Have you ever wished you could stop squinting your eyes and project your laptop’s screen onto your TV? Or flip a switch, move away from your desktop PC, and pick up where you’ve left off on a much bigger screen? Awind's McTiVia wireless media streamer lets you do just that, and more. It’s a little device that lets you access your computer on your HDTV. And don’t be mistaken by its name: the McTiVia works for both PC and Mac.
If you’re used to setting up W-Fi devices, getting the McTiVia up and running is fairly straightforward. There are two external dipole antennas that you've to screw to the back of the unit first. The McTiVia connects to your TV by way of an HDMI cable. To reduce cable clutter, you could setup the McTiVia as a wireless client to your router (via the Wi-Fi AP-Client Configuration), but this process is rather convoluted (not to mention such a setup is prone to interference), so we opted to hook both of them up via Ethernet. After installing the bundled software, a benchmark test will run and inform you the level of performance to expect, such as whether the setup is capable of mirroring your PC’s screen on the remote TV well in real-time. After which, just enter the McTiVia’s IP address (you should see it displayed on the TV), a user name, and hit the Connect button. Up to eight computers can be connected.
After a brief pause, your computer’s display will appear on the TV. The software will adjust your desktop’s resolution before sending the stream over. For viewing static web pages and doing work such as word processing, there’s not much we can fault the McTiVia. While it doesn’t go to 1080p (it maxed out at 720p), the ability to mirror the desktop onto a big-screen HDTV more than makes up for it. Before we forget, you can even connect a keyboard or mouse to the USB port on the McTiVia. That means you can leave your laptop in the bedroom while you work in the living room.
By default, the McTiVia software will use the Video mode; in this mode, the lag between what you see on your computer’s screen and what you see on the TV is longer. In our experience, there was a 2-second delay. However, videos appeared smoother. The App mode on the other hand reduced latency to less than half a second; the downside was we noticed more skips. So if you wish to use App mode, we recommend Ethernet connections end-to-end. For smooth frame rates, we recommend at least a dual-core 2GHz processor.
To further enhance the experience, there are a few little tweaks you can try; for example, you can enlarge the mouse cursor that appears on the remote TV and choose a higher (or lower) projection quality. When we first used the McTiVia, we encountered an overscan issue: the edges of the desktop went beyond the edges of the TV. If you can’t turn off overscan on your TV, you can do precise offsets on the McTiVia software.
It’s easy to see the McTiVia as an alternative to the Apple TV; in reality, it’s much fewer content restrictions since it’s able to broadcast everything that’s on your computer to your TV. Once you’ve crossed the setup hurdle, you’d discover that it’s quite a gem of a wireless media receiver. If you're using Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, to ensure compatibility, you should download the latest version 188.8.131.52 software installer over at Awind's website.