Microsoft has taken the wraps off of the Wireless Display Adapter, a Chromecast-esque smart TV device.
Like Chromecast, the Wireless Display Adapter promises to let users wirelessly stream mobile content to their TVs in a hassle-free way.
While the Wireless Display Adapter is superficially similar to Google’s insanely popular telly streaming stick – it’s a black HDMI dongle that draws power from a USB port – it uses a different method to get stuff from your small screen to the big screen.
Unlike Chromecast, which connects to your phone via your home network over WiFi, the Wireless Display Adapter uses Miracast. This creates a direct wireless connection between your small screen and your TV.
The advantage of this direct Miracast connection is that it’s not dependent on your WiFi network. If you live in a busy house and you’ve got a creaky old router with a weak signal then you’ll probably have some performance issues with Chromecast.
While some smart TVs on the market are Miracast-compatible, not all of them are. The Wireless Display Adapter is on one hand, a relatively cheap way to upgrade your TV set.
The main drawback is that while the Wireless Display Adapter is a clever way to turn a smart TV (or even a dumb TV) without Mircast into a Miracast-capable device, the phone, tablet, laptop or whatever small screen device you’re using will also have to be Miracast-compatible.
On paper every Miracast-compatible phones and tablets should work with any other Miracast device like Microsoft’s Wireless Display Adapter.
In practice, some manufacturers have chosen to essentially white label Miracast and ensure that it only works with their own-branded devices. For this reason it’s hard to tell what and won’t work with the Wireless Display Adapter, until we get our hands on one.
Chromecast, on the other hand will work with just about any iOS and Android device out there. Laptop and desktop support is a limited right now – you can only cast tabs from the Chrome browser to your TV with Chromecast – and screen mirroring is currently an Android-only feature.
The Wireless Display Adapter is available to pre-order in the US and Canada now for $60 (£37). UK and European launches have not yet been confirmed.