Saturday, September 7, 2013

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 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.

AirPlay

AirPlay, unlike WiDi or Miracast, is a proprietary technology. It’s only compatible with Apple TVand 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:

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.