Streaming boxes are old news. Watching Netflix on your TV is cool, but mirroring literally anything from your mobile or computer screen to your TV is even cooler. Rokus are the most recent devices to get this feature, but don't run out and buy one just for this capability — at least, not yet.
I went hands-on with the Roku Streaming Stick to try out its new screen mirroring function for Android and Windows Phone 8 devices and PCs running Windows 8.1. (If you have an iPhone, iPad or Mac, you can already screen mirror with Apple TV.) Still a beta feature, Roku's screen mirroring uses Miracast/WiDi technology, which has had an extremely mixed track record every time I've tried it. This application was no exception.
First off, setting up Roku screen mirroring is extraordinarily easy: Just make sure your Roku Stick (or Roku 3) has software version 5.6 or later. (Select System Update in the Options menu if it doesn't.) Then activate screen mirroring on your mobile device or computer. (Our guide walks you through it.) Android devices require at least version 4.2 (Jelly Bean) or higher, while Windows mobile devices need Windows 8 and PCs need Windows 8.1.
In my experience, Roku's screen mirroring started off strong, but went downhill rapidly. I started with a Google Nexus 10 tablet, which had flawless performance for checking social media, streaming videos and playing games. The Samsung Galaxy S5 worked pretty well, although the color temperature readjusted itself constantly when I tried to watch Archer on Netflix (color temperature is especially noticeable in cartoons).
Testing with the HTC One M8 proved considerably more trying, however. At first, the phone recognized that the Streaming Stick was on the same network, but would not connect. After a few failed attempts, it stopped finding the stick at all. A Dell XPS 13 laptop found the Roku stick, but actually froze Roku's software when I tried to connect, necessitating a hard reboot. Every device I used had the latest software version available to it.
I tried a second Roku Streaming Stick to see if I could replicate my results, but this device would not connect with any of the four devices. After contacting Roku, I received a prompt response and learned that the company is developing a patch for the freezing bug, which will roll out to all users once it's completed. Roku engineers could not replicate my issues with the HTC One M8, but said that they had not yet tested the Dell XPS 13 and could not vouch for its performance. The company is still in the process of ironing out screen mirroring's bugs before the service's official launch, on a date it has not yet specified.
Keep in mind that as the feature is still in beta, problems like these are neither unexpected nor, in all likelihood, permanent. Roku has not yet announced when the feature will receive a full release. For now, if you have a Roku Streaming Stick or Roku 3, you may as well try out screen mirroring, especially if you have a Nexus device. If you're in the market specifically to buy a new screen-mirroring device, though, you're probably better off with the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter.
- Wireless Video Streaming: The Miracast & WiDi Disaster
- How to Stream Video to a TV from a Mobile Device or Computer
- Best and Worst Miracast Receivers