Intel’s WiDi Standard: What You Need to Know

Intel’s recent ultrabook draft requires manufacturers to implement some version of their own proprietary “Wireless Display” standard across new lines. A competitor to technologies such as Apple’s AirPlay and Microsoft’s SmartGlass display broadcasting firmware, WiDi seeks to eradicate cables and pave the way for an instant-streaming future. Here, we’ll use Intel’s latest and greatest to explain how to connect a laptop to a TV supporting WiDi.

Intel WiDiImage copyright by Intel.

What do you need?

First up, WiDi has some pretty demanding hardware specs. Not to worry, though: any modern laptop, ultrabook or tablet should support most of the required technologies (excepting anything running Windows RT). You’ll need a third generation Intel Core processor (so an i3, i5, i7 or any mobile variant of those). The ‘third generation’ of Intel’s processors is based upon an ‘Ivy Bridge’ chip architecture, so you might know them by that name instead.

In addition to a reasonably modern processor, you’ll need at least Intel HD Graphics (integrated graphics are fine), an Intel WiFi chip supporting at least 802.11n connectivity (again, anything modern). Finally, you’ll need Windows 7 or 8 – Home Premium, Ultimate, Professional and fully-fledged 8 are all OK, but the stripped-down Windows RT won’t quite cut the mustard. Throwing your display across the room as easily as your voice requires quite a bit of computational grunt, you see.

On the software side, you’ll need to download the Intel WiDi Widget for your operating system. You can pick it up here: search around for Windows 8-compatible variants.

That about wraps us up for all the broadcasting kit. What about your wireless display?

Given that WiDi supports up to 1080p (so-called ‘full HD’) video with simultaneous 5.1 surround sound audio and HDCP (which you’ll need to watch content-protected material), you’ll want something that can take advantage of the latest and greatest in audio/visual tech. You don’t need to burst the bank, but you will need a WiDi-enabled television (although you can pick up a few WiDi-enabled Blu-Ray players and set-top boxes, too). LG make a few – again, search around to check if your set is already compatible, or if you’re going to need some sort of peripheral to enable connectivity.

Is it any good?

In a word, yes. Intel’s WiDi “bowled over” Engadget, and was dubbed the “hottest sleeper technology” of 2010 by PC Magazine. In many senses, WiDi significantly outperforms Apple’s OS X/iOS-only AirPlay – we noted significantly faster frame rates, and didn’t suffer from any dropouts in either the video or audio streams. We couldn’t say the same for AirPlay. Don’t forget, a huge amount of this will be down to the quality, settings and placement of your wireless router – even AirPlay streamed with barely a fuss once we switched the stock router (given to us by our internet provider) to a dedicated NetGear 802.11n router.

So, there we have it. Everything you need to get going with WiDi, and enjoying those films on the bigger screen. Watch out for WiDi over the next twelve months, as we’ll see it making the move to Windows 8 tablets as a wholesale competitor to Apple’s screen-sharing technologies. Given that much of Apple’s popularity in the education sector derives from the facility of AirPlay, it’ll be interesting to see how Microsoft’s acquisition of similar functionality through WiDi will enable it to compete in that industry.

Louise Miller graduated from LSE in 2011 with an MA in engineering and is currently setting up her own web design business. She loves blogging about tech and social media in her free time. You can follow her through the buttons below.

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