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Intel soups up Wireless Display tech

But will punters really buy a new laptop for PC-to-TV streaming?

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Core requirement

The new Core i chips' on-die graphics engine, now more tightly coupled to the CPU cores than before, is needed to perform the on-the-fly conversion of the WiDi display buffer into the encrypted MPEG 4 stream that's sent out over the WLAN. It's the presence of the crypto tech - also a key part of Intel Insider, the chip company's upcoming online movie streaming service - that has allowed it to safely permit copy-protected DVD and Blu-ray content to be sent from computer to telly.

Intel WiDi

Depending on what's being shown, the WiDi bandwidth requirement runs up to 20Mb/s, Intel said. An 802.11n network should have plenty of room for that, and several other streams besides, without hindering web access and suchlike. However, how scalable WiDi will be is ultimately going to depend on the wireless environment in your home.

Intel certainly sees WiDi as a multi-room system. Its WiDi software, provided to PC makers rather than to users, auto-detects and lists all of the receivers on your network, and you simply click on the one you want your computer to stream too. When you release the receiver, it's free for another machine to use. The link is always one to one.

WiDi isn't without competition. Apple's AirPlay is the best-known alternative, streaming from a Mac, PC or iDevice to an Apple TV connected to your telly. The $99/£99 Apple TV costs the same as the WiDi receivers but unlike them isn't merely an adaptor - it's an online media player in its own right. The downside: AirPlay is geared toward iTunes-compatible media, so you can't use it so play AVI files on your TV or stream BBC iPlayer.

But you can do that will the growing range of $99/£99 ultrawideband-based display streamers, none of which use up network bandwidth. Unlike WiDi, they require line-of-sight with the USB-connected transmitter and the receiver plugged into your TV. But then you're going to want to have your PC close to you if you use WiDi, if only to select the files you want and to control the stream.

Most important of all, the UWB streamers don't require that you own one of the latest Intel CPUs, and some will work as happily with Macs and PCs.

It's that tight link to the CPU that could well prove WiDi's undoing. Anyone who thinks it would be handy being able to stream content from PC to TV without cables isn't going to be too bothered about buying a cheap-ish adaptor, which are priced for impulse buying. But they may very well baulk at buying a new laptop. ®

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