In the new age of streaming multimedia, there is no shortage of devices and services vying for the attention of consumers. Veebeam is a relative newcomer in the space with a little twist. Veebeam’s device differs from devices like the Apple TV, Boxee, or Roku, in that it works in conjunction with your PC. It also uses a new wireless standard called Wireless USB. Let me walk you through how the Veebeam works and whether or not you should consider getting one.
- Simple setup
- Thoughtful design
- Flexible streaming options
- Requires a powerful PC
- Problems with judder (stuttering)
- Poor solution for presentations
- Impossible to use for gaming
- Short wireless range limited to same-room location
HOW IT WORKS
The Veebeam comes with a receiver unit that you connect to your TV or home theater system and a wireless USB dongle that you plug into your laptop. You then install the Veebeam software to you laptop, which acts as a screencasting server. To send a media stream to your TV, you just launch the Veebeam software and wait for it to connect to your TV, then start your music, launch your picture slide show or play your videos.
WHAT YOU GET
The Veebeam HD comes with the receiver unit, wireless USB dongle, a set of RCA cables, and power adapter. If you want to stream in HD, you will need to provide your own HDMI cable.
Installation of the Veebeam was relatively easy. I connected the receiver to my TV and installed the Veebeam software on my laptop. The Wireless USB dongle installed without a hitch. I did have to add a rule in my software-based firewall to allow Veebeam to work but Veebeam’s website had directions on doing this for several popular security applications.
BUILD & DESIGN
The receiver unit has a very funky, Star Trek-like design. Is it Klingon? I can’t say for sure, but I can say that it was thoughtfully designed. The front of the receiver unit has a dock for the Wireless USB dongle. When the dongle is removed, it automatically turns the receiver on. When you put the dongle back, it turns the receiver off. There are no power buttons to play with. The back of the receiver has a good selection of outputs. It has standard RCA jacks for connecting to a standard definition TV, an HDMI port, an optical audio out and two USB ports for future use (webcam and USB storage). The receiver is made entirely of plastic that is light, but doesn’t feel cheap. There are also a lot of ventilation holes to keep it cool. The wireless USB dongle is fairly wide and has an antenna that can be placed upright. With the antenna up, the dongle is slightly wider than a standard USB flash drive. It has a glossy finish that looks attractive but gets dusty and attracts fingerprints.
The Veebeam HD is compatible with Mac OS X and Windows XP/Vista/7. It requires at least a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor but doesn’t list memory or graphics card requirements. I tested the Veebeam with a laptop with the following specifications:
- Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz
- 4GB RAM
- Integrated Intel graphics
- Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Given that the laptop exceeded the only real requirement listed, I felt confident that performance would not be an issue. Unfortunately, I was wrong. My initial test results were less than ideal. Out of curiosity, I decided to run Veebeam’s compatibility testing application. As you can see from the screenshot, my laptop did not meet the Veebeam’s requirements for HD streaming. The laptop exceeded their minimum requirements but I was disappointed to learn that I’d be limited to SD streams only. What made things worse was that when I did try to stream in SD, I still experienced performance issues.
The two streaming sources that I felt would be ideal to use with the Veebeam were Hulu and Netflix. Veebeam is an ideal solution because there are no worries about content providers banning their streams on devices, unlike Google TV and Boxee. Alas, Netflix failed terribly on my laptop because there was no way for me to downgrade the resolution. Netflix automatically detects the best possible resolution, which on my laptop, is HD. When I tried to watch Netflix, I experienced severe judder (stuttering). This happened whether I used Firefox, Chrome, or IE9 and regardless of whether it was in full screen or not. Hulu was pretty much the same story, but unlike Netflix, I could fiddle with the resolution of the stream. The best balance was achieved at 240p in full screen. The interesting part was that I could watch streams easily in 720p, when I didn’t enable full screen. In that case, the video looked amazing. This obviously isn’t ideal since you want to be able to watch streams in full screen on your TV without the distraction of your web browser’s frame.
Local video files didn’t fare much better. I tried DivX, AVI and DVD movies and they all had so much judder that by the time I finished testing, I felt nauseous. It’s about how I felt after watching Blair Witch Project. The only time I could watch a stream in full screen without judder, was when I used the Veebeam player.
Currently, Veebeam support is limited to chat support and an email form. Chat support’s hours are 7AM-3PM Pacific Time. Via a form on Veebeam’s website, you can also request a callback. I elected to use the form to email them and they were prompt in replying and eager to help. The Veebeam is so easy to set up and use that I don’t think most people will need to go beyond reading the manual and FAQ.
In order to use the Veebeam system, both the receiver and the laptop need to be in the same room. Range is limited to a maximum of 30 feet.
Windows Media Center is not supported in full screen at all. You’ll just get a blank screen. Windows Media Player also has a problem where a visible horizontal line splits the screen. Veebeam recommends using Quicktime or VLC to circumvent this issue until it can be resolved.
There is an advertised two second lag between your laptop and TV. This all but rules out using Veebeam for presentations or gaming.
The Veebeam HD Wireless USB Media streaming device has a lot going for it. It is well-designed, easy to install, and has more flexibility than other standalone devices like the WDTV, Google TV, Boxee, etc. However, underpowered laptops need not apply here. Though my laptop exceeded the minimum system requirements, I experienced severe judder (stutter). I recommend using a beefy laptop with the Veebeam and running the compatibility test before buying it to make sure it passes. The Veebeam has loads of potential and I can’t wait to see what features and improvements come down the line.
Available from Amazon.com.
* Review unit courtesy of Veebeam