Video Projectors in conference rooms and Televisions are two equipments which have 98% unwanted user controls and features. In my view the job of a projector or a TV is to simply show the input it gets. There is no need for 200 buttons on them and in their remote controls. In every presentation I have done in last two decades there has been only a handful of events where I could effortlessly show my laptop onto the big screen. The sad truth is that it need not be this way and Steve Jobs with obsession over simplicity proved it.
In my living room I have been using Apple TV for last four years. To throw the display from any Apple device (say iMac or iPad) to a big screen, Apple TV is still the simplest. Thanks to Apple’s AirPlay technology and their Remote App.
Life was never meant to be easy, especially technology gadgets. My world is not Apple exclusive. In my house & work there are Windows PC, Windows Phone, Android Phone apart from iMac & iPad. So what’s is out there that can help me. When I started searching on the subject I was prepared not to find a single device that will work across all platforms. Before I write down what I found, time for a disclaimer. I am yet to try out these gadgets on my own, what I have given below are my armchair observations.
We will start with a Bangalore (India) product. It’s called Teewe, this device is probably the cheapest you can get in India, costing INR 1999 ($32). It’s a small USB dongle like gadget that has just two ports, one Micro USB for power input and the second a HDMI port connects to TV/Projector to output video/audio. Teewe allows you to play content (Music, Videos and Pictures) from your local device or from YouTube, on to a big screen (TV/Projector). Teewe gadget has no controls on it (I like this). You control it remotely from an App that’s available for Android, iOS, Mac OS X & Windows PC (no Windows Phone). It requires an existing Wi-Fi Network to which both your device (Phone/Laptop) and Teewe gadget can both connect to.
One missing feature for me was Teewe not supporting screen casting. This means Teewe can’t mirror your entire device screen (say Android phone or Windows laptop) on to the big screen. This means you can’t project your Powerpoint slides or Excel spreadsheets or Internet browser.
If Music/Video/Photo/YouTube is all you want to play on a big screen and your device is Android, iOS, Mac OS X or Windows PC, you should try out Teewe.
In this HDMI dongle, this is the widely familiar product – Google Chromecast, costing $35 in USA. This week Google India that Chromecast will be coming soon to India for Rs.2999 ($49). This too looks like Teewe, has a HDMI and Micro USB Port (for Power), has an App for Android, iOS, Mac OS X and Windows PC devices (again no Windows Phone). It allows you to play any media (Video, Picture, Music) and YouTube content. Apart from this you can screencast what’s on your Android device (this works only for Android) and Google Chrome browser tabs. There is currently an “experimental” mode to screencast your entire desktop (PC screen) using Chromecast as well.
This gadget is a widely supported one across many apps and platforms, apps including Plex.TV support Chromecast.
Update 12/Dec/2014: Google updated screen casting to work with any device running Android 4.4.2 or higher with the Chromecast app, which can now share screen to Chromecast.
Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter
You know it’s a Microsoft product because of the uncool name it has – Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter. Its available only in USA and it costs $60.
This is also a USB dongle like device with HDMI and MicroUSB port for power. It has apps for Android & Windows 8 that allows you to play not only media but entire screen including presentations from your Windows PC or Android devices. This is the only device that I could find that supports Windows Phone. It’s a Miracast supported device. Microsoft’s device uses Wi-Fi Direct which means even if you don’t have a Wi-Fi network your mobile device and Wireless Display Adapter can work together.
Windows 7 Screencasting
If your device that you want to project is not an Android/iOS/Mac OS/Windows 8 but old Windows 7, then you need to buy any one of the 3rd party gadgets out there. I found this one called Actiontec Screenbeam costing $70 or so.
Apart from the above products, I noticed there are two other popular gadgets. First is Amazon Fire TV Stick costing $39 and supports voice commands. Second is Roku Streaming stick costing $50. Both come with convenient remote control as well.