Screen mirroring: How to connect your phone, tablet or laptop to a TV – Alphr
Once upon a time, home entertainment was all about gathering around a single screen, watching broadcast television. That’s all changed with the onset of smartphones and tablets, with many families now owning a gamut of devices and using catch-up services like BBC iPlayer and All 4, not to mention PC-based services such as Netflix and YouTube.
Yet so-called “smart” TVs, with built-in internet connections, haven’t caught on. This may be because web-based services are typically accessed by typing, scrolling and navigating links, which translates poorly to a traditional remote-control interface. Proprietary systems such as Virgin Media TV On Demand use vastly simplified interfaces for this reason.
There are numerous ways to hook up a PC to your television, so you can enjoy the flexibility of a full keyboard-and-mouse-driven interface, while taking advantage of what is probably the biggest screen you own in order to get the best from streaming and downloaded films and TV programmes – not to mention presentations, music and web-based services.
Here we take you through several different ways you can connect a laptop, phone or tablet to your TV.
Screen mirroring a PC to a TV: HDMI and DisplayPort
Most modern PCs can be physically connected directly to a television. A desktop system will typically offer at least one full-sized HDMI socket, and some larger laptops do as well. When you connect a TV to this socket, it will be automatically detected: if you already have a monitor or laptop display connected, your TV will by default be set up as a secondary display. If you’d prefer it to mirror your primary display, you can set this in Windows’ screen-resolution settings – or you can simply press Win+P to bring up a quick set of Second Screen options.
If you’re using a laptop, it’s more likely to use mini-HDMI or micro-HDMI than the full-sized connector (mini-HDMI looks like a shrunk-down version of regular HDMI, while micro-HDMI is almost identical in size and shape to micro-USB). If you’re lucky, your laptop will have come with an adapter; otherwise, you’ll need to buy a mini- or micro-HDMI-to-HDMI cable.
Another possibility is mini-DisplayPort: this too can be connected to an HDMI television with the right cable, or via a simple adapter. The signals can also travel over a high-speed Thunderbolt bus, so you might be able to connect your TV to a Thunderbolt port.
HDMI and DisplayPort connections can carry sound as well as vision, so a single cable should do everything you need – but you may need to manually switch audio devices to get audio to play through your TV. You can do this by right-clicking on the volume icon in the Windows system tray, selecting Playback Devices from the pop-up menu, selecting the appropriate device and clicking Set Default.
Step-by-step: how to connect laptop to TV using an HDMI cable
1. Locate the ports on your TV and laptop and plug in the HDMI cable (in any order).
2. Set your TV to the correct HDMI channel, your laptop should then briefly blink as the settings are configured.
3. Windows should automatically recognise your TV’s required output settings and adjust accordingly. If this doesn’t happen, simply press the Windows key and search “Connect to an external display”. This will bring up an options menu where you can alter the display, resolution, orientation and default screen settings.
Screen mirroring a PC to a TV: Chromecast
Google’s Chromecast plugs into the back of your TV and mirrors web pages from the Chrome web browser, using your home wireless network to connect to a laptop or mobile device running the browser.
This enables you to stream any internet-based video, and even files stored locally by dragging them directly onto a Chrome tab and casting it. Chromecast streams tabs up to 1080p, and in most circumstances it delivers smooth, stutter free video.
That isn’t an end to the Chromecast’s talents, however. For those occasions when you need to display an application on your TV that doesn’t have built-in Chromecast support, it’s also possible to display the entire content of your PC or Mac’s desktop.
Screen mirroring a PC to a TV: Miracast
Since 2013, the Wi-Fi Alliance has rolled out the Miracast wireless display standard, using peer-to-peer Wi-Fi Direct to enable point-to-point connections between devices without the use of a router.
Miracast devices allow streaming of up to 1080p video and 5.1 surround sound, and the connection is secured using WPA2 encryption. Content is streamed directly through your device, meaning Miracast devices – unlike Google’s Chromecast – don’t need an external internet connection. Think of it as HDMI over Wi-Fi.
Sounds great, but how do you use it? Well, for starters you’ll need your devices to support Miracast. This shouldn’t be a problem with newer devices but older devices may need to use a Miracast adapter, which can be plugged into HDMI and USB ports.
In terms of operating system, you will need to have Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1, Android 4.4, BlackBerry 10.2.1 or greater. OS X and iOS do not work with Miracast, as Apple uses its own AirPlay technology. On the receiving end, many TVs released over the past two years will have in-built Miracast support. However, your TV will probably be older than this, so you’ll need to buy a Miracast dongle, such as Microsoft’s Wireless Display Adapter or Asus’s Miracast Wireless Display Dongle. Buying an adapter that matches the make of your phone, laptop or tablet is a good choice, but the Miracast connection should work across devices regardless of brand.
Screen mirroring a PC to a TV: Apple AirPlay
If you’re using a Mac dated 2011 or later, Apple’s proprietary AirPlay system lets you mirror your display wirelessly onto a TV. It’s a terrifically simple system – when mirroring is available, the AirPlay icon appears on the menu bar (a square with a triangle pointing into it); click on it to open a dropdown menu that shows the option to enable or disable mirroring. AirPlay lets you use your TV as a secondary display, so you can play videos on it at its native resolution, while keeping your MacBook or iMac’s display for desktop applications.
The catch is that AirPlay requires an Apple TV box connected to your television (it’s detecting this box that tells OS X to show the icon). Still, AirPlay is a supremely simple system, and while there’s still a small amount of visible lag, the mirrored display feels more responsive than WiDi. AirPlay also has the advantage of working with the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
Screen mirroring a PC to a TV: Other cable connections
If your computer doesn’t have any of these ports, you still have options. Many TVs offer a regular 15-pin VGA socket, so if your laptop or desktop has an analogue VGA connector, you can use this to hook it up. VGA doesn’t carry audio, however, so you’ll want to attach a secondary cable from your PC’s audio-output socket to your TV’s audio input.
It may also be possible to use a DVI connection. If your PC has a DVI-I socket, you can use a simple DVI-to-VGA adapter to connect it to a 15-pin socket on the TV, and connect the sound via a separate cable as described above.
If it’s a DVI-D socket, however, that means it’s digital-only, and your only option is to use a DVI-to-HDMI adapter cable to plug it into an HDMI socket. This may sound more convenient than using VGA, but DVI doesn’t carry audio, and your TV probably won’t offer the option to play audio from an external source while displaying HDMI video. So if you want sound, you’ll have to use a separate amplifier (or your laptop’s internal speakers).
You can tell what sort of DVI socket your computer has by looking at the long, flat aperture at the left-hand side of the port: if it’s surrounded by four pinholes in a square configuration, it’s DVI-I. If the flat hole is stuck out on its own, with no other holes around it, it’s DVI-D.