Even if you have a streaming media player for your TV, you’ll probably find something that you can watch on your computer or mobile device that you can’t get on your streamer. For example, some entertainment websites will make some content available to watch online but not through their streaming app. Or you may want to surf the web on TV. Or maybe you just want to scroll through the amazing photos on Nat Geo’s Instagram feed at a size that really does them justice. In cases like these, you can use various methods to wirelessly mirror your phone, tablet or PC screen on your television screen.
NOTE: Mirroring is different from casting, which lets you do other things on the original screen while watching a video on your TV. When you mirror your computer or mobile device, your TV will be an exact replica of what you’re seeing. It will show interface elements, notifications, everything—just bigger. Likewise, if you’re watching a video and you suddenly decide you want to check your email, that’s what will show up on your TV screen.
What do you need to wirelessly mirror your device screen to your TV?
NOTE: Before I get into the how-to, I have to say that this technology is incredibly hit or miss. Sometimes it works on the first try, sometimes on the third or fourth, and sometimes not at all, even when all the pieces claim to support it.
First you need a device to play the video on that supports mirroring. PCs that run Windows 10 and 8.1 as well as newer Mac computers, iOS devices, and certain models of Android and Amazon Fire OS phones and tablets, have mirroring capabilities. You should check your device’s Settings to see if there’s an option for “screen mirroring” or “display mirroring.” On Macs, iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches the feature is called AirPlay but it may only show up as an option if there’s an Apple TV connected to the same network that you can mirror to.
The second thing you need is a device to receive the mirrored image. Some Smart TVs have this capability built into them but most TVs need some kind of device that supports mirroring connected to them. Depending on what you’re mirroring from affects which devices will work for your computer, phone or tablet. The next section provides details about the options available.
NOTE: In most cases, both the sending and the receiving device need to be on the same network. However, the Google Chromecast can work with devices connected to other networks.
Mirroring an iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer screen to your TV
This is one of those times that Apple’s notoriously closed ecosystem works to its advantage. Of all the various mirroring technologies I’ve tried, Apple’s AirPlay has worked the most seamlessly. The downside of it is you must have an Apple product on both sides of the process.
According to this Wikipedia article (I couldn’t find the info on Apple’s website, you need an iPod, iPad, or iPhone running iOS 4.2 or higher and a Mac with OS X or higher to send the signal. (There are some additional specs if you want to check them out.)
The main receiver that currently works with AirPlay is the Apple TV streaming media player from generation 2 or beyond.
Mirroring an Android or Amazon Fire device screen to your TV
There are a lot more combinations and permutations involved with mirroring from an Android or Amazon Fire device. (Fire tablets and phones are built on Android, which is why I’m grouping them together.) There are two main technologies used for mirroring from Android: Google Cast and Miracast.
Google makes Android. Google makes Chromecast. So just like Apple devices work well together, Android and Chromecast devices generally work well together.
The system is pretty simple to set up. You install the Google Cast on your mobile device from the Google Play store. You plug the Chromecast into your TV and use the Google Cast app to set it up so that it’s connected to the Internet. (This is necessary even if you’re just mirroring local content from your phone or tablet.)
With the Google Cast app, many other apps will provide casting options. So, for example, you can cast a Netflix video to the Chromecast and then do other stuff on your phone without interrupting the video.
Google Cast also provides a full screen mirroring option. (I’m not 100% sure that it works with all devices.)
NOTE: Because Amazon adapted Android for its own Fire devices, Google Cast only works in limited circumstances. First, the device has to have Fire OS 5 or higher and then you have to go through some machinations to install Google Cast on it. And while some apps still won’t work using native casting (notably Netflix), you can mirror your full display with it, although an error message will pop up warning you it’s not optimized for mirroring.
If you do a Google search on Android phones/tablets that support Miracast, you’ll frequently find articles that spout some nonsense about how most devices running Android 4.2 support Miracast. THIS IS NOT TRUE. There are many, many, many Android phones that have Android 4.2 or higher that do not have a screen mirroring option. Usually it’s only the higher end phones that have it.
For example, I have a Samsung Galaxy S5 that has it and an LG Volt 2 that does not. It’s easy enough to find out if your device does have it. It will show up under Settings, usually under Display or Wireless, depending on the manufacturer.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking to buy a device that has this feature, it’s not so easy. For some reason, descriptions of these products often don’t mention the feature, so if it’s not there you can’t assume it doesn’t have it. You can check the Wi-Fi Alliance website that has a product finder where you can filter by Miracast support. However, sometimes it’s hard to find a product by the name only, so you may need to enter the model number.
Of the current lineup of Fire tablet models, only the Fire HD 10 and Fire HDX 8.9 support Miracast. However, the previous generation of the Fire HD 8 and the Fire HDX 7 were both able to as well.
Once you have a device whose screen can be mirrored, you need a device to mirror it to. Here are some of the most popular options:
- Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. The combination of a supported Fire tablet and the Fire TV work the best in my experience (not surprisingly). But Android phones with Miracast theoretically should work with the Fire TV streamers as well. To use it, go to Settings > Display & Sounds > Enable Display Mirroring on the Fire TV and then go to your phone or tablet’s mirroring settings to connect them.
- Roku. In September 2016, Roku announced a new lineup of streaming boxes. NONE of them support screen mirroring. (Why, Roku… why?) However, the Roku Streaming Stick, which was released earlier in 2016, and the earlier Roku 2, 3, and 4 models all support it as well. The mirroring option is under Settings > System. You need to leave that screen open while you’re mirroring from your computer or device.
- Miracast adapters. These devices don’t stream content from the Internet; they just do screen mirroring. I have had success with the ScreenBeam Mini 2 and the Belkin models, but there are others out there. When you plug them in, they display instructions on your TV for setting them up and connecting to them.
- Smart TVs. Several manufacturers make Smart TVs that support Miracast, including Samsung, LG, and the TCL Roku TV. You’ll have to look through its settings to get the specific instructions for mirroring from a mobile device.
Mirroring a Windows 10 or 8.1 PC screen to your TV
Windows-based computers use a technology called Wi-Fi Direct, or WiDi. From what I understand, it’s basically just Intel’s branding of Miracast. You’ll need to have a computer that supports WiDi with the most up-to-date graphics and display adapters.
In my experience, the Roku devices that support mirroring work well with WiDi but I have never been able to mirror my laptop to an Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick. You can also use the Miracast adapters I mentioned in the section above about Android devices.
With a Windows 10 computer, click the Notifications icon at the bottom right of the taskbar and then click Connect from the popup settings. With a Windows 8.1 computer, you open the charm bar, click Devices, and then click Project.
You’ll be presented with a list of devices it finds and you can click on the one you want to mirror to. Your computer’s screen will now appear on the TV. (You may need to change the projection mode to Duplicate, if that’s not the default).
NOTE: Occasionally this doesn’t work for me with my existing Roku connection. In that case, what I do is click Disconnect, then click Add a Wireless Display to create a new one.
To stop the mirroring, you can either click a key on your device’s remote to bring up an option to disconnect, or disconnect it from the Connect or Project menu on your computer.
Nyrius ARIES Prime Wireless Video HDMI Transmitter & Receiver
I’ve been using Nyrius products for several years to transmit the signal from my cable box wirelessly to a TV in another room where there is no cable outlet. Recently, I decided to check out their system for mirroring my PC to my TV. And it works great!
The system comes with a transmitter and a receiver. You plug the transmitter, which looks like one of the streaming sticks, into an HDMI port on your computer and connect the included USB cable to a USB port to power it. You connect the receiver, which is a small box, to your TV with an HDMI cable and plug it into the wall with the included power adapter.
Then turn on your TV, go to the HDMI input the receiver is connected to, and press the Pair button on the receiver. My PC screen came up immediately and the lag is virtually non-existent. In fact, I’m using it while I’m writing this post and I can see the typing as quickly as I see it on my laptop screen.
The main downside to this solution is the cost. It’s a lot more expensive than the other options listed on this page. A couple of other things to note:
- The maximum range of the signal for the Prime model is 30 ft and requires line of sight between the transmitter and the receiver. They also make a Pro model with a maximum range of 100ft.
- With my laptop, the transmitter gets very hot. But my laptop gets very hot, so I’m not sure if it would get so hot on another computer.
- Because the transmitter has an HDMI connector, if your computer doesn’t have an HDMI port, you will need to see if you can get an adapter for one of the other ports. For example, I have a USB C port on my computer, and I am able to use the USB C to HDMI adapter shown below. You can also get display port to HDMI adapters for Windows and Macs; you just need to check which ports your computer has to see which adapter you’ll need.
Mirroring to a Chromecast Using Chrome
The latest version of the desktop Chrome browser has Google Cast built into it. When you open Chrome, it has a Cast option in the Settings menu. When you click it, you can click the Down arrow to choose to cast the tab you’re currently on, which will let you work on other things without affecting what’s on the TV, or your entire desktop, which is like the other forms of screen mirroring. In my experience, the quality of the mirroring isn’t as good as the other options, but it has gotten better and I’m sure it will continue to do so.
A quick word about wired connections
If none of the wireless options listed above will work for you, there’s always the possibility of connecting your computer, tablet, or phone to your TV using an HDMI cable.
For Apple products, it’s pretty straightforward. You just need to get an adapter with the correct Lightning or 30-pin to HDMI adapter for your iPhone, iPad, etc. or Thunderbolt to HDMI adapter for your MacBook or iMac.
But if you think the wireless options for Android are confusing, the wired ones are even worse! So rather than try to explain them myself (mainly because I still don’t understand parts of it), I’ll link you here to what is the best explainer I’ve found so far about your Android options from PC Advisor in the UK.
I can confirm, however, that I have successfully used this cable with my Samsung Galaxy S5 to mirror its screen on my TV.
As for Windows PC to TV if the computer doesn’t have an HDMI out port…? I still haven’t figured that one out. 🙁
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