Streaming Systems – Chromecast, Roku, Fire Stick or AppleTV

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streamingMirror, Mirror on the TV. Since its introduction in July 2015, the Windows 10 operating system allows you to mirror your computer screen to a TV, Blu-ray* player, or any device that’s compatible with the Miracast* standard, which has been around since 2013. (Windows* 7, Windows* 8, and other earlier operating systems can support the standard as well.) Miracast can be described as “HDMI over Wi-Fi” since it does the same thing as an HDMI cable without the cable—mirror the content on your laptop onto the television set to which it’s connected.

This approach requires a little doohickey called a Miracast dongle. These small devices come in different forms depending on the manufacturer, but they work in a similar way: a dongle plugs into the HDMI port on your laptop allowing the laptop to “discover” another device like your TV and make a direct connection to it. It doesn’t require a Wi-Fi network.

To turn your PC into a Miracast receiver, just open Windows 10’s Start menu and open the “Connect” app. If you don’t see this app, you need to upgrade to the Anniversary Update of the operating system.

Streaming Is A Dream. Another way to connect your laptop and TV is with a dedicated media stream, with the most common being Google’s Chromecast*, Roku’s Streaming Stick*, Amazon Fire Stick*, or Apple’s TV*.

These devices all work in a similar manner, so let’s look at how Chromecast operates. You plug the dongle into the HDMI port on your television, and it will act as a transmitter that connects to your laptop or other mobile device over your Wi-Fi network.

Chromecast doesn’t mirror the content on your laptop like the other methods in this list. Instead, your mobile device (smart phone or tablet running Android or iOS or your computer running the Windows or Mac OS X operating systems) acts as a remote control. It directs the dongle plugged into the TV to the Internet content you want to stream.

The setup is easy. As soon as you plug the dongle into your TV, it should recognize your laptop and walk you through the setup process.

People debate which is the best dedicated media streamer, but a common breakdown is:

Chromecast is designed for people who primarily want to watch video from their computer on their TV or stream content that is available through a browser. An audio-only Chromecast device has also been produced for people who want to listen to music over their television.
Roku Streaming Stick is aimed at people who want to view a large collection of TV apps. Most of the streamers can access the major audio and video apps, like YouTube, but Roku is considered to offer the most choices.
Amazon Fire Stick is for streaming (subscription-based) Amazon Prime Video content, which includes its own original shows and movies plus content it obtains from other premium networks too.
Apple TV is ideal for people who access a lot of material on iTunes or play phone and tablet games on their TVs. Not all the media streamers can access iTunes.
There are lots of media streamer choices with different versions that have features such as voice navigation that allows you to search through content using voice commands. The cost of the devices can run anywhere from $35 to $150.

Cutting the cable (or satellite) doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite programs. And even if you keep cable or satellite, there may be times you want to stream content directly from your laptop to your TV anyway—such as to show photos and videos of your vacation. So pick the approach that appeals most to you, and increase your entertainment options

August 2020
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