Our receptionist Jessica can't get enough of her MTV on her wireless TV.
Well, sort of. Actually, she's been watching more Wimbledon than MTV, and the TV's not really hers, but that doesn't make for a snappy an opening line. The point is she has a 15-inch Sharp Aquos LCD TV sitting on her desk, no plugs attached--a naked monitor--and she got very upset when we tried to take it away from her after she concluded battery-life testing for us. In fact, she was willing, as special service to our readers, to test the battery life several more times in order to make sure our numbers were truly accurate. She also agreed to be photographed with the product for this column if we continued to let her "test" it.
The exact name of the review sample on Jessica's desk is the Sharp Aquos LC-15L1U-S
. For around $1,300, you get the 15-inch TV, a remote, and a base station that transmits images and audio to the monitor via an 802.11b
wireless network. (The base station has inputs for your cable or satellite receiver and your DVD player). With its protruding auricular speakers, the monitor looks frighteningly like Mickey Mouse and is kitschy in a Japanese way. However, not everybody on these shores will find the design all that endearing--or attractive. Nevertheless, it is distinctive.
I admit, before I saw this Sharp and some upcoming Sony wireless TVs in action, I was skeptical of these types of products. Granted, Jessica did report quite a few dropouts and stutters--which were "really annoying" on some days--but the picture quality was acceptable for standard-definition TV. The remote and IR blaster system even allowed her to change channels on the satellite box from halfway across the office, albeit with a 4-second delay between flips.
A room with a TV to view
What makes wireless TVs compelling is the convenience of being able to transport the LCD--there's a handle built in to the 13-pound Sharp--to any room in the house, even outdoors, as long as you're in your wireless network's range. Sony's LF-X1
($1,499 list) ups the ante even further. Besides its smaller (12.1-inch screen), sexier design, the Sony one-ups the Sharp on the features front as well. You can watch your cable or satellite feed from any location that has broadband Internet access--wired or wireless. The LF-X1 also allows you to surf the Internet with a built-in browser and access multimedia content from your computer's hard drive.
Sony's LF-X1 LocationFree TV
In real-world terms, this means you could theoretically bring your TV on a trip to New York and watch the local broadcast of your favorite sports team while you're on the road. To demonstrate the concept at last month's Home Entertainment Show in New York, Sony showed us programming on its wireless TV that was being streamed from a set-top box in San Diego. Thanks to the base station's IR blaster, we were even able to change the channel and control a TiVo DVR (albeit with the expected delays needed to pass our commands across the continent). Though not glitch-free, it was working well enough to turn me into a wireless TV disciple.
Spending money to save
True, these TVs are currently expensive--wired 15-inch Aquos TVs
, for example, can be had for as little as $400. But another way to look at it is that you're potentially saving money. Instead of having multiple TVs in multiple rooms (or wishing you were the guy in the Philips commercial who has a TV in every room so he won't miss a minute of his soccer game), you can simply move the TV from room to room. For example, in the morning, you'd take the TV from the nightstand next to you the bathroom, followed by a little jaunt to the kitchen. How sick would that be?
Yes, I know, it really is
a little sick--who needs friends when you have your wireless Aquos? But take it from me, wireless is very much a part of the TV's future. Granted, there are still certain issues to overcome, such as perfecting the compression scheme for wirelessly transmitting HDTV and tweaking the designs of the TVs. For its part, Sony has opted for two formats: the aforementioned 12.1-inch portable model, and a 9-inch ultraportable model, the $999 (list) LX-F5. There's nothing wrong with either, but obviously, the smaller display is more geared toward personal viewing. Both models will be out in the fall; they'll even be offered as a bundle for true wireless TV junkies.
While I expect that the initial appeal of having a wireless TV will be related to what I described--taking it from room to room in an apartment or a house--Sony will be promoting the "TV anywhere" theme. And for some people, as Jessica our receptionist can attest, streaming a little TV to your desk during those quieter times at work certainly helps the day go by a little faster.
Just remember to keep the volume down. Or wear headphones
David Carnoy is an executive editor for CNET Reviews. Have a question for him? Let us know!