Miracast is an extremely cool technology and a great new feature that comes as part of the Windows 8.1 update. You can read all about Miracast support in Windows 8.1 here: IT Guide to Windows 8.1: Miracast Support.
Actually, Miracast is an invention of mine – not in reality, but in theory. I have this habit of inventing things that someone else eventually executes on. It's a sad state of affairs. This has happened several times over my lifetime. I'll mention to a family member about some cool technology or gadget that needs to be invented, and then years later when it finally arrives, they just look at me and say, "Hey…you invented that." I just shrug. Sometimes I get the feeling that my house is bugged and I should stop speaking my ideas aloud, just in case.
About 10 years ago, I was walking through a room in our house wanting to show everyone a photo that was stored on my smartphone. If you're like me, a smartphone is a personal thing and you feel a bit uncomfortable passing it around a group of people. I prefer to have my smartphone in my hand or in my pocket. It's not a social device, in my opinion. So, I surmised (aloud, mind you) that an awesome technology would be where you entered a room and your device's screen would automatically display on the TV. Once again, my family looked at me like I was nuts.
Fast forward to today and that technology is a reality. After I set it up today and demoed it, my family gave me the same…"Hey, you invented that." Yep, I did.
Many of you have devices that probably already support Miracast. You can check online for the list of supported devices which includes a short list of Intel video drivers and Android devices. The latest Microsoft Surface devices (version 2) support it out of the box with Windows 8.1 and the included drivers. However, the original Microsoft Surface Pro does NOT support it – even with the Windows 8.1 update installed. But, with the right hardware and after applying an unsupported fix, it works beautifully. At least it does for me.
Here's how to do it.
Some TVs have Miracast support built-in. Mine does not, so I needed a Miracast compatible adapter. I chose the NETGEAR Push2TV Wireless Display HDMI Adapter (PTV3000). When it arrived, the PTV3000's size surprised me, as it's even smaller than a deck of cards. Shown in the picture below, that's a quarter sitting next it.
The size of the PTV3000 makes it highly portable. I can carry it around from room to room pretty easily, meaning I won't have to purchase a separate device for every room in our house. This also means I can travel with it. I wrote up recently how to hook up the Surface Pro to a hotel television using cables to help avoid movie rental charges, but the PTV3000 and Miracast adds a whole new dimension to portability and mobility.
As you can also see in the picture, the PTV3000 has two ports, one for power and one for HDMI. If your TV has a USB port, that can be used to power the device using the included USB cable. If your TV does not have a USB port, the PTV3000 comes with a USB power adapter. Either option is fine for powering the device, however, it's important to note that if you use the included power adapter, the PTV3000 stays powered constantly. If you have the ability to use a direct USB/TV connection instead, the PTV3000 will only consume power when the TV is turned on.
The PTV3000 is around $60 from Amazon.com: NETGEAR Push2TV Wireless Display HDMI Adapter - Miracast and WiDi (PTV3000)
Updating the Firmware
Once I ripped into the box and extracted the PTV3000 I noticed there were three docs included: a General Public License, an insert recommending updating the firmware right away, and a Getting Started guide.
As a proud card-carrying geek, and someone who has experienced issues when not running on the latest and greatest firmware on devices, I dove into the instructions to update the PTV3000 right away.
It should be noted that the firmware update recommendation sheet contains a bad link. The sheet says to go to http://www.netgear.com/stream to download the latest firmware update, but this page no longer exists. (The sheet also says it was printed in July 2012)
To get the latest firmware updates for the PTV3000, the current, true link is: http://www.netgear.com/ptv
When I updated mine, I did notice that the PTV3000 I received was about 9 firmware updates behind the most recently released version. After browsing through the reported fixes included in each version, I'm glad I made the decision to update before attempting to get it working.
So, to update the firmware, follow these instructions:
- Use your laptop or mobile device to visit www.netgear.com/ptv and download new firmware.
- Press and hold the Push2TV side button for 7 seconds.
- On your laptop or mobile device, find and connect to the Push2TV WiFi network name (SSID).
- Open a browser and type http://192.168.3.1/ in the URL bar.
- Upload the firmware and install it.
Fixing the Surface Pro (Unsupported)
After the firmware was updated, it was time hook it up to the TV and test out the Surface Pro. After a bit of research it seems Microsoft decided to include Miracast support for the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, but not provide support for the original Surface releases. However, there is a fix that is totally unsupported, but works straight away. It requires replacing the Surface Pro's older Marvell AVASTAR 350N Wireless Network Controller with one included in a recent firmware update for the Surface Pro 2.
I'd like to thank Barb Bowman for putting the instructions on her blog. She does a marvelous job explaining the process and you can walk through the steps here: How to Make Miracast work on Surface Pro
The one thing I'm not sure of, though, is what will happen when a new Surface Pro firmware and driver pack is released and installed. Will the updated driver be replaced with the older driver again? You might want to keep Barb's instructions handy and be sure to retain the extracted Marvell driver in the event a new update breaks the Miracast functionality.
"Casting" the Video
Once the Surface Pro has been updated and the PTV3000 hooked to the TV, it's just a matter of Windows 8.1 locating the PTV3000 WiDi network and installing the remote display.
First, make sure to turn on the TV, have the correct HDMI input source selected, and ensure the PTV3000 is powered on. If everyone is good-to-go, you'll see the following on your TV:
After that, open the Charms menu, select the Devices charm, and then Project. You'll be presented with the option to Add a wireless display.
If everything is connected and working correctly, the Surface Pro will identify the PTV3000 WiDi network and immediately start installing drivers. The driver installation takes less than 10 seconds. To make the very first connection, the Surface Pro will prompt you to enter a wireless passcode that is supplied by the PTV3000. The passcode you need to use will be displayed on your TV screen. The passcode is then stored for later use so you won't have to enter it again.
My installation and implementation of Miracast for the Surface Pro was pretty easy and the results are mind-boggling. I can literally push my Surface Pro display directly to my 60" TV, allowing me to stream Netflix and Amazon Prime, or simply sit back in an easy chair and work.
I did have one individual tell me that he has experienced jittery video with this setup, but, so far, I've not experienced any lag or video problems. I suspect it has to do with making sure to update to the latest firmware, because I did notice that shaky video was fixed in one of the past versions.
I'm happy so far, but the real test comes next week when I take the PTV3000 on the road to Redmond and test it in the hotel room.