When you need to share content from your PC or phone to a larger display, you have a few options. In the past you may have reached for the longest HDMI cable in your house and awkwardly run it across the floor, but in 2016 we can do much better than that.
Microsoft’s Wireless Display Adapter delivers the same connection (HDCP compatible) minus the wires. Set is a breeze, just plug one end into a HDMI port and the other to a USB port to provide power. I found the TVs and monitors I tried it on, the short cable was long enough, but a cheap USB extender would also work.
Thankfully wireless connections powered through display standards like Miracast are finally becoming more common and more affordable. If you happen to be running a Windows 10 PC that supports the technology then adding a wireless display is simple, easy and included in the OS. Simply press Windows Key + P to bring up the project options, then selection ‘Connect to a wireless display’. When setup, Microsoft’s Wireless Display Adapter will show up as an option to project to. Tap connect and a couple seconds later you’re desktop can be on your TV.
In terms of display options, this acts just like a regular hard wired monitor. You have the choice between extending the display (my favourite) and duplicating the same display on both screens. Personally I found the most use for the wireless display on the TV in the lounge, the biggest screen in the home. This allows for the ultimate second screen experience.
While most TVs these days come with their own app stores, none of them come close to running every app you can on a Windows PC. Once connected, you simply drag the window from your laptop (I run a Surface Pro 3) up to the TV in front of you.
At times I would run TweetDeck on my PC, while watching Foxtel Play on the TV. Other times I’d be writing and moved the Chrome tab running TweetDeck to the TV. The flexibility here is brilliant.
More commonly you can use this display to easily get content in front of the other people in your life like family members and colleagues. If you create your own content or have founds something from others, you can pop it onto the big screen (or even projector in the office) and show everyone, rather than making them crowd around a small laptop display.
Its about now we need to talk about the uber-successful Chromecast from Google. The concept of the device is very similar and many of the problems it solves and a close overlay to the ones Microsoft are solving with this device. That said, the two options vary in a couple of very significant ways.
Chrome cast allows you to send content instructions to it and it executes them locally. This means if the content you’re showing someone is on YouTube, you cast the video URL to the Chromecast and the video then plays from the device. If you needed to leave the room, this would continue playing without your phone nearby. If you did this with Microsoft’s display adapter, you would close your laptop (done this by mistake a couple of times) and the content stops immediately.
The upshot of Microsoft’s solution is that it lets any content be displayed, not just the content and services that have done the development work and been approved by Google.
Price & Availability
The functionality we get from our devices is always offset by the cost and therefore accessibility for people. Microsoft’s Wireless Display Adapter is available from the Microsoft Store (A99.00) or electronics retailers like JB Hifi (A$98.00) but for some reason Harvey Norman have it for half of that at just A$48.00. At this price, its not out of the question to add one to each of the TVs in your house.
When it comes to getting video content from one device to another, its great you have options. It is however important you make your choice wisely, as that will determine the functionality you get from it. This means you shouldn’t blindly follow friend recommendations for one or another, but after reading this review, you’ll know if Microsoft’s Wireless Display Adapter is going to service your wireless display needs.
In the corporate or educational worlds, this would be a fantastic device that would allow you to walk into a room and present with your device, the one you know and runs the software you need and has your bookmarks. It would allow student to deliver their presentations one after another with a simple Winkey + P command.
Running multiple displays always takes extra CPU and GPU resources, as long as you’re machine’s up to it, your experience will be smooth and fast and you can really leave those cables behind.