Diamond VStream Review

gotdamojo06 - 2011-05-13 23:32:12 in Gadgets
Category: Gadgets
Reviewed by: gotdamojo06   
Reviewed on: June 6, 2011
Price: $119.99

Introduction:

Have you ever wanted to have your computer hooked up to the TV in your living room? Maybe you have a laptop and wish you could display the content on your screen onto your TV while still laying down on your couch. Well Diamond has just released a new device that will accomplish this called the VStream.  Basically, this device in a few simple words is a wireless HDMI cable. Diamond's VStream is able to transmit wirelessly whatever you have on your computer screen to any display device that has an HDMI input, be it a projector, PC monitor, or an HDTV. I am very curious to see exactly how this device works and if image quality suffers at all.

Closer Look:

 

Taking a look at the front of the packaging for the Diamond VStream, the first thing that you are going to notice is the happy family sitting in the bottom right hand corner holding a laptop with a movie preview playing on it. In the background you are going to see a large TV displaying the exact same display with no cables going from the laptop to the TV. You are going to see towards the top the VStream name with the tag line printed below it, "Your PC Your TV Wirelessly." The illustration on the front of the box makes it easy to see that with the Diamond VStream device, you will be able to wirelessly transfer the content from your computer to your TV via an HDMI cable from the receiver. Along the bottom edge of the front the key features are highlighted, such as Stream Media from Your PC to an HDTV, Full HD 1080P Resolution, HDMI & HD Audio, and Easy to install. There are also the HDMI, DisplayLink Certified, and Full HD badges along the bottom edge to let you know what kind of certifications Diamond has for the VStream. When you look at the back of the package, you are going to see a more detailed diagram of how the device works. Here you are also going to find out the range of the wireless adapter, which is about 30 feet. An in depth description, as well as a comprehensive list of features for the VStream can also be found on the back of the box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the outer packaging is removed, you are going to find a cardboard box inside that houses all of the components that make the Diamond VStream device work. There are two levels to the packaging. The first level is where you are going to find the VStream unit itself as well as the two wireless USB adapters and the drivers CD that has the DisplayLink software on it. While the second level exposes all of the documentation, HDMI cable, and power adapter. There is also a Quick Start Guide located inside of the packaging that is going to give you some more generalized installation steps. Once everything is pulled out of the packaging, you will see all of the pieces that make the Diamond VStream complete. I will take a closer at these components on the following page.

 

 

 

Now that we know how the Diamond VStream is packaged and all of the contents inside, let's take a closer look at the VStream and see how it is designed.

Closer Look:  

The first part of the Diamond VStream that I wanted to take a look at is the base station which is the main part of the device that converts the wireless incoming feed to an HDMI signal. On the top of the base, you will find a USB port that has an eject button next to it. This is where you are going to plug the wireless USB stick into the base that receives the signal from the device plugged into your PC. When you take a look at the bottom of the device, you are going to find the label that lets you know that the Diamond VStream was tested to comply with FCC standards for either home or office usage only. You are also going to have the model number printed on the bottom, which happens to be WPCTV1080H. There are four rubber feet on the bottom of the base that are going to help keep it in place when you set it down on your entertainment center, there are also two slotted holes that are cut out on the bottom to allow you to be able to mount it on the wall if you feel the need to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a closer look at the base station of the VStream, you are going to again see on the top that there is a USB port that is used by the wireless adapter. On the sides of the unit, you are going to find two other ports, one is the HDMI port on the front left hand side of the unit, this is where you plug the included HDMI cable in to transfer the feed to your HDTV or device that supports HDMI input. The other port is the DC 5V. Since the VStream doesn't get any power from the USB port, the included power adapter is needed for operation.

 

 

There are two wireless USB adapters that you are going to find inside of the package. The one on the left hand side is the Wireless transceiver that plugs into your PC and sends the signal to the wireless receiver on the right that plugs into the HD Base. As I stated before, there is a maximum distance of 30 feet that can be between the two devices. Also included is a standard HDMI cable. Diamond did put plastic caps on both ends to protect it from any dust that may get inside or any other damage to the ends that may occur while it is either being shipped or unpacked. The HDMI cable is about four feet in length. Which should be long enough to make sure that the base station is positioned to receive the signal from the transceiver, while providing the ability to hide the cable when routing the HDMI to the TV. As I mentioned before, the 5V DC adapter included in the packaging, is needed to power the VStream HD Base. The prongs are detachable so you can use it outside of the US, however you will need to purchase an additional adapter for this use.

 

 

 

Now that we know what components make up the Diamond VStream, it's time to take a look at the software behind the hardware to see exactly how it works. As well as getting the software configured properly.

Closer Look: 

DisplayLink

DisplayLink is the application software that is used by Diamond VStream Adapter to transfer the video signal though your USB port to the device that then transmits it wirelessly to the base station and finally though an HDMI cable to the display device, be it a monitor or TV. The DisplayLink Software is the only component of the DisplayLink solution that resides on your computer, playing a key part in making USB graphics devices possible. It has to work transparently so that your USB monitor appears the same as your DVI monitor to the operating system and all of your applications. It has to manage all of the display rendering which would normally be done by a dedicated GPU, while sharing the CPU with everything else you are doing at that point in time. It has to adapt both to the computer on which it is running as well as to the use you are making of it. To do all this, the DisplayLink software has been developed to have the following features:

All Information courtesy of DisplayLink @ http://www.displaylink.com/displaylink_software.php

 

Once you get the software installed on your PC, you are going to be able to find the Wireless USB Manager under your Start Menu. This piece of software is what you are going to be able to use to view your wireless transceiver and configure it. Once you have the wireless transceiver installed in an open USB Port, the Wireless USB Manager application is automatically launched in the background. You will also be able to find it in your system notification bar. If you select the wireless USB Dongle in the selection screen and click the Advanced button, you will be able to find all of the settings that you are able to alter; such as the Region that you are in, the channel that you wish to use, as well as the transmit rate in Mbps. There are only three channels that you can choose from; channel 13, 14, and 15 with 15 being the default. Which could come in handy if you wanted to have up to three of these devices working in close proximity to each other. There is also a Diagnostics Log File viewer that you can use, if you are having issues setting up your Diamond VStream system.

 

 

 

 

 

While you are looking at the system tray's notification area, you are going to see a new icon that closely resembles the standard Networked PC connection in Windows Explorer. However this is the DisplayLink Software that is automatically launched when you plug in your Diamond VStream wireless transceiver. You can click on the icon in the notification area and open a shortcut menu with a link that will allow you to change, as well as optimize the settings for Video files to be played and re-sized to your TV. You can also check for updates here as well. When you click the Advanced Configuration, you are given the Windows Resolution configuration screen. Here you are going to be able to change the resolution, orientation, and what to do on each display.

 

Now that the DisplayLink software is set up, the next step is to look at the specifications and features then begin the testing.

Specifications:  

SKU
WPCTV1080H
Form Factor
External Device
Product Dimension
3.4x1.6 inches (WxH)
Product Weight
.10 lbs
Weight with Content
1.25 lbs
BUS
USB 2.0
Warranty
1 Year
Monitor
HDMI
1080P Support
Yes
Operating System Support
Windows 7 (32 & 64 bit)
Windows Vista (32 & 64 bit)
Windows XP

 

Features:  

 

System Requirements:

Testing:

To properly test the Diamond VStream, I am going to simply see if the device will give me any sort of video output and to compare the picture quality that it is able to deliver to the picture quality delivered by an internal video card. The next step is going to be comparing  the overall CPU and memory usage in the Windows Task Manager that is being utilized with an internal video card compared to the Diamond VStream, while using a video stress tester, MSI Kombustor. I am also going to test to see if the Diamond adapter is still able to display an output without a video card installed in the system. All of these tests are going to be done using a Samsung 24" computer monitor that has HDMI input support. The final test that I am going to perform is connecting my ASUS Eee PC 1000HE to the Diamond adapter and then to the TV in my living room and to ensure that I am going to be able to get surround sound and video display.
 

Testing Setup:

 

Picture Quality:

The first test that I want to perform is a picture quality comparison. Here I am going to set the resolution of both displays to be 1280 x 800. Once this is done, I will open a full screen image on both of the displays to see if there are any differences. The picture that I am going to use is an HDR image of a forest scene that I took quite some time back. The size of this image was reduced to 1920 x 1279, so that it would mostly fit on the screen at 100% zoom. A copy is pictured below.

Both of the images on either display looked identical, there were no changes between using the GPU and the Diamond VStream device to view the image.

 

PowerColor HD6950 PCS+ @ 1280 x 800                                        Diamond VStream @ 1280 x 800

 

System Resources:

The next test that I am going to do is what I call the System Resources test. Here I am going to run MSI Kombustor to stress the video adapter to see how much memory and CPU power is required while Kombustor is running. I will be running this test with the Diamond VStream adapter installed as well as with the VStream adapter removed to test the GPU itself. I will be using the DX11 test, resolution of 1280 x 800 and 8x AA; I will let the test run for 15 minutes on both devices and at the end of the 15 minute session I will check to see what the PCU usage and Memory usage are for MSIKombustorDX11.exe *32 in the Windows Task Manager.

 

  PowerColor HD6950 PCS+ @ 1280 x 800                                     Diamond VStream @ 1280 x 800

 

 

 

Stand-Alone Video Adapter:

The next step to the testing is to see if the Diamond VStream device is going to be able to function as a standalone video device. To test this, I am going to remove the GPU from the system and see if I am able to boot into Windows and have a video display. Once I removed the GPU from my system, I still had the VStream device connected via the wireless adapter, however as soon as I pressed the power button on my chassis, the system just hung and was unable to move forward. So unfortunately, the Diamond VStream device is not going to be an alternative to having a GPU installed in your system.

 

TV Hookup via Netbook:

The main feature pushed by Diamond with the VStream device is that you can wirelessly stream the content displayed on your computer via a USB port to your HDTV in your living room. This is the final test that I am going to perform on the Diamond VStream. So I grabbed my ASUS Eee PC 1000HE, installed the drivers and software, and took it out to my living room. I plugged the VStream HD Base into my Phillips 42" Plasma HDTV with the included HDMI cable and booted up my netbook. After I changed the settings to be able to get the best image on my screen, I went to Netflix's website and clicked on the next movie in my queue, which happened to be Liar Liar with Jim Carey. The results of this test went quite well and yes the Diamond VStream was able to transmit the video and audio signal to my TV in my living room! However, there was a slight delay in the process. Watching only the video on the TV, you would never even notice this. But, if you have both displays in your view, it is easy to see that the display on the netbook was a second ahead of what the TV was showing.  The slight delay between the laptop and TV had no affect on the Audio, which was able to match up perfectly. The picture quality itself was not the best that I had ever seen, however this is a limitation of my Netbook and not the Diamond VStream.

 

Conclusion:  

Going back to the first question that I had asked at the beginning, do you ever wish you could wirelessly transmit your Laptop's screen to your HDTV? Well if you have ever wished this, then Diamond's VStream is exactly what you are looking for to do this. The Diamond VStream device does allow you to use a USB wireless dongle to transmit data from a PC, to the HD Base of the setup that will then send the signal via an HDMI cable to your HDTV or other display device. Setting up the Diamond VStream was very simple and easy to do. All you have to do is use the included CD and install the software on your system, then plug in your wireless transceiver to your PC and the HD Base into an empty HDMI slot on your HDTV and you're pretty much ready to go. There was a little bit of a delay when transferring a video wirelessly from my laptop to my TV, however it is not at all noticeable if you are not watching both of the screens at the same time. The audio and video that is being played on the TV did match up perfectly as they should. When comparing the amount of CPU usage and memory usage required while using the DisplayLink software and then without the DisplayLink software enabled, you are going to see that both of the conditions had no CPU usage on the Kombustor process. However using the DisplayLink software, you are going to notice about a 12% decrease in total memory usage, meaning the DisplayLink software for graphics intensive programs is a memory hog.

When you look at similar devices to the Diamond VStream on pricegrabber.com, you are going to find that there is not a large selection of wireless USB to HDMI converters, and the only other one that I could find was called a Cables To Go Wireless USB to HDMI Kit, which is going to run you between $180 and $230 depending on where you shop. This is where the Diamond VStream is going to get another round of applause, the Diamond VStream is only $120, which gives you a significant savings.

If you are looking for a way to connect your laptop to a display adapter that supports HDMI input, and you do not have an HDMI output on your laptop then I would suggest taking a close look at the Diamond VStream device. This device was able to perform well in all of the testing that I did on it, with the exception of the memory testing where it was a huge memory hog. This would be a great substitute for an HTPC in your living room if you have a laptop that you could use.
 

Pros: 

 

Cons: