Get a wireless second screen
Miracast gives you a wireless external screen for PowerPoint and a lot more.
Miracast is a clever trick that lets you wirelessly connect some Windows 8.1 portable computers, Android and other devices to any HDMI capable monitor or TV screen. All you need is a Miracast dongle available online for around US$20 or perhaps a Miracast ready TV.
This feature is mostly sold as suitable for PowerPoint presenters but Miracast can be used by anyone to mirror, extend or replace the main monitor. That’s the same as a second, cabled, monitor.
We’ve seen Miracast used to display a laptop screen on a large lounge room or hotel room TV without a cable running across the floor.
Miracast is available to send from other devices. Android 4.2 and later will Miracast as long as the device hardware supports it. Windows Phone 8.1 and BlackBerry 10.2.1 are also Miracast capable, but check the hardware specs as well.
A portable computer has to be created with Miracast in-built, most likely as Intel’s WiDi feature (WiDi 3.5 and above support Miracast). Alas, you can’t add Miracast to an existing computer.
To see if your computer has Miracast, go to the right hand Charms bar in Windows 8.1 and choose Devices then Project. If there’s a link ‘Add a wireless display’ then your computer is Miracast capable.
The Miracast receiver/dongle is a small connector, a bit larger than a regular USB memory stick. It has a small antenna, a HDMI male plug and a USB socket or cable.
Most advertising for Miracast and similar devices does NOT tell you that a USB socket is needed as well as the HDMI socket. That’s because the HDMI connection doesn’t usually provide enough power for the Miracast receiver to work. The USB connection provides the extra power to make it work.
Some possibilities for a Miracast dongle:
Belkin Miracast Video Adapter: around US$60. Belkin gear is usually good quality and is updated via firmware downloads.
Another well-known supplier is Netgear with their Push2TV Wireless Display HDMI Adapter with Miracast. Around $60. It’s in a larger box and comes with an AC adapter as well as the USB power option.
There are plenty of cheaper ‘no name’ Miracast dongles available like this one on Amazon or search for ‘Miracast’ on ebay will find dongles around the US$20 mark.
Note: Google’s Chromecast, Roku and many other proprietary devices are not Miracast compatible at the time of writing.
Connecting the computer to Miracast
Finally, we turn to the Windows 8.1 computer. Go to Charms | Devices | Project | Add a wireless display.
Once installed, return to Charms | Devices | Project and select the Miracast device. Wait a few moments while the Miracast connection starts working. Then go back to Charms | Devices | Project then click on the Miracast device again. Now it will show the connected screen options:
Disconnect – will stop the Miracast display from your computer.
Duplicate – the same as ‘mirroring’. What is on your main screen will also appear on the Miracast screen.
Extend – your main screen and the Miracast screen are ‘side-by’side’. You can position the two relative to each other from the Screen Resolution dialog (see below).
Second screen only – blank out the main screen and use the Miracast display only.
Notice that, despite much of the promotion and even the homophone ‘Mira’, there’s not just screen mirroring but other screen options.
Alternatively, you can go to the Screen Resolution dialog (right-click on the desktop or Control Panel | Display) where the Miracast screen appears just like any additional display.
In Extend mode, click on the display icon (the number 2) and move around so it’s in the correct place in relation to the primary monitor.
In Extend or Second screen only mode, the screen resolution can be changed from the default to a separate resolution for the Miracast screen. At higher resolutions like 1920×1080 the Miracast display might be shaky because the wireless connection can’t properly cope with the high data rate required. If that happens, switch to the lower resolution until you find a setting that’s stable.