The Nintendo Switch has proven to be a hit with gamers thanks to the fact that it can be played both on your TV and in portable mode, but despite this unique selling point, there’s still a market for super-slim mobile monitors that allow you to experience the big-screen effect while you’re on the move.
One of the biggest issues of using such a screen, however, is that you still need to hook up the Switch dock – and most of the monitors on the market also require their own power supply, which rather limits their usefulness. Carting around all those wires can be a drag, and you need to remain close to a wall socket at all times. When there’s that much fuss involved, most people will just settle for using the Switch’s built-in 720p display, which is far more convenient.
That’s what makes Innlead’s AVA wirelessHD screen so interesting. This portable screen uses cutting-edge ‘wirelessHD mm-Wave 5G technology’ to beam the image from your source to the display, offering a low-latency ‘zero-lag’ experience that (largely) removes the need for wires. It also works over long distances, with a 20-meter / 66-foot range being mooted by the manufacturer.
We were lucky enough to receive a pre-production sample of the AVA wirelessHD monitor ahead of its crowdfunding launch, and we’ve been putting it through its paces over the past few days. The model we received is the 13.3-inch variant (which is the smallest Innlead offers – 15.6 and 17.3-inch versions will also be available), and our sample maxes out at 1080p – but we’re assured that the final version will offer 4K resolution – not that such a feature is likely to be much of a selling point for Switch owners, of course.
To cut the chase, the way the AVA wirelessHD works is nothing short of remarkable. The magic is all down to the bundled mm-Wave transmitter, which is a small, hockey puck-shaped device that connects via USB-C or Mini-HDMI. This diminutive little object broadcasts the image to the screen automatically without any need to pair devices or undergo a lengthy connection process. You just turn the screen on, connect the transmitter to your source (in some cases, the transmitter also needs its own power supply) and you’re away. It feels a bit like witchcraft.
We’re normally quite sceptical when any company utters the words ‘lag-free’ in relation to a product, but we’re pleased to report that it’s most certainly the case here. There’s no noticeable latency between your control inputs and the on-screen action – which perhaps shouldn’t be all that shocking when you consider that Nintendo pulled off the same trick with the Wii U almost a decade ago.
The advertised range of 20 meters is, of course, entirely dependent on what obstacles you have between the screen and the source, but we could effortlessly move around the room with the monitor and the connection remained steady (a more pressing concern, in this case, is the distance the Switch Joy-Con / Pro Controller can comfortably manage but the connection becomes unstable). However, the moment you introduce walls or floors into the mix, and the signal drops out, so ‘line of sight’ is clearly important here. We also noticed some slight compression artefacts when we moved around the room, but these usually vanished the moment we put the screen down.
What makes the AVA wirelessHD so appealing for Switch owners is the fact that the transmitter also acts as a dock, so you can connect your Switch to it and enjoy TV play on the screen without having to use the bulky official dock. Because it’s totally wireless – the monitor has its own internal rechargeable battery, which lasts a couple of hours per charge – you can use the screen anywhere that’s in range of the transmitter. It might sound like a small thing – and a minor bonus when you consider the Switch itself has its own display and is built expressly with this kind of thing in mind – but moving to a 13.3-inch screen is still a step up. The LCD panel doesn’t pop quite as much as the OLED’s display, but it’s bright and sharp.
The screen itself is built really well, boasting a mix of metal and plastic that feels very solid and premium. The kick-stand is also sturdy and robust, allowing you to view the screen at different angles and even use the screen in TATE mode. Another plus is that the internal speakers are loud and offer decent bass, which cannot be said of all portable monitors. On the downside, the scroll wheel which is used to both power on the unit and make menu selections feels flimsy, while the touch-screen controls sometimes fail to respond to your first input. We also noticed, when using the HDMI connection rather than the USB-C, occasional ‘popping’ sounds could be heard on the audio. Keep in mind that these are things that could potentially be fixed in the final production version.
It’s also worth noting that the mm-Wave transmitter gets hot very quickly, despite having its own internal fan and heat sink. We’ve also expressed our concerns to Innlead in the light of reports of third-party docks bricking Switch consoles in the past but were told that the “the chipset is very mature” and that the company has “tested and used it for a very long time” since it was prototyped last year. It certainly didn’t seem to cause any issues during our test period, but the levels of heat the transmitter kicks out are worrying; it could also do with being slightly larger to assist with heat dissipation.
Outside of gaming, Innlead is pushing the AVA wirelessHD in other ways. It’s basically compatible with anything that has HDMI-out, but can also be used with Samsung DeX-ready smartphones, computers (as a second screen) and much more besides. Oh, and it’s worth noting that it comes with physical HDMI and USB-C inputs as well, so you can use it as a wired display, should the need arise.
The AVA wirelessHD starts from $489 via its Kickstarter campaign for the 13.3-inch model, with the 15.6-inch version costing $589 and the 17.3 version $729. All of these prices are based on the ‘super early bird’ deals which are only available via the crowdfunding campaign itself; expect to pay more if you don’t commit early or wait until the campaign is finished. That’s a lot of money to spend on a portable screen, of course, and given that the Switch itself already has its own built-in display, you could argue that it’s money wasted. However, we’re still finding unique ways of incorporating the AVA wirelessHD into our daily lives – so there’s a chance it could scratch an itch you didn’t know existed.
Thanks to Innlead for supplying the unit used in this feature.