Hands On: Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter
11 March 2015 | 0
The Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter enters a fairly crowded market of gadgets that allow you to display the contents of your smart phone, tablet or PC direct to your HDMI equipped TV.
The Google Chromecast is probably the best known in the area, but there are also the likes of the Roku Streaming Stick and the Fire TV Stick.
The idea is that using an open standard, in the case of the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter, Miracast, to allow one device to send a wireless signal to another that can then send images and sound to your TV via its HDMI socket.
The device itself is small and light, and has a USB plug one end for power and the HMDI connector on the other in the main body.
Now, the device has been criticised for this arrangement with critics pointing out that older TVs might not have USB sockets close enough to allow it to be used, which means having to power the device form a USB socket somewhere else. Whereas, with the Chromecast for example, it having its own power supply meant it was more versatile. Well I say boo to that as our test TV, a 5 series Samsung LCD unit from some three years ago, not only had a USB socket directly below the HDMI 3 socket, but, when plugged in, the device was nearly invisible behind the TV. This is a great boon for anyone who might have a critic in the house of cables tumbling out from behind the various entertainment units piled around the TV.
As can be seen from the picture, the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter is relatively small, at a mere 87.9 x 20.1 x 9.9 mm. Though the HDMI bit is large, as it houses the main gubbins, when connected, it sits fairly neatly and seems to suffer little in terms of signal for the snug fitment.
To connect to the adapter, one needs a Windows 8.1 PC or Miracast-enabled device, such as Android 4.2.1 or later. Our test units were a Surface Pro 2 running the latest build of Windows 10 (9926) (courtesy of Microsoft), a Nexus 5 phone and Nexus 7 tablet (kindly supplied by Google).
For the Windows devices, a trip to the Store was required for the specific app that implements a configuration to allow the adapter to be picked up. After installing the app, it tells you to swipe from the right for the Devices option, and thence to Project. The Wireless Display Adapter appears as an option, and you select connect and then determine how to display your device screen, as in wireless display only, duplicate or extend.
For Android devices, there is a similar set-up. An app is required that is Miracast compatible. On the Nexus 5, Wi-Fi Display Helper was used. This free app detected the adapter and added the cast option to other apps as they were in use.
For example, to test the set-up, Netflix was opened on the Nexus 5 and the cast option selected. An episode of “House of Cards” was set to play, which then displayed in full HD with good quality sound.
The same test was run on the Nexus 7 and Surface Pro 2, with each performing well over the wireless link. All this was done in the presence of a Wi-Fi enabled Sky HD box and similarly equipped Blu-ray player, with no ill effects.
From the spec sheet, the adapter has a range of 6.98 metres, which is a fairly large room, and is perfect for the set-up to be used for the likes of a board meeting. We did not test from room to room, as in most cases, the adapter and the casting machine are likely to be in the same space.
To sum up, the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter is a good bit of kit if you wish to easily send content from your smart devices to the TV. Unlike the Chromecast it does not require its own power supply and can use a free USB slot, and also unlike that device, appears to be able to work well with apps not certified for it, increasing its versatility.
However, there are criticisms. Firstly, despite being patched and up to date on the latest version of Windows 8.1, the Surface RT despite downloading the app, would not detect the adapter. This appears to be deliberate. If it is, this is baffling as the Surface RT is still a capable media device and so why it would not work with the adapter is a mystery.
Secondly, the cost in Ireland of the adapter is €69.99 from the Microsoft Store. The cost in the US is $59.99, while the Chromecast here, when you can get one, is €39. When the Microsoft device does not require a separate power supply to be boxed with it, the cost seems rather steep.
However, if you want something that is small, neat, versatile and easy to use to connect your devices to your TV, you cannot go wrong, but the cost leaves a bitter taste.