Pros

Brings great new versatility to notebooks and handheld devices, whether for watching videos, sharing presentations or photos, listening to music, or surfing the 'net

Cons

Various required software applications and drivers still works in progress, requiring regular updates; 1080p video streaming is glitchy

Star Rating

The PTV3000

Introduction

The Netgear PTV3000 Push2TV Wireless Display Adapter is a novel product, truly unlike anything else on the market. We're reviewing it in our Home Networking section because it is based on WiFi technology, but it honestly takes WiFi in a whole new direction. Simply put, it allows wireless HDMI connections. If you know what connecting an HDMI cable to your HDTV allows you to do, you essentially understand the promise of this Wireless Display (or "WiDi") adapter. As you might expect with a new technology, there are caveats, as will be discussed below, but even if little-known Netgear might seem to be over its head in pioneering such a product, rest assured - it is in fact Intel Corporation that is behind the technology, so there's a very good chance the products will continue to evolve for the better.

The PTV3000 itself is a shiny black box, about the size of a deck of cards, with one small external button, a pin-hole sized reset button, and two jacks (HDMI and USB). It's deceptively simple, and yet packs in a tremendous amount of technology. 

Features

The PTV3000 allows you to display the output of any WiDi-equipped notebook (including a majority of Intel-based Ultrabooks), as well as any Miracast-enabled handheld devices (such as the Galaxy S3/S4) on an HDTV or monitor equipped with an HDMI input. As you might expect from the use of the HDMI standard, WiDi passes along high-definition video (at up to 1080p) as well as surround sound, all via a wireless signal. The PTV3000 is powered either via a wall outlet, or alternatively via a USB port on your HD display, which is used only for power, not data transmission. While we didn't test it, we so no reason you couldn't connect the PTV3000's HDMI and USB cables to an AV receiver used to direct video and audio signals, but of course adding an intermediary component adds potential complexity to the system, so be prepared to trouble-shoot.

Initial setup simply requires plugging in the PTV3000 (it has no on/off switch), and waiting for it to display a unique code on your HD display. The code is then input into the WiDi application on a notebook or the MiraCast app on a handheld device, allowing the built-in wireless display hardware to communicate with the PTV3000. Our initial connection was established quite quickly, although subsequent connections sometimes took upwards of a minute to establish. 

Performance

We found the performance of the PTV3000 to be excellent overall, with a few caveats, as will be discussed below. To get the most out of the PTV3000, you really must update all of the Intel-developed software on a regular basis. The changes aren't just bug fixes, as is common of application updates. Wireless Display is new enough that each software update probably has big performance fixes. Testing the PTV3000 using WiDi software from early 2013 was a painful experience, full of mouse lag and video drop-outs with HD content. Updating to the March 2013 version of the Intel WiDi, WiFi, and video card drivers fixed most of our problems, so be sure to check Intel's WiDi Support Page for the latest revisions.

The parts

We chose to use the "projector" mode for most of our tests (accessed by tapping the Windows Key + P Key combination), which shut off the notebook's screen and used the HDTV for all video and audio output. Because our HDTV is higher resolution than our UltraBook, mirroring didn't produce a very crisp image on the larger screen, and extending the display was awkward to use, given that the two displays obviously weren't going to be placed next to each other.

So, how did it work? In a word, well. The latest software updates provided a relatively lag-free experience navigating around the desktop, and the image was crisp and clear, as long as we didn't move the notebook or move it more than about eight feet from the PTV3000. In those cases, we experienced digital glitches and dropouts.

The biggest limitation we found was that with certain 1080p HD clips (for example, fast-action movie trailers), the PTV3000 was simply overwhelmed with data, and both video and sound would hang for brief moments. We don't think this will be an issue at all for video at 720p or below, or for typical desktop use, such as surfing the Internet, displaying photos, or listening to music.

We also tested the PTV3000 with a Galaxy S3 smartphone, and overall, the experience was lacking. Unlike when using a notebook, there appeared to be no way to adjust the screen scaling to make the edges of the display line up with the HDTV, meaning the Android user interface was clipped at the top and bottom. Furthermore, the projected display was fairly low-definition, as it did not scale up to 1920x1080 as our UltraBook did. This doesn't mean there isn't some promise here - it just means smartphones will have to get a bit smarter before projecting their displays on an HDTV makes a lot of sense.

Conclusion

Overall, we were fairly pleased with the Netgear PTV3000 and its use of Intel's innovative WiDi technology. We didn't much care for the large number of software updates we had to apply to get it to perform acceptably, and we aren't sure it can be relied on for transmission of 1080p HD content, but for straight-forward "projector" use, either for business presentations, family photos, or Internet surfing on the big screen, it's an impressive and cost-effective solution.

The Netgear PTV3000 Push2TV Wireless Display Adapter is available for $54.99 shipped from Newegg, as of our publication date.

[Update: as of our most recent update, this product is no longer in production.]

Special thanks to Netgear and Newegg for providing this review sample.