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

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 a mirror of the entire screen — wirelessly onto your TV. All you need is the right hardware. Any TV with an HDMI port should work with at least some of these devices. Most setups top out at 1080p HD video, but devices supporting 4K/ultra-HD streaming are beginning to appear.

Slinging technologies come in different flavors, depending on the gear you own, and slinging is often a bonus feature on connected devices that offer dozens to thousands of their own entertainment channels. Apple offers AirPlay to connect its devices to your television using the company's Apple TV set-top boxes (from $69 to $199). Android and Windows device users have several options, including the $35 Google Chromecast, and receivers and smart TVs running either Google's Android TV or one of two technologies called WiDi and Miracast. Roku's video streamers (ranging from $50 to $130) and Amazon's Fire TV devices (from $40 to $100) offer limited slinging capabilities, as do game consoles.

NEWS UPDATE: Nexus Player Set Top Box Announced

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 top possibilities: Apple TV (second generation or later) with Apple's AirPlay technology, or Google's $35 Chromecast. Apple TV with AirPlay is the best option, if your hardware supports it. Here are the requirements:

Computers: You'll need 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 in the upper-left corner of the screen, and click More Info.

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.(If a popup ad is obscuring the bottom of the photo, please click the "x" to close it.)

Mobile devices: You'll need an 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 instead, as it has much lower minimum requirements — other than an HDMI port on your TV.

I Have A PC Or Android Device. What Do I Need To Stream Video?

You have three top options: Miracast/WiDi, Google Chromecast and Google Android TV.
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/WiDi lets you cast the exact contents of your screen, as with AirPlay, but not many devices support them. Here are the requirements:

Computers with WiDi: Many newer Intel-based PCs and Windows 8.1 OS or later PCs support screen casting. (If you have Windows 8, you can upgrade to Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 for free.) To see if your hardware running Windows 8.1 supports WiDi, on 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. For Windows 10, click the Start button and search WiDi. Select Settings > WiDi. Some PCs that shipped with Windows 7 also support WiDi, but it can be a nightmare to figure out and not worth the trouble. Go with Chromecast instead.

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 with Miracast: A select number of smartphones and tablets, Windows Phone 8.1, or Android 4.2 Jelly Bean OS or later. Some BlackBerry devices also support Miracast. To see if your hardware supports Miracast, in Android, open Settings > Device > Display, and toggle on casting. If this doesn't work, go to Settings, select Display and then look for an option called Wireless Mirroring or Wireless Display.

Screen-mirroring option in Android.Screen-mirroring option in Android.

Android mobile devices with Chromecast: Android devices running version 4.4.2 (a version of KitKat) or higher can all, in theory, cast the exact contents of their screen to a television via either Google Chromecast or an Android TV device. However, Google has a list of "optimized" devices that it says will work best with this capability.

I Have A Mixture Of Apple Devices And Windows Or Android Devices. What Should I Use To Stream Video?

Get Google Chromecast or Android TV, but check your hardware and software. Here are the minimum requirements for the current generation of Chromecast:

Computers: PCs with an Intel Core i3 or an equivalent processor (2nd-generation Core i5 recommended) that can run Windows Vista or later (Windows 7 recommended). For Macs, Google specifies only laptop requirements: MacBook Pro 2010 (2011 recommended) or newer, MacBook Air 2011 (2012 recommended) or newer. Macs must also run Apple OS X 10.7 (Lion) or later. Chromebook laptops running Google's Chrome OS from 2014 or later also support Chromecast. All computers also need Google's free Chrome Web browser. See Google's Chromecast support page for further details.

Mobile devices: Android devices running Android 4.1 or later; iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch) capable of running iOS 7 or later.

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 an Apple TV set-top box ($69 to $199) connected to your television via HDMI. Both the Apple TV and your mobile device must be on the same Wi-Fi network.

Activating AirPlay in iOS.Activating AirPlay in iOS.To enable AirPlay mirroring in iOS 7 and later, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access the 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.

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.

Selecting an AirPlay receiver. (AirPlay also supports audio-only devices.)Selecting an AirPlay receiver. (AirPlay also supports audio-only devices.)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.

Macs that support AirPlay display an icon if an Apple TV is on the same network.Macs that support AirPlay display an icon if an Apple TV is on the same network.

How Do I Use Miracast Or WiDi To Stream Video?

Instead of using your home network, these related technologies create a direct, peer-to-peer connection between your device and a Miracast/WiDi-compatible receiver. Newer smart TVs from companies such as LG, Samsung, Sharp and Sony have built-in receivers, some of which can even accept 4K/ultra-HD streams from the latest PCs. Otherwise, you can make the connection through a separate adapter, such as Microsoft's $60 Wireless Display Adapter, which you plug into your TV's HDMI port. The Roku 2, Roku 3, Roku 4 and Roku Streaming Stick also have these technologies, though they are beta features and thus prone to glitches. 


Miracast and WiDi can only mirror your screen's contents; they have no app-specific controls.

Miracast With an Android Smartphone or Tablet

Enabling Miracast Wireless Display in Android.Enabling Miracast Wireless Display in Android.

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 or later, including a Microsoft Surface or Surface Pro, you can also take advantage of Miracast/WiDi. Some Windows 8 and 10 Phone devices work with Miracast, too.

WiDi with a PC

Enabling WiDi in Windows 8.1.Enabling WiDi in Windows 8.1.

In Windows 8.1, from the Start screen, swipe from the right and click Devices, and then select Project. Tap "Add a wireless display," and select the WiDi receiver to broadcast your screen. In Windows 10, click on the Start menu, and type Connected Device Settings into the search box. Then, click Add A Device and select your WiDi receiver.

In Windows 10, start by adding a device.In Windows 10, start by adding a device.

Then, click Add A Device and select your WiDi receiver.

Adding a WiDi device in Windows 10.Adding a WiDi device in Windows 10.The $60 Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter is the best Miracast/WiDi receiver we have tried.

How Do I Use Google Chromecast To Stream Video To A TV?

If your devices don't support AirPlay or Miracast, Google offers two options. Its $35 Chromecast dongle is the easiest solution, but its Android TV set-top boxes, such as the $99 Nexus Player, as well as Android TV-equipped smart TVs like Sony's new models, offer the same capabilities.

Chromecast/Android TV with Mobile Devices 

Chromecast and Android TV devices stream content directly from newer Android mobile devices. To mirror content, open the Chromecast app, select Cast Screen from the app's navigation drawer and select your Chromecast device. If you have a Google Nexus phone or tablet, you can also access this feature through the quick settings menu.

Casting a screen from Android devices. / Credit: GoogleCasting a screen from Android devices. / Credit: GoogleChromecast functions are also built into more than 1,000 apps, such as YouTube, Netflix and HBO Go. Rather than beaming video from the mobile device to Chromecast or an Android TV device, the apps instruct the device to go online and access the same content that the apps are playing, synchronized to the same point in the video. This provides a kind of screen casting for older Android devices that don't support mirroring, as well as for iOS devices.

Based on the DIAL (Discovery and Launch) protocol, a Chromecast-enabled mobile app looks for a Chromecast or Android TV 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/Android TV 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 or Android TV 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 or Android TV. (You see the contents of only a single tab, not the whole browser.)

Selecting a Chromecast or Android TV device to cast a Chrome browser tab to.Selecting a Chromecast or Android TV device to cast a Chrome browser tab to.To cast a tab, click the Cast icon, which appears to the right of the Chrome 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 and when it happens on the big screen.

How Do I Use Roku To Stream Video From A Mobile Device To A TV? 

The $50 Roku Streaming Stick, as well as the $50 Roku 1, $70 Roku 2, $100 Roku 3 and $130 Roku 4 boxes, work with apps for iOS or Android mobile devices (but not computers). Roku's free app 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 send videos, photos and music that reside on your phone or tablet to your TV. This works with all current Roku players and Roku TVs.

Using Play on Roku to send content on the mobile device to a TV.Using Play on Roku to send content on the mobile device to a TV.You can also play Web video from compatible mobile apps, which, currently, are 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 as the Chromecast employs to sync video.

Casting video, Chromecast style, from YouTube to a Roku.Casting video, Chromecast style, from YouTube to a Roku.Roku has introduced Miracast/WiDi capabilities as a beta feature with its Roku 2, Roku 3, Roku 4 and Roku Streaming Stick devices running software version 5.6.60 or later, as well as for Roku TVs made by various companies such as Hisense and Sharp. (If you need to upgrade, simply access the main menu and select System Update.) Simply use standard Miracast/WiDi instructions to screen mirror with your Android, Windows 8 Phone or Windows 8.1 or later PC. If you want to ensure that the protocol is turned on, access the main menu and navigate to screen mirroring (beta).

Setting up the beta Miracast capability on a Roku. / Credit: RokuSetting up the beta Miracast capability on a Roku. / Credit: RokuClick on the option, and make sure that Enable Screen Mirroring is checked. If you want to disable the protocol, select Disable Screen Mirroring. As long as screen mirroring is enabled, your Roku will work in exactly the same way as any other Miracast receiver.

Enabling Miracast. / Credit: RokuEnabling Miracast. / Credit: Roku

How Can I Stream Video With My Amazon Fire TV and Kindle Tablet?

Slinging video from a Fire HDX tablet to a Fire TV. Slinging video from a Fire HDX tablet to a Fire TV. Like Roku, Amazon's $100 Fire TV box and $40 Fire TV Stick now support Miracast for screen mirroring from Android devices running Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) or higher. Fire TV also mirrors the Amazon Fire Phone and Fire HDX tablets. Amazon does not mention support for Windows Phone devices. To start mirroring, press and hold the home button on the Fire TV remote, and select Mirroring. Then, pair your mobile device. The process for pairing an Android device is the same as for any other Miracast receiver. (See the "How do I use Miracast or WiDi to stream video?" section above.)

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.

Lastly, you can beam YouTube videos to the Fire TV box from iOS and Android handheld devices. As in the processes for Roku and Chromecast, look for the beam or cast icon along the top of the screen. Tapping the icon will pull up 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 Media Player. The Plex Media Player. The Plex program and service ($5 per month, $40 per year or $150 for life) runs as a media server on Windows or Apple computers, and streams to a wide array of devices that connect to your TV. These include set-top boxes such as Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, the new Apple TV, Xbox and PlayStation game consoles, and smart TVs from Samsung, Sony and Vizio. 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.

Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, the new Apple TV, Xbox and PlayStation game consoles, and smart TVs from Samsung, Sony and Vizio. 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.

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.

Sending content from (or through) an Android phone to an Apple TV using AllCast.Sending content from (or through) an Android phone to an Apple TV using AllCast.AllCast is an example of one such mobile app. It can cast content from an Android or iOS mobile device to a variety of receivers, including Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox 360, Xbox One and even Apple TV. AllCast offers both a limited free app and an unlimited paid app ($4.99). The $10 AirParrot program can stream media from PCs and Macs to multiple devices, including several at once. Apple TV is one of the supported devices, providing a way to stream from a PC or an older Mac to an Apple TV.

Related Buying Guides:
Best Streaming Media Players
Best Miracast Receivers
Best Wireless Screen-Mirroring Devices
How to Choose the Right Set Top Box



Create a new thread in the Streaming Video & TVs forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
10 comments
    Your comment
  • Daudimkenya
    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
  • sybexious
    The BlackBerry Z30 has full support for Miracast as well. Might be something to add to your article. Thanks!
    1
  • cre8er
    My ChromeCast Does NOT Have the Cast Screen option in the Chromecast App. Just Updated to Make Sure. What Gives? Samsung Galaxy s4 att
    0