Name: Veebeam HD
Type: Wireless PC/Mac-to-TV high definition media streamer
Specs: Click here for full specs
Price: £139 from Amazon
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More and more we're using our PCs and Macs to watch TV and movies. Whether we're downloading HD films from iTunes or streaming last night's episode of EastEnders over the BBC iPlayer, we're relying increasingly on our computers and web connections to entertain ourselves. Being restricted to a titchy laptop screen or office-tied desktop PC however isn't always the most comfortable of viewing experiences, while hooking a computer up to a big-screen TV with an array of cables isn't always the tidiest way to get around the problem either. The Veebeam HD wireless media streamer is a relatively inexpensive solution that'll push your computer's media content to a big screen without cluttering up your living room with a tangle of leads in the process.
The Veebeam HD kit is comprised of two main components; the Veebeam HD box itself and a wireless USB dongle that is used to sync the Veebeam HD with your laptop. Both black and rather discrete in size, the Veebeam HD itself features a strange two-pronged design that makes it look a little like a Highwayman's cap. In a neat touch, the dongle can be stored in a small hole on the front of the Veebeam HD which automatically switches on the box when the dongle is removed from the dock, and turns it off when returned. It's a design that puts the Veebeam HD in stark contrast to the unit's nearest rival, the white Apple TV box.
After downloading the Veebeam HD software to your PC or Mac and connecting the Veebeam HD box up to your TV with a HDMI cable (composite, digital audio and two USB connections also sit on the rear), you're then ready to "beam" any content you're currently viewing on your desktop or stored media to your TV. Quality as high as 1080p is supported if you have such files or streams available once you've matched the Veebeam HD software settings with that of your outputting screen.
The default streaming mode for the Veebeam HD is Desktop Mode, which completely takes over your laptop. It isn't suitable for playing stored media files, nor multitasking, but is a quick and easy way of projecting your desktop or browser-based video content onto the big screen. Alternatively you can use the Play-To mode to stream locally-stored media files to the Veebeam HD box, whilst still allowing you to multi-task on the computer. In either format, the Veebeam HD projected high-quality images to the big screen that, while softer than a dedicated direct HDMI connection, didn't soften 1080p videos in any horribly jarring way. How easy it is to set-up and use the Veebeam HD will make it very popular among those who find the likes of DLNA networking a little overwhelming, while the lack of content restrictions make it a very attractive Apple TV alternative.
However, there were some problems with the Veebeam HD kit. Firstly, the wireless signal between the main unit and the dongle is quite weak, requiring a near-constant line-of-sight connection to maintain a consistent stream. While a busy room of people walking through the line only rarely affected the connection, those planning on streaming from a computer in another room will have to look for another solution.
Also, we noticed some issues with the screencasting Desktop Mode that will prevent those planning to use the kit for wireless gaming streams or presentations from getting much joy from the Veebeam HD. A noticeable lag between the action on the computer screen and what happens when sent to the Veebeam HD means it's not suitable for even offline gaming, while the mysterious lack of an on-screen cursor makes controlling your desktop from the secondary display a bit of a pain.
While very attractive both in function and form, the Veebeam HD isn't without a few quibbles that, while minor to the majority of its intended users, could well be deal-breakers to gamers and professional users. Still, if you're in the market for a reasonably priced HD media streamer that has few of the content restrictions that the likes of Apple TV imposes, the Veebeam HD is an easy-to-use, elegant solution.