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Want to watch video on a big screen TV from a smartphone or Windows 8.1 PC? Wirelessly outputting your device’s audio and video streams could turn any HDMI-equipped television into a full-fledged desktop or streaming media center. But not all Miracast adapters (the technology which allows display mirroring on Android) offer the same performance or reliability. To find a better performing device, we picked up three Miracast adapters and evaluated them on their performance streaming media, gaming and operating as a desktop.

We reviewed the Netgear PTV3000 Miracast and WiDi adapter ($58.99), Belkin Miracast adapter ($79.99) and the Smallart PTV Miracast adapter (€49.90). Which one is the best? Read on to find out.

What is Miracast?

Miracast Three Wireless Display Technologies That You Probably Own But Don’t Use Three Wireless Display Technologies That You Probably Own But Don’t Use Want to relay your smartphone's or laptop's display onto a larger screen without wires? No, it's not science fiction. You can wirelessly output video from computers and smartphones today. Wireless display technologies use WiFi to... Read More gives Android, and other mobile devices the ability to wirelessly mirror video and audio to an external monitor. The technology behind Miracast, known as WiFi Direct, broadcasts over either 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequency and uses the same technology as your WiFi adapter. Because Bluetooth broadcasts on the same frequency as the 2.4GHz band used by wireless-N and wireless-G devices, you may experience difficulty using both Miracast and Bluetooth peripherals simultaneously – there’s no official support for both. However, I have had some success using both Bluetooth and wireless display. Your mileage may vary.

In recent news, Intel chose to merge the WiDi wireless display standard with Miracast, resulting in Windows 8.1 receiving Miracast support on a select number of wireless adapters.

Advantages

Miracast adapters allow users to display video and audio feeds on larger screens. The adapter plugs into the monitor or HDTV using HDMI, which aggregates video and audio feeds into a single cable. This system allows users to operate their monitor using their Android device as a wireless remote. It also eliminates the need for many streaming devices, such as a Roku Roku 3 Review and Giveaway Roku 3 Review and Giveaway As more content becomes available online, the need for a traditional television subscription may not be enough anymore to justify the costs. If you’re already subscribed to services like Netflix or Hulu Plus, now may... Read More .

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Problems

Miracast suffers from a variety of compatibility and functionality issues: First, whether or not Android or PC devices work with adapters depends on the Android operating system version or the specific kind of wireless adapter used in a Windows 8.1 system. Second, adapter compatibility varies by device – so some adapters will work with some devices but not others, even with the same operating system. Third, with Android devices there’s a great deal of video latency, meaning you’ll notice a half-second of delay between when video shows on the mirrored device and the big screen. On PCs, however (depending on the Miracast adapter) there’s virtually no latency and even gaming is possible.

Netgear Push2TV PTV3000 ($58.98 on Amazon)

The Netgear PTV3000 released in 2012 and yet continues to offer some of the deepest specifications out of all the wireless display adapters on the market. It includes support for both Intel’s WiDi display technology (which merged with Miracast in version 3.5) and Miracast display mirroring. On top of that, it also offers dual-band support, meaning it can stream video over both the ubiquitous 2.4GHz band and the 5GHz band. Netgear also continues to release firmware updates, despite its age.

netgear ptv3000 miracast adapters review

Aesthetics

The Netgear Push2TV PTV3000 comes in a small, rectangular form-factor, about the size of a large eraser. The sides and upper surface of the PTV3000 use a glossy, black plastic. The bottom is covered by a rubber-like substance, ostensibly to prevent it from sliding around when stationed on a table. Unlike the other two adapters reviewed in this article, it uses a standard HDMI cable to connect to a monitor (not included). It also features a firmware update button, which if held down, flips the device into firmware update mode.

netgear ptv3000 miracast adapters review

Specifications:

  • CPU: Likely an embedded ARM CPU
  • Ports: micro-USB power and HDMI out.
  • Resolution: Up to 1080p
  • Power source: USB to miniUSB
  • Other features: DLNA and WiDi

Android Device Compatibility:

  • LG Nexus 5: It worked perfectly with my Nexus 5 using the latest build of KitKat.
  • ASUS Nexus 7: The PTV3000 worked perfectly on the second generation Nexus 7, using the latest build of KitKat.
  • BLU Life Pure: The PTV3000 also worked perfectly with the BLU Life Pure. I also tested it with the BLU Dash 4.5, and it worked perfectly. Like most single-band Miracast devices, simultaneous use of both a Bluetooth keyboard and Miracast is disabled.

Performance

The performance of the PTV3000 is very good. While playing Netflix, I encountered a small amount of glitches and framerate drops. It also suffered from similar lag issues as the Smallart PTV. It also couldn’t reliably operate as a desktop because of latency issues when using a Bluetooth mouse.

ptv-02 miracast adapters review

  • Streaming Video (Netflix): I didn’t notice a great deal of stuttering or framerate loss while using the PTV3000, although small amounts occurred.
  • Gaming: Gaming using the PTV3000 won’t work for games requiring reaction time. Other games will work, but the latency – as with the other devices – is high enough that it detracts from the gaming experience.
  • Desktop: Like with the other adapters, there’s a great deal of latency when using a Bluetooth mouse.

Belkin Miracast Video Adapter ($79.99 on Amazon)

The Belkin Miracast adapter comes in at the highest price of $79.99. My testing showed it functioning on par with the Netgear PTV3000, although there were a few problems. Belkin’s adapter uses a Samsung 1544 wireless display.

ptv-02 miracast adapters review

Aesthetics

The Belkin adapter offers the best looking appearance out of all the adapters reviewed. Its external design uses minimal lines and high amounts of gloss. The black plastic exterior looks sleek and pleases the eye.

belkin miracast adapters review

Specifications:

  • CPU: Samsung 1544 (likely an embedded ARM CPU)
  • Ports: micro-USB power and a male HDMI connector
  • Resolution: Up to 1080p
  • Power source: USB to micro-USB

belkin miracast adapters review

Android Device Compatibility:

  • LG Nexus 5: Belkin worked perfectly with the Nexus 5 on both the 2.4 and the 5GHz bands.
  • ASUS Nexus 7: Belkin worked perfectly with the Nexus 7 on both 2.4 and the 5GHz bands.
  • BLU Life Pure: Belkin worked perfectly with the Life Pure on the 2.4GHz band. Like most single-band Miracast devices, simultaneous use of both a Bluetooth keyboard and Miracast is disabled.

Performance

Belkin’s Miracast adapter offers similar performance to the Netgear PTV3000. It streams video well and completely fails at gaming and operating as a desktop with Android (like all Miracast adapters). It suffered from a few problems in Windows 8.1.

netgear belkin miracast video adapters review

  • Streaming Video (Netflix): The Belkin adapter worked about as well as the Netgear PTV3000. It streamed media perfectly without much interruption, frame rate loss, or distortion.
  • Gaming: Gaming remains impossible using any kind of Miracast adapter. You could play Angry Birds, or perhaps even a tower defense game, but forget about any title requiring lighting fast reflexes.
  • Desktop: Using a mouse with any kind of Miracast adapter doesn’t work properly. The latency experienced between physically moving the mouse and the mouse’s on-screen cursor seem completely disconnected. I found myself moving the mouse and then waiting a half second for the adapter to catch up. In short, you can’t use a Bluetooth mouse in Android. However, in Windows 8.1, device mirroring worked perfectly, except for the duplication of a mouse cursor. One mouse cursor suffered from high latency, similar to Android, while the other worked perfectly, but couldn’t be used to click on any on-screen elements.

Smallart PTV Miracast adapter (€49.90 on eBay)

Editor’s note: We originally purchased the Smallart PTV from eBay US for $39.99 but it’s currently out of stock. Our search led us this eBay DE listing which offers the PTV-02 for €49.90 with shipping within Europe for €4. Alternatively, we also found this $46.54 EnyBox PTV-02 Miracast adapter which looks exactly like the Smallart PTV but has been rebranded.

netgear belkin miracast video adapters review

PTV stands for “Push to TV”. This relatively unknown stick-style device cost the least out of all the Miracast adapters I’ve reviewed. It also includes several other features, including DLNA. Smallart also added AirPlay support in a recent firmware update. The “stick” form factor looks quite similar to stick-PCs, which frequently run Android (what is a stick-PC? What Is An Android Stick Computer, And How Can You Use It? What Is An Android Stick Computer, And How Can You Use It? Miniaturization has been a computing trend for decades, but it seems to have accelerated over the past five years. Even Intel’s NUC (Next Unit of Computing), a hockey-puck sized PC, looks large compared to ARM... Read More ). We’ve reviewed several great stick-PCs Rikomagic MK802 IV and MK812A RK3188 Android Smart Mini PC Review and Giveaway Rikomagic MK802 IV and MK812A RK3188 Android Smart Mini PC Review and Giveaway A complete Android system for your TV - not a Chromecast, not an adapter for your phone – no additional hardware required. Android "TV sticks" are mini computers running Android. They have no screen, instead... Read More , some of which include Miracast support (look for Android 4.2 or better). These make for great streaming media centers Got A PC-on-a-Stick? You Can Turn It Into A Roku-like Media Streaming Device For Free! Got A PC-on-a-Stick? You Can Turn It Into A Roku-like Media Streaming Device For Free! Getting your stick computer streaming media requires very little effort and money nowadays. Considering that it provides an excellent replacement for a more expensive device, getting a stick PC can actually save you a fair... Read More .

Overall, the Smallart PTV runs smoothly and without much issue.

netgear ptv3000 miracast video adapters review

Aesthetics

The Smallart PTV’s stick-sized form factor gives it an edge over the Netgear Push2TV PTV3000. It features a soft, black plastic shell and a removable cap over the male HDMI port. You can either plug the adapter directly into an HDMI port on your TV or use an extension cable for tightly fitted ports. Like almost all Miracast adapters, it receives power from a USB port. Some TV’s USB ports don’t supply the required amount of power, in which case you plug it into a wall socket using a (not included) 5v adapter.

belkin miracast video adapters review

Specifications:

  • CPU: 500Hz MIPS
  • Ports: Standard micro-USB, micro-USB power and HDMI out.
  • Resolution: Up to 1080p
  • Power source: USB to micro-USB
  • Other features: DLNA, currently in the process of adding AirPlay support via firmware update.

Given the weak hardware, it’s surprising that it handles video so well. Rockchip, the ARM CPU manufacturer, sells a Miracast dongle with comparatively amazing specs. But in my testing, Miracast devices don’t differ a great deal in terms of performance.

Android Device Compatibility:

  • LG Nexus 5: On the Android 4.4 firmware, the PTV failed to properly pair with the Nexus 5. In the past, I’ve had similar issues with Miracast pairing using the former model, the Nexus 4, with another Miracast adapter.
  • ASUS Nexus 7: The Nexus 7, using Android 4.4, paired perfectly with the Smallart PTV. The pairing process went smoothly.
  • BLU Life Pure: The Life Pure easily paired with the Life Pure. I also tested using a BLU Dash 4.5 (our analysis of the BLU Dash 4.5 Can The Cheap Blu Dash 4.5 Android Smartphone Compare With The Nexus 4? Can The Cheap Blu Dash 4.5 Android Smartphone Compare With The Nexus 4? Blu Products just released the Blu Dash 4.5, an unlocked quad core Android 4.2 smartphone for $139.99. For budget devices, it offers great value: The phone features all the components of a modern smartphone, and despite its... Read More ), which also paired easily. Like most single-band Miracast devices, simultaneous use of both a Bluetooth keyboard and Miracast is disabled.

Performance

In general, the PTV’s performance exceeded my expectations. I found that with few hiccups, it was able to stream Netflix. Although lag marred its performance gaming, it functioned adequately for desktop computing (without a Bluetooth mouse attached to the mirrored device).

netgear ptv3000 smallart ptv-02 belkin miracast adapters review

  • Streaming Video (Netflix): Streaming Netflix on the Smallart PTV went well, with a few exceptions. While streaming, occasionally there’s a small amount of framerate loss and glitches. However, for the most part the streaming experience went smoothly and without issue.
  • Gaming: Gaming on any Miracast adapter suffers from great amounts of latency – meaning you experience a delay from when images are displayed on the Android device and when the adapter displays them on the monitor. This may work for games not requiring lightning fast reflexes.
  • Desktop: Bluetooth mice won’t work, although you can use a Bluetooth keyboard. However, keep in mind that not all Android devices with Miracast support can simultaneously use both a keyboard and mouse. The devices that can seem to use a dual-band (2.4 and 5GHz frequencies) adapter. We’ve written about dual-band routers How Dual-Band Routers Can Solve Your Wireless Woes How Dual-Band Routers Can Solve Your Wireless Woes Using a router that supports the dual-band standard can significantly boost your Wi-Fi speeds in many circumstances. Read More before, but essentially, it appears that devices using the 5GHz band perform better, with less interference from Bluetooth or other wireless devices (which broadcast on the oversaturated 2.4GHz band).

Conclusion

Netgear’s PTV3000 offers the best bang for the buck. For Android devices, it’s comparable to the Belkin adapter. For Windows 8.1, it’s clearly superior to the more expensive Belkin Miracast adapter. It also includes WiDi support, frequent firmware updates and a more flexible price – some retailers carry it for $39.99. iOS owners are better off with the Smallart PTV because of its AirPlay support.

netgear ptv3000 smallart ptv-02 belkin miracast adapters review

Alternatively, I also recommend buying the absolute cheapest adapter, designed by Rockchip. While I didn’t get an opportunity to test it myself, at around $20 on eBay it offers powerful specs for a Miracast adapter. It’s at least worth checking out. And before buying, be sure to check whether your device is compatible with the adapter.

MakeUseOf recommends: If you want to play games or use your Android device as a desktop, we recommend the Netgear Push2TV PTV3000. For those of you with both Android, Windows 8.1 and Airplay, I suggest the Smallart PTV. Alternatively, check out the Rockchip Miracast adapter on eBay, which offers powerful specs at bargain basement prices.

How do I win the Netgear PTV3000, Smallart PTV and Belkin Miracast Adapters?

You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.

After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.

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This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, February 28. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.

The Winner

Congratulations, Rust Hawk! You would have received an email from jackson@makeuseof.com. Please respond before March 16 to claim your prize. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact Jackson Chung for further details.

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