A dual-band wireless presentation gateway with business rather than consumer aspirations, the ViewSync WPG-370 from display specialist ViewSonic allows content to be streamed wirelessly to remote monitors, large format TVs, projectors and other displays. Retailing at around £135 (ex. VAT), potential applications include wireless business presentations, screen mirroring for training purposes and streaming of content to advertising and information displays in shops and public places.
What’s In The Box?
Small but, paradoxically, surprisingly large for this type of device, the WPG-370 is designed to sit fairly close to the display or projector to which content is to be streamed. VGA and HDMI ports are provided to connect to those devices (cables not included) along with a couple of RCA jacks and an SPDIF connector for independent audio, if needed.
An RJ-45 port allows the gateway to be cabled to a wired network, but the main selling point is Wi-Fi. The WPG-370 has a dual-band 802.11n interface, enabling it to stream data using either the 2.4GHz spectrum or, far less crowded, 5GHz airwaves. Considered more reliable than 2.4GHz, the 5GHz spectrum also supports 40MHz channels for greater throughput.
Note too that the WPG-370 can also act as an access point, enabling wireless clients to stream to it directly rather than via a shared infrastructure. A USB port is to be found on the front of the unit, to allow memory sticks filled with content to be plugged in for “PC-less” presentations, plus there’s a tiny remote control to manage the unit and navigate around the various options.
Power comes from an external AC adapter and there are just two physical controls – an on/off switch on the front and a button on the side to select the correct streaming mode, about which, more later.
How you go about setting up the WPG-370 is far from obvious. Partly because the Quick Start Guide is largely pictorial, compounded by a somewhat sketchy user manual on CD-ROM. Once you work out what to do, however, it is fairly straightforward.
First plug the unit into a computer monitor, TV or projector then switch it on and use the remote control to navigate your way through the on-screen setup procedure. We used a monitor and had no real problems understanding what to do.
We did, however, find the process a little cumbersome, particularly when it came to specifying the passphrase needed to connect to our wireless network. Indeed, choosing each character individually via the remote proved very laborious although, thankfully, this only had to be done once.
We were also advised to upgrade to the latest firmware. This had to be downloaded to a USB memory stick and applied using a procedure outlined in the supporting document. Once done, however, the WPG-370 re-booted and we were good to go.
The WPG-370 offers four options (modes) for streaming content. Two are for PC or, more usually, notebook users, while the others are primarily for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. You choose the mode you want using either the remote or the mode button on the side, then simply follow the instructions shown on the display.
Owners of Intel WiDi (Wireless Display) notebooks get their own mode requiring very little setup at the client end. Simply activate WiDi on the notebook, specify the name of the gateway to use and start streaming at up to 1080p.
Unfortunately WiDi compatibility can’t be guaranteed, especially on older notebooks and can only be used when hooked up by HDMI, so the other option is to download and run custom ViewSonic software. This is obtained from the WPG-370 itself with 32-bit and 64-bit Windows versions available plus an Apple Mac implementation.
We downloaded the Windows version, selected our test WPG-370 and typed in the login code shown on the WPG-370 display. We were then able to mirror the contents of our notebook screen to the remote monitor. We did have to experiment with the settings to get the best results but, overall, found it good enough for both business presentations and demonstration work.
The mobile modes were similarly documented on screen with the addition of QR codes to access additional guides and apps, where, required. The first mode is screen mirroring which can only be used with specific HTC, Samsung Galaxy and Sony Xperia devices. The second uses DLNA media streaming and requires apps to be installed on the device involved – either BubbleUPNP for Android or iMediaShare for iOS (recently renamed Flipps).
We tried free versions of these apps and both worked, enabling us to stream images and video to a large display, although we did lose connectivity on occasion and for full functionality paid-for implementations of these apps are required.
Lastly we tried the “PC-less” presentation option, inserting a USB stick of photos into the socket on the front. This immediately switched the WPG-370 over to a menu that enabled us to browse and display the contents of the memory stick, controlled by the remote and reverting back to streaming mode when the memory stick was removed.
Media Streaming Not Made Easy
Wireless streaming, in all its guises, is one of those technologies that can only get better with, as yet, no clear winner when it comes to standards and no single implementation that works reliably across platforms. The ViewSync WPG-370 gets around this by embracing several different approaches and, for the most part, manages to deliver the goods, albeit with varying degrees of difficulty and sometimes variable results.
The WPG-370 works, but don’t expect to simply plug the ViewSonic gateway into a projector or large format display and leave it up to end users to work out how to do it. Streaming is still not as easy as it might be, requires a fair amount of technical know-how to get right and, in our view, the ViewSync WPG-370 could do with a bit more work to make it something anyone can use. [2/5]