Wires? Who needs 'em? As the capability of wireless data transmission devices improves, hard-wired connections become less crucial. Wireless audio and video streaming are nothing new, and if you are like me, you probably use something like FaceTime or Skype almost daily to keep in touch with friends and family. You have probably also noticed pretty terrible video quality at times. Granted, this may have more to do with your ISP bandwidth. Still, if you are like me you are probably skeptical about most wireless video devices. The Nyrius ARIES Prime offers the convenience of wireless streaming but without the need to sacrificed HD quality. This may not be for everyone, and for many consumers a wired HDMI connection is the most simple and economical option. For others, the ability to stream content from a laptop to their TV wirelessly would be very appealing. Maybe the thought of running the cables needed to install a projector in an existing finished room is enough to avoid making the jump to a bigger screen. In these cases, the ARIES Prime may be a perfect fit.
Design, Build Quality, and Aesthetics
In simple terms, the ARIES Prime replaces a single HDMI cable between a source (i.e. laptop or game console) and a display (i.e. HDTV or projector). The package includes a dongle-style transmitter unit which connects directly to the source's HDMI output, and a larger receiver unit which connects to the display with an HDMI cable. The dongle can be powered by a USB power source, or the included wall adapter. A short USB cable is included, which allows the dongle to be used with a laptop that has an HDMI output and at least one USB port. The receiver unit is larger than the transmitter, but still relatively compact - comparable in size to Apple TV, Roku, etc. Nyrius advertises that the ARIES Prime uses GigaXtreme wireless technology with a transmission frequency range of 4.9 to 5.9GHz. I will not pretend to be an expert on the subject of wireless data transmission protocols, but this would seem to me to be similar to a Wifi network or internet connection (I could be totally wrong). A quick web search suggests that GigaXtreme is commonly used for wireless video surveillance systems.
The ARIES Prime components look and feel somewhat like computer peripherals. What I suspect to be small and fairly simple circuit boards are housed in plastic enclosures. As such, toughness and durability will be limited. Most will find a nice spot for the receiver and leave it there, so durability should be of little concern there. The transmitter dongle is about the size and shape of a longer and bulkier than average USB thumb drive. It is certainly at risk of damage while hanging out the side or back of a laptop, but it should have no problem standing up to normal, careful use just like any other similarly sized laptop add-on device. Both parts of the system are generic in terms of looks. There is really no need to add cost for premium aesthetics anyway, so the styling is appropriate. They both have a power/status LED for visual confirmation that they are powered on and connected.
Setup and Operation
There is actually not much to discuss here - and that is a good thing. I have set up the ARIES Prime in a few different locations with different sources and displays and each time the transmitter and receiver were connected within a few seconds of plugging them in and powering them on. For the scope of this review, my source was a 2013 MacBook Pro Retina, and the Onkyo NR626 acted as the display (so I could still switch between my other normal sources during the duration of the review). I used the short USB cable to power the transmitter dongle via an open USB port on my laptop. Just a heads-up: the USB power cord plugs into the side of the dongle, and may actually block whatever port is adjacent to the HDMI output, as it did for me. Luckily, in my case, the cord is long enough to reach the USB port on the other side of the laptop. I connected the receiver end to one of the HDMI inputs on the Onkyo using the HDMI cable included with the ARIES Prime. In general, a laptop's operating system (Mac or PC) will see the ARIES Prime as a secondary display, as though another monitor has been connected. It can be set to mirror the laptop's display or act as an extension of the laptop's display area. Having said that, it is a matter of preference and handled by the laptop, so it should not impact the performance of the Nyrius system. And like I said, once connected it is ready to go immediately - no settings to play with or options to control.
Keep in mind that any device that uses a wireless connection to transmit data is vulnerable to interference, especially in an environment where other devices are using similar types of technology. I realize it is very common for a home theater or entertainment center to house cable TV, internet/network, and gaming devices along with AV components, all of which could potentially emit and receive radio interference. Nyrius advertises a 30ft range for the ARIES Prime, but remember that walls or even furniture between the transmitter and receiver can reduce that to a shorter distance.
General Impressions and Performance
To me, accessories like this need to be very easy to use, in addition to performing well. The ARIES Prime, while not as simple as the HDMI cable it substitutes, is still very user friendly. I spent very little time placing and connecting the components. I did find that placing the ARIES Prime receiver near a Wifi router (within a foot or two) caused a noticeable reduction in video quality, and occasional glitches in the picture. With the Wifi signal disabled (as I only needed a wired network switch in that location) the picture quality was back to normal. I do not state this so much as a problem with the Nyrius system as a warning to be prepared for conflicts between wireless devices in general. Evidently, I think that router was dying anyway, and has since been replaced with a wired-only network switch. Zero interference since then.
I tested the ARIES Prime by streaming movie, music, and web content via my MacBook to my receiver and on to my plasma display. In general, it was very smooth and problem free. Once the transmitter and receiver were powered on and paired, they did not lose connection or cut out. There was a detectable lag in the picture between my laptop screen and TV, but this could happen even with a wired connection. There was occasionally a slightly detectable audio lag, but not to the point of distraction. Most modern receivers and TVs can compensate for this anyway, so I do not see it as an issue, but worth mentioning.
Movie audio quality was very good in both stereo and surround mode. I tested a couple of movies purchased from iTunes (Inception and LOTR - Return of the King) both of which had 5.1 channel audio tracks and a good mixture of dialog, action effects and great soundtracks. The ARIES Prime passed through all channels with no issues. Dialog was crystal clear and very well balanced with other effects and music in the soundtracks. Sound quality was good enough that I actually found myself paying more attention to picture quality.
Speaking of picture quality - the Nyrius system was definitely up to the task of transmitting HD web streamed content from sources such as Netflix, iTunes, and Youtube. Image clarity on my TV closely matched what I was seeing on my laptop while viewing movies (I chose the mirror display option for side-by-side comparison). The colors on the TV did look more grainy to my eyes compared to my MacBook's display. It was most noticeable on skin tones during close-up shots of characters' faces.
I also briefly tested the ARIES Prime connected between my OPPO BDP-103 and my receiver, which I would not consider to be the most common usage for this device, but I was curious. [Disclaimer: I could not do a side-by-side comparison here, so this could be considered very subjective] There appeared to be some loss in clarity when streaming Blu-ray discs over the Nyrius system. The image simply did not look as sharp to me as a 1080p Blu-ray feed over a wired HDMI connection. Playback was still pretty smooth and audio quality was great.
A web search turns up a handful of other devices that aim to accomplish the same task as the ARIES Prime, ranging in price from around $100 to over $200. You can accomplish a similar goal with devices like Apple TV and Google Chromecast. Both options cost a good bit less than the Nyrius system but rely on the presence of an existing Wifi network. Of course, you'd have to own an Apple laptop or mobile device to make use of Airplay, which could make that option much less appealing in the value category. Chromecast also relies on laptop and/or mobile device-based apps to stream content, although at $35, it is a tough value to beat. The advantage of something like the ARIES Prime is in its flexibility. Remember the fact that it can link any two components that have HDMI connections: connect a game console to a projector, use your wall-mounted TV as a secondary display for your laptop, or stream content to an outdoor display. From a "big picture" point of view, spending a little under $200 for a convenience feature in a home entertainment system is not so crazy. And just think, some places would try to charge you even more for a regular HDMI cable just a few feet long!
Conclusions and Recommendations
As an Apple TV user with a wired connection from my receiver/sources to my TV a wireless HDMI system does not offer much benefit to me, so from my perspective there is really no need for such a device. I value the confidence of a wired connection for HD video and audio over the convenience of not having to put holes in my walls or being able to stream video and pictures from any HDMI equipped laptop to my TV. Regardless of my personal needs, I recognize that this device is ideal for others dealing with the challenges of less than ideal spaces. In that sense, I find the ARIES Prime to be a very good balance of convenience and performance. For anyone in search of a simple solution to a potential wiring nightmare, I can recommend the Nyrius thanks to its ease of use and reliability.
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