Mirroring your PC’s display on your TV is actually pretty simple. There are several ways to get it done—both wired and wireless—and which you choose just depends on your situation.
The wired methods of mirroring your display are the most reliable, although you’ll need an HDMI cable and possibly an adapter for your computer. Wireless methods can work well, too—they just aren’t perfect. You may notice a bit of lag and sometimes a less-than-perfectly-crisp display.
Mirroring With an HDMI Cable (And Possibly an Adapter)
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A standard HDMI cable is still the best way to get your PC’s screen onto a TV. This is true whether that computer is a living room PC using a TV as it’s only video output, or PC with its own monitor that’s mirroring the contents of the primary display to the TV.
Getting this solution hooked up is pretty simple. You probably already have an HDMI cable. If you don’t, you can buy a cheap cable like this one ($7) and skip the unnecessary expensive cables. Plug one end into an HDMI port on the back of your TV and the other into the HDMI port on your laptop or desktop. Switch the TV to the necessary input and you’re done! You can also use the display options on your PC to configure how the display works—whether the TV mirrors your main display or functions as a secondary desktop.
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That’s the theory. In practice, many modern laptops don’t ship with a built-in HDMI port—at least, not a full-sized one. Modern, super-thin laptops just don’t have space for those large ports. You can still connect your laptop to a TV with an HDMI cable, though—you’ll just need the necessary adapter for the port your laptop does include.
Some laptops include a Mini HDMI port instead of the full sized one. If you already have an HDMI cable, you can purchase a Mini HDMI to HDMI adapter like this one from Monoprice ($3.50). If you prefer, you can also buy an inexpensive Mini HDMI to HDMI cable like this one from Amazon ($5.30). When you’re comparison shopping, just be sure not to confuse Mini HDMI with the even smaller Micro HDMI that you find on some tablets and smartphones.
Other laptops—especially newer ones from Apple’s MacBooks to Microsoft’s Surface Pro convertibles—have a Mini DisplayPort instead of an HDMI port. If you already have an HDMI cable, you can purchase a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter like this cheap one from Amazon ($9). If you prefer, you can also buy an inexpensive Mini DisplayPort to HDMI cable like this one from Amazon ($9).
Be sure to check exactly what type of port your laptop has before purchasing such an adapter.
You can also run into problems on the other end of the connection. Older TVs (or older computers) may not have HDMI support and may require other cables like a DVI or VGA cable. However, modern TVs and computers should support HDMI, and you should use that if possible.
Chromecast Screen Casting
Google’s inexpensive Chromecast offers an easy way to get your computer’s display onto your TV without any cables. While Chromecast is generally used to “cast” content from a specific app or web page to your TV, you can also cast a specific browser tab. Not only that, but the Chromecast browser extension also lets you cast your computer’s entire desktop to your Chromecast, and thus view it on your TV.
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How well this works depends on a few factors: how powerful your PC is, how strong a Wi-Fi signal you get, and how reliable that Wi-Fi signal is. Casting your screen over Wi-Fi won’t work as perfectly as an HDMI cable, but it’s probably the easiest way to do wireless mirroring from any nearby laptop or desktop computer.
Apple’s homegrown solution—AirPlay Mirroring—requires that you have an Apple TV box hooked up to your TV. If you do, you can use Apple’s AirPlay to wirelessly mirror the contents of a Mac, iPhone, or iPad’s display to your TV.
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Unlike other wireless display options, using AirPlay Mirroring requires that you go all-in on Apple’s device ecosystem. However, if you do use Apple devices and have an Apple TV, AirPlay Mirroring works quite well.
Miracast Wireless Display
Miracast is supposed to be an open alternative to Apple’s AirPlay, allowing you to “cast” an Android or Windows device’s display wirelessly to a TV or set-top box. Support for casting is built into the latest versions of Android, Windows, and Windows Phone. Your TV may or may not include Miracast, although it’s appearing on more streaming boxes like the Roku.
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Unfortunately, we’ve found that Miracast is a bit hit-or-miss. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn’t. And it isn’t always easy to track down the reason it might not be working. We’ve had difficulty getting it going on devices that we knew supported Miracast.
For those reasons, we recommend you try Miracast last. If you have hardware that supports Miracast, feel free to give it a shot, of course. But don’t go out of your way to buy Miracast-enabled hardware, as there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed with the experience. Miracast clearly needs more time in the oven before it can hope to become the easy-to-use, interoperable standard it’s supposed to be.
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There are other ways to get stuff onto your TV, of course. If you’re into PC gaming, you may want to try getting a living room box that can stream games from your gaming PC and display them on your TV. However, you’ll still get better results with a long HDMI cable that connects that gaming PC directly to your TV. When it comes to getting the contents of your computer’s display on your TV, the wired HDMI cable is still king.
Image Credit: @Daman on Flickr, rodtuk on Flickr, AurelianS on Flickr, Kai Hendry on Flickr
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