Review: Noosy HDMI Adapter for iPad, iPhone 4 + iPod touch 4G
There are price points at which certain new accessories make sense, and though the HDMI Adapter for iPad, iPhone 4 + iPod touch 4G ($59) is on the wrong side of the yes/no line, it's interesting anyway. Developed by a Chinese company called Noosy and distributed internationally by a company called HDMImyi.com, the HDMI Adapter does what Apple and licensed third-party iOS developers haven't tried: it enables the three devices mentioned above to output audio and video directly to an HDMI cable, and then to an HDTV. There are non-trivial caveats involved, but in short, the Adapter does most of what it's supposed to do.
The good news: self-encoded videos of any resolution will play back through the HDMI Adapter, as will most iTunes purchased videos in either HD or SD resolution. What that means is that an iPad, iPhone 4, or iPod touch 4G can output 1280x720 “HD” videos—or lower-quality ones—directly through the Adapter to a high-definition television set or monitor, with the immediacy of pressing a play button once the Adapter is connected. At least with the current version of iOS (4.2.1), video playback just works without complaint under most circumstances, as it would when connecting Apple’s own iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter or its standard Composite or Component AV Cables. Content looks crisp, colorful, and detailed through a connected television set, without obvious interference in either the video or audio. The experience is very similar to what you’d get when connecting Apple’s Component AV Cables to the same device, without the need to worry about connecting or disconnecting five separate RCA-style plugs from decreasingly popular AV ports.
Unfortunately, there are a few catches. Put aside the design of the HDMI Adapter, which though Apple-like in shape is decidedly not so in proportions, measuring a little over 2” wide and 2” tall with 0.5” thickness. There’s also the need to separately acquire and use your own HDMI cabling, which is included with virtually all Apple-authorized video accessories, the fact that this one is apparently not Apple-authorized and might be rendered incompatible with a future iOS software update, and the FairPlay issue. As noted in prior reviews and seemingly shrugged off by Apple as a cost of doing business with Hollywood, Apple has been forced by movie studios to prevent high-def-capable accessories from outputting almost any movie content you purchase from iTunes, standard- or high-definition alike.
Consequently, TV shows work, and content acquired outside of iTunes works, but movies encoded with Apple’s FairPlay copy protection scheme don’t. Just as with the VGA Adapter, pressing play with the HDMI Adapter leads to a message that the connected display device isn’t authorized to play the content. Given that the HDTV on the other end is capable of signaling that it supports HDCP—the industry’s chosen standard for high-definition content protection—it’s disappointing but not entirely surprising that the HDMI Adapter is no more capable in this regard than the VGA Adapter was.
Finally, there’s the issue of pricing. On one hand, HDMImyi’s $59 price for the HDMI Adapter is obviously less expensive than the second-generation Apple TV, which is currently the only other affordable way to get HDMI-quality video output from the iPod touch 4G, iPhone 4, and iPad. However, the convenience and numerous other features offered by the Apple TV place it in a different league from an accessory of this sort. Apart from the brief delay encountered when starting video playback from an iOS device via AirPlay to the Apple TV, there’s every reason to prefer Apple’s official solution, especially considering that it will play all movies without complaints. Viewed from another angle, if you’re just looking for a simple cable-based connection to your HDTV, the HDMI Adapter is even pricier than Apple’s objectionably expensive $49 Composite and Component AV Cables—which were quietly recently reduced to $39—and the HDMI Adapter is similarly twice as expensive as Apple’s iPad VGA Adapter. As novel and useful as the HDMI Adapter may be, there’s little doubt that its pricing and compatibility issues relegate it to the “novelty” category for the time being; at a substantially lower price, and without the risk of future incompatibility, it might be worth considering.