Envizen Home Roam TV Review: Tote Your TV Around the House
At a Glance
Envizen Home Roam TV has a simple purpose—to let you watch any home entertainment center video on a small, low-res display you can carry around the house—and it gets the job done for a modest $160. But the gotchas are so numerous—starting with no ability to control the remote device—that it’s difficult to recommend it.
Home Roam TV is basically a two-piece kit. A small transmitter box connects to any media source with AV (composite audio-video) out ports, and sends the signal wirelessly to a portable 7-inch display. The transmitter has one set of standard AV ports for a direct connection (using a provided cable) between the transmitter and a primary media source (most likely a TV or cable/satellite box), and three additional ports that accept a single-pin adapter cable to which you attach a standard AV cable, so that you can connect up to four AV sources, total. Envizen includes one adapter cable, but you must buy additional cables yourself.
The display unit is fairly lightweight (1 pound) and, while not tablet-skinny, its 0.9-inch thickness certainly does not make it super-bulky, either. It has a headphone jack as well as its own auxiliary input port, so you can use it as a monitor by directly connecting it to a media source using the adapter and AV cables. Buttons for selecting the video source (corresponding to the inputs on the transmitter) are conveniently situated on the bezel, to the right of the display.
Setup was a breeze. The transmitter and the display’s receiver communicate over a peer-to-peer 2.4GHz connection—this gadget does not depend on a home network, and Envizen pairs the transmitter and display at the factory. I was up and running with Home Roam TV in a matter of minutes once I screwed in included antennas to the transmitter and display, connected the transmitter to my cable box, and plugged the transmitter and receiver into their power supplies. (The display has a rechargeable battery, so you can use it without its power supply for a couple of hours.)
Now for the drawbacks. Image quality wasn’t great, in part because of the limitations of composite video output—Home Roam TV’s analog hookups obviously can’t capture the pristine digital signal that my cable box sends to my big-screen set via HDMI—but also because the device downsizes the high-res image to fit its 480-by-234-pixel display. That's very low resolution, even for a small screen.
The wireless transmission also introduces problems: Home Roam TV uses the same wireless frequency as many Wi-Fi networks (802.11b/g and 2.4GHz 802.11n), Bluetooth devices, microwave ovens, and some cordless phones, which means the signal is highly prone to interference, especially in densely populated areas. This can degrade video quality, and I did in fact notice some stuttering and frame loss in my tests in downtown San Francisco.
Even if you’re content with mediocre video, you might be frustrated by the device's complete inability to control the media source—in other words, you can’t change channels, watch on-demand content, switch to a DVR built into a connected cable box, start or stop a DVD or Blu-ray Disc, or do anything but watch whatever the media source was playing when last you were in front of it with a remote close at hand. Home Roam TV does have its own volume controls, but that’s it. And even those volume controls don’t work if you choose to use the display unit as an auxiliary monitor.
Home Roam TV might meet some specific needs—say, for a sports buff who has to leave the room for a few minutes and doesn't want to miss a single moment of the big game—but its poor video quality and lack of remote control features make it a nonstarter for prolonged use. Too many other ways are available to access TV content (Monsoon's Vulkano line comes to mind) that don't demand so many compromises.