Peerless itrio HD-Flow HDS100 Multi-room Wireless HDMI Processor - Review
July 2011 - Art Feierman
I'm a huge fan of wireless HDMI, which is why I was excited to first see the Peerless HD-Flow HDS100 HDMI system at CES in January. For many, such devices can save a bundle in terms of wiring or, rewiring your room. We have, in the the past looked at a competitor to the HDS100. That was the Gefen system we reviewed a couple of years ago, and which I used, personally, in my last house. The HD Flow has multiple names - just to keep us confused. It is the HD Flow, but it is also the HDS100 (model number), and it even has a name: itrio (all lower case). The thing is, although the itrio name is integrated into the cases of the transmitter and receiver, Peerless pretty much sticks to referring to these devices as HD Flow or HDS100. Just more of a challenge for those searching google for info.
Peerless HD Flow itrio HDS-100 Wireless HDMI - Overview
No more cutting open all those walls to rewire, or wire. There are just sometimes when the cost of opening up walls, running wires, and sealing them up, repainting, etc. just gets ridiculously expensive, or too time consuming, or just too much hassle. In such cases a wireless HDMI solution can be your ticket to simplicity and savings.
The HD Flow HDS 100 starts out as a single transmitter and receiver combo, but you can add on up to 3 additional receivers for a multi-room system.
While moving signal from room to room isn't new - set-top boxes are allowing many these days to record and store TV content on one set-top box and feed it to other TVs hooked up to their boxes - that solution works only for their "TV" content. What if you want to play a Blu-ray disc in a player in one room, so that you can watch on a TV without a player, in another location? The only current solution for non-satellite, non-cable content seems to be extremely expensive video server systems, such as Kaleidescape's servers which are way into the many thousands of dollars.
The idea behind the HD Flow is to deliver your content - up to 1080p, over HDMI, wirelessly over distances that can cover most or all of a home.
As it turns out, the HD Flow hds100 really does accomplish that.
There is one issue that usually comes up, so I'll address it now. Consider:
You want to push a movie off of your Blu-ray player, into a different room to watch. The immediate issue people ask, or without asking, diss this this type of product, is inability to control the source. People incorrectly assume they can't. What if you want to pause the movie? Your infra-red remote for your Blu-ray player needs to be in the same room as the player, not in the room where you are watching. OK, that should be a problem, right?
Wrong! One clever feature of the HD Flow is that you can point your remote of your cable box, satellite box, or Blu-ray (dvd) player, at the receiver in the room you are watching, and the transmitter receives the commands and can feed them to your Blu-ray player, DirecTV box, etc. We know, we tried it. It works. One of our Eureka moments with the HD Flow! The HD Flow's transmitter has an IR output jack. Think! You know those little IR transmitters that people have been using when their gear is hidden in a cabinet, etc.? They've been around for at least a decade for when there's no line of site that IR remotes require. Plug that into the transmitter, and it has three IR "fobs" for lack of a better term. One for my Panasonic Blu-ray player, one for the DirecTV box, and one for whatever other toy I want to try out. (My PS3 uses Bluetooth RF and can pass through walls, though the range isn't near as great as the HD Flow's. Also there are work arounds - IR control options for the PS3.
Enough let's talk some details:
HD-Flow HDS100 Wireless HDMI Device Highlights
- HD Flow is a lossless system. As with HDMI cabling, it should neither add, nor take away anything from the picture quality
- While it is primarily a device for wireless HDMI, it does accept other signal types, including composite video, and analog PC, as well as stereo audio (and full surround, of course, over HDMI) and transmits them to the receiver
- 2 HDMI inputs
- 2 available wifi frequencies
- Can output HDMI, component video, analog PC or composite, plus audio
- LAN interfacing - yep, they work wired, as well as wirelessly
- Additional receivers can be added up to a total of four
- Range: excellent - passes though several walls - read our experiences below
- Remote pass-through - Control content when sources are in a different room
- Remote control for switching sources...
- Compatibility: Lacks HDMI 1.4a, so is not directly compatible with Blu-ray 3D, nor does it support frame rates above 60fps. Not for 3D apparently
- The sub-$400 price point makes it a very tantalizing, and likely cost saving device both for single and multi-room layouts, by saving on opening and refinishing walls to run cables.
Above: Viewsonic provided product shots showing the transmitter (left) and receiver (right) on the included plastic stand that let's them sit upright. Note, the stands are iffy. I used the devices horizontally. The weight of cables easily unbalances the units when standing up. True, they look cuter in vertical position, but horizontal is far more practical.
Peerless HD Flow HDS-100 Specifications
Technology: Wireless HDMI transmitter and receiver HDMI 1.3 compliant
Signal quality: the HD Flow is a lossless hdmi system
Native Resolution: Supports up to 1080p 60 fps.
Audio: Supports PCM, 5.1 DTS... Has headphone jack as well as std. outputs
Weight: Transmitter: 0.5 lbs (270 gms) Receiver: 0.5 lbs (270 gms)
Warranty: 1 Year Parts and Labor
HD Flow Features
HD Flow Inputs and Outputs
The HD Flow is designed to do more than move HDMI around wirelessly. In fact, it's a well endowed system when it comes to connections. Consider the Transmitter (really a transceiver - since there's handshaking, error checking...):
- 2 HDMI 1.3 inputs (including surround sound audio)
- 1 Composite video input
- 1 Analog PC input
- 1 Component input (shares connector with Analog PC - so just one of the two or a switch box if you have both
- 2 pair of stereo audio inputs - one for video, one for PC (two RCA jacks, 1 stereo mini)
- LAN connector
- Infra-red output for hard wiring a remote
- Infra-red receiver for HD-Flow remote control.
The Receivers are just a bit different:
- 1 HDMI output (including surround sound audio)
- 1 Composite video output
- 2 stereo outputs (RCAs for video, stereo-mini for PC audio
- Infra-red input for itrio remote
Working Range of HD Flow in a Typical Home
Short Range Operation
I've used the HD Flow here for several months but initially I used it inside a single room, between my equipment "rack" and whatever projector I was using. For the month or so that I used it "locally", it worked exactly as expected. It added some minor delays when locking onto a signal. Those of you with PS3's know that resolutions and frame rates can change a half dozen plus times when first loading in a disc, and setting it to play. Between the HD Flow and the various projectors, there is some delay, so you don't even actually see every PS3 change being shown by the projector. This indicates that the HD Flow is definitely taking longer to lock onto a signal, such as 1080p 24fps, or 1080i 60, than straight, hard wiring. This was also consistent with our experience with the Gefen product. The HD Flow, however, definitely is faster at locking on, than the Gefen, not that a second or two really means much to most folks.
Pictured: itrio remote control
So, for a month or more, the HD Flow HDMI device was simply an alternative to hard wiring in my theater. And it did the job. A great many movies and hours of sports were transmitted over it, without encountering any problems.
Long Range HD Flow Operation
Since it's been barely a half year since we moved (home and company), the theater and much of the home's final AV is yet to be done. The first real test of the HD Flow came when we hooked up an LCDTV in our bedroom. Unfortunately, we did not, at that time, have a spare satellite box - DirecTV. What to do?
No problem. I grabbed the HD Flow receiver, plugged it in next to the LCDTV, and hooked up a short HDMI cable from the HDMI output on the HD Flow hds100, to the Sony 40" LCDTV.
The Transmitter, however, is placed in my home theater setup, which is on the same floor, but in the front of the house, vs. the bedroom in the back. I plugged in both my PS3, and my DirecTV box into the two HDMI inputs.
Eureka! It worked! It works! I was truly surprised. I'm used to my Gefen. It claims a range of only 25 feet (no walls), and has nothing to spare. The Gefen wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell of working in this arrangement. The Gefen couldn't cover 20 feet through one wall when we tested it, nor did it claim the ability.
Seriously, when the HD Flow folks first said - "walls - minor inconvenience", I was most skeptical.
The HD Flow operates on the 5 Gigahertz band, by their claim. I think that's a little different than the Gefen which claims using the 5.8 Gigahertz band, but, I would think that those two ranges are close enough to have similar wall blocking properties. As such, the range difference must be due to other aspects of the HD Flow's design.
HD Flow itrio HDS100 - Performance at Distance
As usual, when we take on an interesting device for review, we don't typically have a sophisticated, or overly systematic testing method. Instead we rely on practical tests, and hope they answer your questions.
There have been two long distance ranges tested. I will describe both to you. Note, we only have one receiver and have been unable to learn what happens in long distances if more than one is used, although it shouldn't create a problem as far as the display signal.
OK, the measured distance, as the eagle flies (if they can fly through walls), is almost 55 feet (from back of theater to the far side of the bedroom. 55 feet would be impressive (compared to the Gefen) even without walls. But, that eagle (or hdmi signal) has to pass through many walls. Since the two devices are on an angle to each other, relative to the house's rooms, here's what that HDMI signal has been passing through, starting from the source.
- About 17 feet of air in my theater, to the closest wall of a bathroom
- 1 bathrrom wall
- 6 feet of air
- through a 2nd bathroom wall/hallway wall
- 4 feet of landing
- through a hallway wall/bedroom closet wall
- about 8 feet of air
- through the bedroom/closet wall.
- about 18 feet of bedroom air to the receiver
OK, now that's impressive! And it works.
In fairness, if I, or any other human, passes between those two devices (in addition to the 4 walls), the signal breaks up until the person moves, but considering the roughly 55 feet and 4 walls, I certainly am not complaining.
The second setup used, was a bit different. Done downstairs, the transmitter was placed in my work storage area where my DirecTV dish and Blu-ray player for the testing room are located. The receiver was hooked up to that same Sony, but before it moved to the bedroom. At the time, it was in our living room at the very back of the house.
This time our trans mutating eagle (passing through walls) only has to travel about 40 feet or a few inches less. In addition, only one wall to deal with.
- From Transmitter to wall 2 feet
- 36 feet of air
- Receiver sitting behind, but below the LCDTV
Total distance - just under 40 feet:
The HD Flow worked just fine. Time to lock onto the signal may have been a little quicker but we have no reliable way of testing.
Most important to note: Passing through People not an issue with this setup. With this scenario, people walking between the receiver and transmitter did not interrupt the signal. This was consistent, over probably more than a dozen hours of operation, including a small party, (more people wandering around), with some sports being transmitted to that LCDTV. At no time did we lose the HDMI signal.
Most impressive. Whether the HD Flow really has the reliability at distance through multiple walls to be a fully reliable system throughout a house, we aren't able to determine. Still consider that if the transmitter and receiver are placed up high - people won't be able to pass between... Overall, in your home, office, or other workspace, you will have to test to make sure it's reliable in your situation. Still, our results are most inspiring.
I can say this, however. My confidence is that the HD Flow can be used reliably in many situations, including passing through more than one wall. In other words, these may let you do your whole house, or, some rooms may just be out of range. I believe that's going to be up to your layout, and where everything is placed.
I think one can generally assume that it will be reliable, at least from any room to any adjacent room, and probably will work well covering most moderate sized homes for most rooms. Again, if you place the transmitter at one far corner of the house, you won't has as much success if the transmitter is in some more central location - as stands to reason.
Let's address a more commercial application. While I'm reviewing this product first as a home solution, there's no reason why the HD Flow can't be used in a corporate or general business environment as well. Of course the walls of large corporate buildings are packed with all kinds of wiring and who knows what else, that might impact the range of the HD Flow. The HD Flow isn't built to wirelessly setup your favorite skyscraper, but it's probably very viable in a small office, or passing signal to the nearest other rooms. Peerless has confidence in the HD Flow's use in corporations. Their website mentions and shows pictures of a typical office environment.
Peerless HD Flow HDS-100 Networking and USB
The HD Flow can act like a hard wired switcher, through your network if desired, or simply by running good ethernet cabling between transmitter and receivers. This gives you an option to use wire, if one of your locations is just too far away from the transmitter.
We did not look into lag time related issues. While wireless HDMI devices seem to take a while to lock onto the HDMI source, that doesn't necessarily indicate there is any actual lag with the video stream, only that there's a delay before the source locks onto the signal at first. There are tests for such things, we use them for gaming projectors but did not attempt to test for lag. We do not have any reason to expect the HD-Flow to add real lag.
I can point out that there seemed to be no delay between video and audio content from HDMI, the audio was neither leading or lagging the picture. I have far more issue with audio sync when hard wired, because I don't switch audio and video together. My AV receiver switches audio (but not for the LCDTV in the other room where the HD Flow receiver is) via digital fibre optic, while HDMI runs directly from my sources to my projectors. (I'm always tweaking the timing, my Marantz THX works in 10 ms increments, not fine enough as far as I'm concerned 5 milliseconds would be better.
Itrio HD Flow Warranty
For an accessory, I'm rather pleased to report that the HD Flow HDS100 comes with a 1 year parts and labor warranty. That's better than many under $400 accessories that sport 90 day warranties. For this type of accessory, we consider 1 year on both parts and labor to be a good warranty.