Review: Acoustic Research HDP100
The Short Form
|$400 (as tested) / ARACCESSORIES.COM|
|Sets up in minutes and sends video across power lines as promised, but performance varies depending on your home's power|
|• Incredibly simple setup • IR repeater system great for remote control • Small enough to mount behind your flat panel|
|• Unpredictable results • Doesn't transmit digital audio • Won't transmit interlaced content (480i/1080i) • Adds some noise to image|
|• Transmits high-definition video up to 1080p over existing power lines • Built-in infrared repeater system allows you to remotely control components • Includes 3-foot HDMI cable|
Deserved or not, HDMI has gotten a bad rap. The cables can be stratospherically expensive, the signal can be sketchy over about 30-feet and the standard changes every time you turn around. However, if you want 1080p video and the latest lossless audio formats, brother, you've just bought yourself a ticket to HDMI country.
But if you're upgrading to a new 1080p TV and/or a Blu-ray player, enjoying the benefits of HDMI might require a difficult and expensive retrofit to add the cable, especially if you plan on wall mounting your new flat panel. Plus, if your electronics are more than 30-feet from the display, you'd better buy a really good cable to make sure you don't experience fun things like dropouts, sparklies or the dreaded, "No signal."
The consumer electronics industry has been promising us a wireless HDMI solution for a while. At each of the past CES and CEDIA shows, they've tantalized us with the prospect of beaming 1080p signals from one side of our homes to the other. But these systems have yet to materialize, meaning it must require some serious technological juju the industry is still working out.
That's why I was so intrigued when I heard that Acoustic Research was stepping up to the plate and releasing an HDMI transmission system that is available for purchase now. Acoustic Research has taken a "no new wires" approach to this problem with their HDP100 by using HD-PLC (high-definition, power-line communication) to send HD signals over existing electrical wiring within your home. The system supports data rates up to 200 Mbps, full bandwidth 1080p, and requires no more effort than just plugging into the wall. But was the reality as good as the promise?
Installing wireless systems generally falls into two categories: stupid simple or insanely difficult. Fortunately, the HDP100 falls squarely into the first category.
The system consists of just two components: a transmitter and a receiver. One 3-foot HDMI cable is included, so you'll need at least one other HDMI cable to complete the installation which involves simply connecting your source (Blu-ray, cable box) to the transmitter via HDMI and plugging the transmitter into a wall power outlet, then connecting the receiver to your display via HDMI and plugging it into a wall outlet. Both components are the same size, and small enough that the receiver should fit behind a standard wall-mounted flat panel. (It wouldn't fit behind the new ultra-thin sets and sub one-inch mounts.)
Because the system uses power-lines to transmit signals, Acoustic Research recommends not using any kind of surge protection or strip outlets on either component as these can filter out necessary signals.
While the system is compatible with resolutions all the way to 1080p, it only handles progressive signals - 480p, 720p, and 1080p. This means no 480i or 1080i, which could prove problematic or produce less than ideal results for some users. It also doesn't pass any forms of digital audio, so the ideal installation would be to run all of your components to your HDMI equipped receiver and then connect the receiver's monitor output to the transmitter.
After completing all of the connections, I had three blue lights across the board on each unit: Power, Link and Data, indicating that all was well. Except, there was no picture, which, to my reviewer's eye, meant something was amiss. A quick unplug and replug solved the problem and the picture from my Blu-ray player appeared. Success!
A slick and thoughtful touch is that the system includes an infrared repeater system that allows you to remotely control your source component. The receiver features an IR receiver, but also comes with a remote "eye" that would be perfect if the receiver were installed in an area where it isn't visibly, say behind your TV. The transmitter has a mini-jack output where the included IR flasher connects and this worked exactly as it should, allowing me to control my Blu-ray player even though it was located out of sight.