Belkin FlyWire Wireless HD Streamer

Let’s face it: even though every flat-screen TV advertisement you’ve ever seen has featured a TV gracefully floating on a wall like a museum piece, it never looks anywhere near that elegant in real life. After you pile a Blu-ray player, cable-box, PS3 and HTPC below it on an awkward piece of IKEA, the aura of mystique floats right out the window. And unless you care to invest hundreds of dollars in 30-foot HDMI cables and deal with the aggravation of snaking a new one through the walls every time you add an input, you’re never going to create that same clean effect.

Belkin Flywire Wireless HD Streamer
Image Courtesy of Belkin

Unless you snip the wires and go totally wireless… which is a bit easier said than done. Any number of standard-def streaming solutions have been cooked up to accomplish this, but dealing with full 1080P HD content – the sole reason for owning a new TV to so many people – is a much tougher proposition.  Pumping all those bits and bytes through the air turns out to be to quite a strain, but Belkin’s new FlyWire wireless streaming system is up for the task.

The FlyWire is among the first streaming boxes that will allow flat-panel owners to sever every wire to their sets and still feed it pure, undiluted high-def content. By funneling every one of your A/V inputs into a single switchable box that communicates wirelessly with a receiver connected to your TV, it allows you to relocate all the clutter in that TV cabinet to, well, wherever you want.

Although you won’t be sawing holes in your wall or tacking cables to the ceiling, using the FlyWire does require a bit of setup. Users hook up all their devices using the myriad of standard inputs on the back of the router-sized FlyWire box, then connect a smaller receiver box discretely to a TV. After setting the TV’s input to the receiver, they can flick through all the connected devices from the couch using the including FlyWire remote.

There is, of course, the issue of actually controlling all those devices when they’re buried in another room, but Belkin has devised a way to handle that as well. The system includes an infrared repeater, which will snatch up a signal from, say, your cable box remote in the living room, transit it over radio waves to the FlyWire room, then reproduce it as an IR signal that your cable box will understand. End result: everything you own is “in range” even though it’s no longer in the line of sight necessary for IR.

While many wireless media centers attempt to use a Wi-Fi connection on the 802.11 frequency band to stream video, the FlyWire uses the 5GHz spectrum, much like a cordless phone. Belkin hasn’t published precise range figures (since it will likely vary with every installation), but it promises “whole home” coverage, meaning a number of TVs should be able to tap the same transmitter. So while you may still need multiple cable boxes to avoid the inevitable Rachel Ray versus South Park TV dispute with your significant other, you can avoid buying more than one Blu-ray player, HTPC and other shareable devices.

Every piece of high-def hardware carries a slight premium, and the FlyWire is no exception. It will cost a rather steep $999.99 when it debuts in the first quarter of 2009, which puts it right up there with the cost of some TVs. While that may seem like a high price to pay, owners with many HDTVs will actually be saving some money by sharing common inputs, and the cost of a custom “hidden” wired install makes a grand look like a pittance. Home theater buffs that want to find out more about the FlyWire or preorder one can head to Belkin’s website.

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