Intel has been developing its WiDi wireless display technology for a few years now, and with Sandy Bridge and WiDi 2.x Intel had a workable platform for streaming video – despite it not being as reliable or as responsive as running a video cable. Today, Intel announced an update to its WiDi specification that brings the technology up to version 3.5 and makes it better than ever.
WiDi is a wireless transmission technology pre-loaded on mobile devices such as ultrabooks and other Intel CPU powered laptops like the Lenovo S series shown off at IFA 2012. Devices that have either a Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge Intel processor will be eligible for the 3.5 update and will see several improvements.
The most important update is a reduction in latency. Intel has managed to get WiDi latency down to 250ms on Sandy Bridge, and an impressive 60ms for computers running Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge processors. At 60ms, the user interaction with the OS is going to become noticeably more responsive. Thanks to this latency reduction, Intel is announcing support for not only running its WiDi software on Windows 8, but the operating system’s touchscreen interface as well. While using a touchscreen with a WiDi display might have felt less-than-responsive with older WiDi implementations, by bringing the latency down to sub-100ms levels, the action of touching UI elements and getting feedback in the form of display output should be fairly fluid.
Some other big changes with the latest WiDi update include support for streaming 3D video and compatibility with the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Miracast wireless display technology/standard. The Santa Clara-based company made it clear that it does not want to fight the Wi-Fi Alliance over which implementation of wireless display should be the 'industry standard.' Intel has stated that it wants to complement Miracast rather than compete with it. The company’s WiDi equipped devices with the 3.5 update will happily stream to Miracast certified receivers. The only potential issue is that Intel does not guarantee latency when using Miracast receivers. In that respect, Intel sees WiDi as being Miracast + its additional feature set on top that provides some additional functionality and certification beyond the base standard. There was no mention of AMD’s proposed wireless display technology, however.
Intel has further reduced battery consumption when using WiDi, and when using WiDi 3.5 users should see some incremental battery life improvements versus the previous generation. CPU utilization while streaming video has also been reduced to less than 10% on both Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge Intel CPUs.
The final major additions to WiDi 3.5 are on the receiver end of things. Thanks to Miracast support, WiDi-equipped computers will be able to stream to a wide variety of devices in addition to using Intel WiDi dongles. And while previous generation WiDi receivers were around $80, this time around receivers should be a bit cheaper. In the late 2012 to early 2013 time frame, new WiDi 3.5 receivers will be available for purchase. A new Neo TV box will cost $69.99 while a more traditional WiDi dongle from Netgear will retail for $59.99.
Some interesting new capabilities of the receiver units include the ability for dongles to be powered by the USB port on the TV (rather than needing a wall power adapter). Also, WiDi 3.5 will support USB ports located on the receivers (pending hardware manufacturer implementation) that will allow you to keep HID class USB devices plugged into the receiver. Those input devices (keyboard, mouse, track pad, game pad, basically anything that is classed as a Human Interface Device under the USB standard) will then control your WiDi connected computer over the same wireless link that is streaming video to your TV.
And, of course, WiDi 3.5 continues to support streaming 1080p video, HDCP2 encrypted streams (Blu-ray), DVDs, and 5.1 surround sound.
The WiDi 3.5 software update is already in the hands of OEMs, and a public download of the update should be available to Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge computer users sometime in October. The updated WiDi computers running 3.5 will be able to stream to Miracast or Intel’s own WiDi receivers. However, if you want the improved WiDi receiver(s) with USB ports, you will have to wait until early 2013 at the latest to get your hands on the hardware.
Also, you can watch a live demonstration of WiDi working on an ASUS Z77 motherboard in the video below.