In the last couple of years, the Google Chromecast (read our review) has become a must-have TV accessory. It doesn’t matter whether you already have a smart TV or not because Chromecast is awesome. But what you probably didn’t know is your smart TV has a Chromecast alternative built in it. Meet Miracast.
Miracast isn’t anything new. In fact, it has been around for longer than Chromecast has. The two technologies are similar, but not the same. Miracast is like a wireless HDMI connection, mirroring everything from one screen to another. It works both ways too, not just as a “receiver” like the Chromecast.
What’s Miracast All About?
Unlike Chromecast, which is a device, Miracast is a part of the Wi-Fi features on new gadgets. The Wi-Fi Alliance, a worldwide consortium of companies, agreed upon Miracast as a standard protocol. This protocol means that any Miracast device will work with any other Miracast-supporting gadget.
Miracast uses Wi-Fi Direct, a Wi-Fi technology you already have but don’t know. Wi-Fi Direct lets two devices connect to each other wirelessly, without a Wi-Fi router, causing data to flow faster.
When you think of a presentation with a laptop and a TV, your mind immediately connects the two with an HDMI cable. But Miracast is going beyond that. It is discarding the cable and wirelessly connecting the two screens.
Screen mirroring is all that Miracast does. If you are playing a video on your phone and want to show it to others on your TV, then you can mirror your screen with Miracast. The video will be playing on the phone’s screen and the TV’s screen at the same time.
Does Your Phone or TV Support Miracast?
The first question you probably want to ask yourself is whether your devices support Miracast. There is an easy way to find out.
Chances are, if you bought a gadget after 2014, it will support Miracast. This includes most TVs, who disguise their Miracast feature under names like “SmartShare”, “AllShare”, and so on.
But don’t go by the post-2014 generalization alone. Each Wi-Fi device goes through the Wi-Fi Alliance’s tests for different standards and protocols. So if you want to find out about your device, check their site.
The Advanced Product Finder has a Miracast option among the filters on the left. Check that, and then use the category or the search box to locate your gadget.
Miracast vs. Chromecast: Is Miracast Better?
Far too often, we compare two similar technologies as competitors. But Miracast and Chromecast aren’t exactly competitors. It’s not that one is better than the other — it’s about what functions you actually need.
For example, in an office environment, Miracast might be a better solution since it works natively with Windows computers. In Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, Microsoft has included a simple guide to connect to wireless displays. You won’t need any HDMI cable or a Chromecast dongle for this.
The built-in nature of Miracast also makes it easy to turn any device into a “receiver”. For example, you can cast your Android screen to your Windows PC. With Chromecast, only the dongle-plugged TV is the receiver.
But perhaps most importantly, Miracast works completely offline, which Chromecast can’t do. And that is a big win for the Miracast.
Miracast Works Completely Offline
As explained earlier, Miracast creates a closed Wi-Fi connection between the devices. Since it’s closed, it does not require an active internet connection. And that is its biggest strength.
The most frustrating part of my time using Chromecast has been internet stoppages. From weather conditions to undersea cables, our internet connections are not yet fully reliable.
And if you don’t have internet, your Chromecast won’t work. It’s baffling why Chromecast requires an active internet connection even if showing photos from your own hard drive or mirroring your screen.
On the other hand, Miracast works splendidly without internet. Play a movie saved on your hard drive, cast the screen to the TV, and you will be able to watch it on a big screen, even as the storm rages outside.
Miracast Isn’t a Media Player
As good as the Miracast is, you can’t use it regularly as your “smart TV media companion.” The simple reason for this is that it only does screen mirroring. Your phone or tablet will be unusable while you cast the video running on its screen to your TV.
This also leads to a huge battery drain on the gadgets. You will probably plug your phone’s charger while you stream, and that reduces your battery’s longevity.
But the Chromecast is a media player first, and a screen mirroring device second. If you want a way to use Netflix or Plex on your phone to stream videos on your TV, the Chromecast is a better option.
Miracast Doesn’t Work With Apple Devices
Oh, and one more thing. Apple decided not to go with the Wi-Fi Alliance’s recommended protocol. Instead, it uses the proprietary AirPlay standard, which more or less does the same thing.
So if you use an iPhone, iPad, or a Mac, you can’t mirror your screen to your smart TV through Miracast. It’s actually something a Chromecast can help you with. Or you can use a modified Miracast dongle like the AnyCast, which comes with AirPlay support.
Which Miracast Should You Get?
If your TV doesn’t already have Miracast, you can buy a Miracast dongle like the Chromecast. It costs significantly less, and will work offline.
Have You Used Miracast Yet?
We want to hear about your experiences with Miracast, and if you can compare it to Chromecast. Which of the two technologies did you like more?
Image Credit: cunaplus via Shutterstock.com