www.scottbourquin.com