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How to Stream Video to a TV from a Mobile Device or Computer

By , John R. Quain - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 2 comments
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You hold in your hands a mobile entertainment center, with the power to stream videos, play games and crank out tunes. But why limit your fun to a tiny smartphone screen or a slightly larger tablet or laptop display?

Slinging video pushes the contents of your small screen — from an app or as an exact mirror of the entire screen — wirelessly onto your TV. All you need is the right hardware.

MORE: How to Screen Cast to Chromecast

Video-slinging technologies come in different flavors depending on the devices you own: Apple offers AirPlay to connect its devices to your television using the company's $99 Apple TV set-top box, while Android or Windows users can opt for Miracast, which works with receivers from companies such as Belkin, Netgear and Western Digital. The technology is also built into Smart TVs from LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony.

Both AirPlay and especially Miracast are limited to devices and operating systems made in the past few years. Google's $35 Chromecast, though a bit limited in capabilities, works with more devices and is good option if your hardware or software isn't up to snuff for using AirPlay or Miracast. Roku's $50 Stick and $100 Roku 3 devices also have similar limited capabilities, but also offer hundreds of streaming channels of entertainment. If you are an Amazon video addict, the $99 Fire TV is yet another alternative. 

Check your hardware

To figure out how to stream video to your TV, first look at the devices you have.

I have an Apple computer, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. What do I need to stream video?

You have two possibilities: the $99 Apple TV (second generation or later) with Apple's AirPlay technology, or Google's $35 Chromecast. You can also stream a limited amount of content from a mobile device to Roku's $50 Streaming Stick or $100 Roku 3 box. (See instructions under " How to do I use Roku to stream video to a TV?")

Apple TV with AirPlay is the best option, if your hardware supports it. Here are the hardware requirements:

Computers: A Mac built in late 2011 or later and an OS X Mountain Lion (10.8) or later operating system. To check when your Mac was built, go to "About This Mac" under the Apple menu on the upper left of the screen and click "More Info."

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Macs built in late 2011 or later should have the hardware to support AirPlay.Macs built in late 2011 or later should have the hardware to support AirPlay.Mobile devices: iPhone 4S, iPad 2 or iPod touch (5th generation) or later, and iOS 5 or later.

Operating systems are often easy to upgrade. But if your hardware is too old, you'll need to use Chromecast or Roku instead, as they have virtually no minimum requirements — other than an HDMI port on your TV. Apple TV does not work with older, analog sets.

I have a PC or Android device. What do I need to stream video?

You have three top options: Miracast, Google Chromecast or Roku.

There are also apps that allow you to stream from PCs and Android devices to an Apple TV, an Amazon Fire TV, Xbox 360 and Xbox one. But the implementation is less reliable. For more info see " What are the other alternatives?" below.

Miracast is the most feature-rich technology, but not many devices support it. Here are the requirements.

Computers: Many newer Intel-based PCs and Windows 8.1 OS. (If you have Windows 8, you can upgrade to Windows 8.1 for free.) To see if your hardware supports Miracast, from the Start screen, swipe from the right, click "Devices" and then select "Project." If you see "Add a wireless display," your PC is up to the challenge. Some Windows 7 PCs also support Miracast, but it can be a nightmare to figure out and not worth the trouble.

Windows 8.1 PCs showing the option to add a wireless display should support Miracast.Windows 8.1 PCs showing the option to add a wireless display should support Miracast.Mobile devices: A select number of smartphones and tablets, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean OS or later.

To see if your hardware supports Miracast, go to Settings, select Display and then look for an option called "Wireless Mirroring" or "Wireless Display." If you see either of them, you're good. If not, it's still possible that your device supports Miracast, but again, going with Chromecast will give you less of a headache.

Android 4.2 and later devices with a wireless display option should support Miracast.Android 4.2 and later devices with a wireless display option should support Miracast.Because Miracast implementation is so spotty, you will likely end up using Chromecast or Roku.

I have a mixture of Apple devices and Windows or Android devices. What should I use to stream video?

Get Google Chromecast, the Roku Streaming Stick or the Roku 3 box, but check the hardware requirements.

All three devices require a TV with an HDMI port, so that means an HDTV. These devices will not work with older, analog sets.

Computers: Most PCs that can run Windows Vista. For later Macs, Google specifies only laptop requirements: MacBook Pro 2011 or newer, MacBook Air 2012 or newer. Macs must also run Apple OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or later. Both PCs and Macs need Google's free Chrome Web browser to use Chromecast. See Google's Chromecast support page for further details.

Mobile devices: Android devices running Android 4.0 or later; iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch) capable of running iOS 6 or later.

(If your hardware doesn't meet the requirement for wireless streaming, fear not. You may be able to connect to your TV via a cable. For instructions see "How to Connect a Phone, Tablet, Mac or PC to Your TV.")

How to set up the services

How do I use AirPlay to stream video to my TV?

AirPlay with an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch 

You'll need a $99 Apple TV set-top box connected to your television via HDMI. Both the Apple TV and your mobile device must be on the same Wi-Fi network. (In addition to supporting streaming, Apple TV has a full suite of entertainment apps, such as Netflix, Hulu and the iTunes store that you can access directly via the remote — no Mac or Apple mobile device is required.)

To enable AirPlay mirroring in iOS 7, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access Control Center. (On iOS versions 5 or 6, double-tap the home button, then scroll all the way to the left.) Tap the "AirPlay" icon, which looks like a triangle pointing up to a screen, and then select your Apple TV. An option for mirroring will appear. After you enable mirroring, your screen will also appear on the HDTV that the Apple TV is connected to.

Some apps also take advantage of AirPlay to turn the mobile device into a controller while a video or game displays on the big screen. To use this feature, look for the AirPlay icon within the app instead of using Control Center.

To switch on AirPlay mirroring, first enable AirPlay, and then select the mirroring option.

Some apps also take advantage of AirPlay to turn the mobile device into a controller while a video or game displays on the big screen. To use this feature, look for the AirPlay icon within the app instead of using Control Center.

AirPlay with a Mac

If your Mac and Apple TV are on the same Wi-Fi network, an AirPlay icon will appear on the top right of your screen, near the clock and icons for items such as battery level and Wi-Fi status. Just click on the AirPlay icon to activate mirroring. If you are running Mountain Lion or later and don't see the icon, your hardware is too old to support AirPlay.

How do I use Miracast to stream video?

Instead of using your home network, Miracast creates a direct, peer-to-peer connection between your mobile device and a Miracast-compatible receiver. This can be built into your HDTV, like in LG's latest Smart TV line. Or you can make the connection through a separate adapter, such as Netgear's $60 Push2TV or Belkin's $80 Miracast Video Adapter, which you plug into your HDTV's HDMI port.

Once connected, you'll be able to sling video at 1080p resolution and audio in 5.1 surround sound. Miracast can only mirror your screen's contents; it has no app-specific controls.

Expect to see Miracast built into more HDTVs soon. In addition, Roku has indicated that it may add Miracast support to it newer set-top boxes later this year via an online software update.

Miracast with an Android smartphone or tablet

In Android 4.2 Jelly Bean (or later), go to Settings, select Display and then select an option called either "Wireless Mirroring" or "Wireless Display."

If you use a tablet with Windows 8.1, including a Surface Pro or Nokia Lumia 2520, you can also take advantage of Miracast. However, Windows Phone 8 doesn't offer support.

Miracast with a PC

From the Start screen, swipe from the right and click "Devices," and then select "Project." Tap "Add a wireless display" and select the Miracast receiver to broadcast your screen.

How do I use Google Chromecast to stream video to a TV?

If your devices don't support AirPlay or Miracast, Google's Chromecast is an easy solution.

Chromecast with mobile devices 

The $35 Chromecast dongle plugs into your TV's HDMI port, but it doesn't yet mirror what's on your computer's or mobile device's screen. Instead, Chromecast functions are built into select apps, such as YouTube, Netflix and HBO Go. Rather than beaming video from the mobile device to Chromecast, the apps instruct Chromecast to go online and access the same content that the apps are playing, synchronized to the same point in the video. Chromecast works with Android and iOS devices, but with only a handful of mobile apps.

MORE: How to Use Google Chromecast

Based on the DIAL (Discovery and Launch) protocol, a Chromecast-enabled mobile app looks for a Chromecast on your network and establishes a connection. Tap the "Cast" icon to play the video on the big screen.

With a Chromecast, you select the device you want to cast to in the app that supports it.]With a Chromecast, you select the device you want to cast to in the app that supports it.]After your mobile device helps synchronize the Chromecast and video content, the app turns into a controller so you can pause or rewind playback.

If the content you want to send to your TV is visible in a Web browser on your computer, such as a YouTube video or Netflix streaming, you can use Chromecast with a Mac or a PC (no AirPlay or Miracast required). Navigate to the site using Google's free Chrome browser to mirror the contents of the browser tab via Chromecast (you see the contents of only a single tab, not the whole browser).

To cast a tab, click the Cast icon, which appears to the right of the browser's address bar, and select your Chromecast device. After a few seconds, the contents of the tab will appear on the TV. You will, however, experience a lag of a few seconds between when you do something on the computer to when it happens on the big screen.

How to do I use Roku to stream video from a mobile device to a TV? 

The $50 Roku Stick and $100 Roku 3 box work with apps for iOS or Android mobile devices (but not computers). Both streaming media players require an HDTV with an available HDMI port. 

The Roku devices are standalone devices with physical remotes and hundreds of content channels. They also offer some media streaming and a Chromecast-like ability to retrieve online streams synchronized to what is playing on a mobile device.

For iOS and Android phones, Roku has a free app that acts as both a remote control for the set-top box and a slinging tool. By selecting the top-right-corner menu, you will find a "Play on Roku" option. This allows you to play photos and music--but not video--from your phone on your TV.

To play video, you can open compatible mobile apps, currently limited to those from YouTube and Netflix. When you open the YouTube app, for example, a beaming icon on top allows you to connect to the Roku box and play videos via the box on your TV. Anything you choose on the phone is then played on the big screen, using the same technology to sync video that Chromecast employs. The same can be performed using the Netflix app on an Android or iOS phone.

How can I stream video with my Amazon Fire TV and Kindle tablet?

Like Apple, Amazon's is a closed system, working almost exclusively with its own devices. However, if you have a Kindle Fire HDX tablet and the $99 Fire TV box, streaming video is easy.

With a Kindle Fire HDX, select Settings, then Display and Sounds. Next, choose Display Mirroring. Much like the Apple TV approach, the HDX tablet will then pair with the Fire TV box over your Wi-Fi network. Once the connection is made, any video and audio played on your tablet will be mirrored on your TV via the Fire TV box. Consequently, you can sling not only videos, but music and photos as well.

MORE: Amazon Fire TV Review

Currently, any video from Amazon that you play on the Fire HDX tablet can be beamed to the big screen via Fire TV by simply tapping the cast icon at the bottom of the tablet's screen

Lastly, you can beam YouTube videos to the Fire TV box from iOS and Android handhelds. Like the Roku and Chromecast solutions, look for the beam or cast icon along the top of the screen. Tapping the icon will invoke a list of devices that the video can be cast to, including Amazon Fire TV.

How do I stream video to my TV using Plex?

The Plex program runs as a media server on Windows or Apple computers and streams to a wide array of devices that connect to your TV, including set-top boxes such as Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast or Roku as well as directly to some smart TVs. Plex will stream video files (as well as music and photos) that reside on your computer to these devices, but it doesn't stream video you play in a Web browser, such as Netflix. 

Plex, does, however, offer Channels for particular networks or shows, such as PBS, Crackle or "The Daily Show." These can be played on both your computer and your streaming device app, but they are not synchronized. If you are halfway through Episode 2 of Crackle's action show "Chosen" on your computer and then you go to your TV, you will have to navigate to that episode and then manually fast-forward to where you left off.

MORE: How to Store and Stream Movies with Plex

What are other TV-streaming alternatives?

There are several so-called "casting" apps on the market that beam media from your PC, phone or tablet to a TV via set-top boxes and game consoles. However, the reliability of many of these apps is questionable. Some have had support pulled from products like Chromecast, only to be restored months later.

AllCast is an example of one such Android app. In order to work, in some cases it not only has to be installed on the phone or tablet, but also on the target device, such as Amazon Fire TV. According to the company, it will also work with Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Once both devices recognize each other on the same Wi-Fi network, AllCast allows you to stream music, video and pictures directly to the AllCast app on the TV.

For those with Apple TV boxes but without compatible AirPlay devices, there are also programs available to mirror media on your TV. One such program is the $10 AirParrot, which allows your Windows computer to connect to an Apple TV using AirPlay. It's not as flexible as programs that work on a variety of platforms, but it's a reasonable solution for dedicated Apple TV owners.

Follow Michael Gowan @zebgowan or on Google Plus. Follow John Quain @jqontech. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.



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  • 0 Hide
    Daudimkenya , February 25, 2014 2:12 AM
    I have a MacBook Pro version 2007. The other alternative to use airplay, you would have to install ,airparrot http://www.airsquirrels.com/airparrot/. You will have to buy a license for it and voila. It's similar to airplay and will integrate with your Apple TV.From DaudiMkenya
  • 0 Hide
    sybexious , March 24, 2014 6:30 AM
    The BlackBerry Z30 has full support for Miracast as well. Might be something to add to your article. Thanks!
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