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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 output video to compatible adapters. You only need a display adapter, which connects to a monitor and a WiDI or Miracast compatible device. Most modern devices are compatible with the technology. There’s also Apple’s proprietary technology, AirPlay.

Noticing wireless display technology on all my devices, I recently set up a Miracast adapter. This article summarizes my experience. While setup doesn’t require much effort, it can require a bit of leg work.

WiDi

Intel developed the Wireless Display (WiDi) technology as a means of streaming video and audio from compatible devices. WiDi inhabits on most modern Intel motherboards, in particular all Ultrabook-branded laptops.

Additionally, WiDi will also soon receive support for Miracast in its 3.5 incarnation, meaning that the two major wireless displays will actually converge. This is practically unheard of among competing standards. Typically, they fight to the death.

WiDi shows up in many second generation Intel Core-series processors. Ivy Bridge through Haswell can incorporate WiDi, although it does not exist on all Intel computers.

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AirPlay

AirPlay, unlike WiDi or Miracast, is a proprietary technology. It’s only compatible with Apple TV and other officially vetted brands. You can’t purchase an adapter that will stream to any device, as you might with WiDi or Miracast. AirPlay’s great advantage over other wireless display standards is its ability to function with AirPlay enabled-speakers.

Apple intended for the technology to allow mobile devices to function as remote controls and streaming devices. It licenses out AirPlay to a variety of audio-equipment manufacturers — such as Sony, Pioneer and Philips.

Overall, AirPlay possesses far fewer vices and foibles than Miracast.

You can check out AirPlay in action below:

For some apps that allow you to output display to other operating systems, check out AirDisplay Air Display Gives Your iPad Ultimate Control Over Your Windows Or Mac Air Display Gives Your iPad Ultimate Control Over Your Windows Or Mac However much fun your tablet and computer are when used separately, I like to believe there's a little more fun - and utility - to be had when using these devices together. More often than... Read More .

Miracast

Miracast is based on WiFi Direct, which enables handsets to communicate with one another, without connecting to a network. It uses WiFi as a direct means of interfacing with another computer. Miracast uses a variation on this technology to allow the output of audio and video, without a wired interface. However, the Miracast specification makes no provision for audio-only devices, such as MP3 players.

On the downside, Miracast is a new format. As such, it has suffered from a huge number of teething troubles, including display quality issues, lag and instability. I’ve experienced a great deal of issues related to compatibility. Miracast devices don’t work well with all versions of Android. For example, my Android 4.2.1 device failed to output display when it updated to Android 4.2.2.

How I Set Up My Miracast Device

Here’s a shot of the Netgear Push2TV PTV3000 device – it’s both Miracast and WiDi compatible, meaning I could choose to output the display from either my smartphone or my personal computer. It’s also capable of running off the power provided through a USB port. I ran it off of my display’s USB ports.

netgear attached to PC

Setting it up was super simple: I plugged the device into a power source and then activated Wireless Display on my smartphone. From there, simply choose the appropriate display from the list and connect to the Push2TV device.

wireless video output

The Push2TV PTV3000 device wasn’t cheap – at $60 on Amazon – and it didn’t set up very easily. It required a firmware update before receiving compatibility with my Android 4.2.1. To Netgear’s credit, they continually improved the firmware until it finally functioned properly. You can watch video of it in action below:

On the downside, Miracast’s implementation in Netgear’s Push2TV device remains experimental. The most recent firmware update of my Nexus 4 broke compatibility with the Push2TV device. Also, simultaneous Bluetooth and wireless display doesn’t work; only one or the other functions at the same time. However, some custom ROMs permit both to function at the same time. Using a custom ROM, my Nexus 4 functioned briefly as a desktop alternative, pairing a Bluetooth wireless keyboard with a mouse. For the curious: You can read more about my attempts to turn my phone into a desktop-phone convergence device Ditch Your Desktop! Turn Your Smartphone Into A Desktop Replacement Ditch Your Desktop! Turn Your Smartphone Into A Desktop Replacement If Christian’s tablet experiment piqued your interest in ditching your PC, then you should know that a smartphone will perform the same function. You only need a handful of additional software and accessories. This article... Read More .

Conclusion

Wireless displays are pretty amazing things. You can output display and audio from smartphones, laptops and desktops to larger monitors. Most modern computers and smartphones include some kind of support for it. Linux, iOS and PCs support the feature. From what I can tell, most Android devices with Jelly Bean, or later versions, include Miracast support.

That means most modern tablets will also have it. If you’re considering a tablet purchase, check out our buying guide.

Anyone else interested in wirelessly outputting their tiny smartphone or laptop display to the television? Let us know about your experiences in the comments.

  1. Miguel Montero
    December 9, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Hey Kannon, I want to get a Minix Neo 7 but I'm not sure if I can display my laptop screen on the TV with it. I've seen that it supports wireless display and airping but how do I know my computer is compatible with that technology?

    • Kannon Y
      December 9, 2013 at 10:09 pm

      I checked online and there appears to be conflicting reports of Minix Neo 7 functionality with the Miracast standard. Some report that it works fine and others report some issues.

      This may have to do with the atrocious standards. Frequently OS upgrades break functionality with Miracast. Additionally, although companies like NetGear continually offer firmware updates for Miracast adapters, if the adapter isn't on the latest firmware, it won't work.

      In short, I'm not sure. I would guess that it does work, but you need to check to see if the adapter is compatible.

  2. Eric
    September 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    AirPlay works with XBMC. I can stream music and video from my iPhone or iPad to any device running XBMC. Go the Setting | Services | AirPlay | Allow XBMC to receive AirPlay content.

    • Kannon Y
      September 8, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      Thanks for sharing Eric! That's super awesome!

  3. Ajarn D
    September 7, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Wow you're right I do actually have them but don't know how to get the best use from these devices. Thanks a lot!

  4. Mark Brough
    September 6, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Thanks Kannon - a useful survey of the market.

    Do these devices transmit true 1080p HD? I'm expect that the e.g. PTV3000 has a Full HD (1080p) output, and that my TV "info" button would report "1080p". But is the Miracast transmitting Full HD, or is it transmitting say 720p, or something compressed, which the PTV3000 outputs at a claimed 1080p?

    • Kannon Y
      September 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm

      Miracast mirrors whatever resolution is available on your handset. So your intuition is correct on this one: If your handset's maximum output is 720p, then the resolution transmitted to the TV is going to be in 720p, unfortunately.

      There's a few custom ROMs, like PAC and Paranoid Android, that allow you to set your own screen resolution. This can even be automated using apps like Tasker, to some extent. For example, you can set Tasker to bump up your screen's resolution when connected via HDMI. Unfortunately, the interface is so clunky, it's (to my knowledge) not yet at an acceptable state of use.

      Thanks for reading!

  5. mukhi
    September 6, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    I always wanted some wifi streaming. the problem with most technologies is that they cannot stream 1080p HQ files (yes, HQ, and not low quality 1080p files that some onlines stores may offer). the very successful one is WHDI (wireless high-def interface) where lag is just negligible/invisible. WHDI uses just two HDMI based adapters, one of which must be connected with the TV, and the other with your device. the only issue is that WHDI adapters are pretty expensive.

  6. Craig W
    September 6, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Cheers. Do you know anything about Samsung's AllShare Cast?

    • Kannon Y
      September 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      Wow, that sounds awesome!

      Unfortunately, I do not know anything about it. It sounds like a proprietary technology native to Samsung Devices.

      From what I can tell, it's also based on Wi-Fi Direct, so it would probably offer a similar performance as Miracast.

    • Kannon Y
      September 6, 2013 at 10:30 pm

      No, I haven't heard of that at all!

      Here's what I just read:

      http://www.samsung.com/global/galaxys3/allsharecast.html

      It's an interesting technology. The most interesting is how flexible it is. I imagine something that lets you use a phone as a controller is the future of handheld devices.

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