If you have been following the FatWallet blog, you know our passion for saving money extends beyond earning cash back on every purchase. We’ve already talked about how, between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Streaming and hundreds of other apps, one option to save money is to get rid of cable or satellite. Most people nowadays prefer to get their entertainment on their schedule. For many, this just means recording shows on their DVR. We recently discussed that if you already have a major console in your home, it will work as a streaming device. Today we are going to talk about another option for getting your streaming media onto a bigger screen by letting you know how to connect your tablet to your television. For the purposes of this guide, just think of smartphones as mini tablets. Most of what we cover applies to tablets and smartphones equally.
Connect Your Tablet to Your TV
There are a number of ways to connect your tablet to your TV. They all have varying degrees of complexity and associated costs. Two options in particular are not just cheaper than a year of cable, but take less time to set up than it will take you to read this blog post. Most people will be able to connect their tablet to their TV with one of two relatively cheap devices: a Miracast or a Chromecast. Some people will be able to connect directly to their smart TVs.
1. Native Apps
If your TV and your smart phone or tablet are made by the same company, for instance Samsung, it is very easy to connect your tablet to your TV. This is one instance of what is called screen mirroring. Samsung’s proprietary app is called AllPlay, and you can read about right from Samsung, who offers 1.5% cash back. The down side is you need a “smart” TV, so it is likely you could already stream most of the content already.
Dongle is the technical term for “a thing that plugs into a computer” and is the second easiest way to connect your tablet or smartphone to your TV. Google Chromecast is a dongle. Amazon Fire Stick is a dongle. I am a big fan of dongles. There are a wide variety of dongles out there that will help you connect your tablet to your TV.
Miracast is actually a type of protocol used by various devices — much like Bluetooth — and not specifically a type of dongle. As such, there are a wide variety of Miracast dongles to choose from. Many Miracast dongles require an HDMI port and a USB port, so make sure your TV has both. Then check this searchable list from Wi-Fi.org to see if your device supports Miracast. If both your smart phone or tablet and your TV support Miracast, all you need to connect your tablet to your TV is a dongle, like this one from Walmart for $56.74 with free shipping and 2% cash back.
Just so you can see how varied the dongle may look, Walmart also has this Belkin adapter for $59.99. Miracast works sort of like a wireless HDMI cable. It creates its own Wi-Fi connection, and ,as far as we can tell, a separate wifi connection is only necessary if you want to stream internet content (which we assume you do.) The downfall of the Miracast is the content will stream from your tablet or phone directly, which means your phone screen has to be active for it to work. This also means you can’t throw on a Netflix show and text your friends or check out Facebook while you watch. The other downside is that Apple iOS doesn’t support the Miracast standard, instead electing to support their proprietary Airplay standard.
Chromecast works a little bit differently from Miracast. Chromecast is capable of streaming apps natively and screen mirroring. When using a Chromecast compatible app, Chromecast is considered “smarter” (as in smart phone and smart TV) because you use your phone to tell the Chromecast what to stream, and from there it pulls the stream itself. As you can see, this is different from the Miracast standard, and the Chromecast does work with Apple’s iOS devices.
Using a Chromecast-compatible app frees your phone up for other uses. There are Chromecast compatible apps covering the most popular streamed content like Netflix and Hulu. You can check the full list of apps before deciding on a device to buy. Even better news if you haven’t heard already is that Google has released a second version of the Chromecast. This new version allows full 1080p streaming. It has also made streaming content even easier. Plug the dongle into an HDMI port, and then open the Chromecast app. Any device running Android version 4.4.2 (KitKat) or higher can also cast their tablet screen directly to their TV. With the bevy of apps available, this is almost a value added feature to share pictures and videos stored on your device. This function is not available for iOS devices. A Chromecast 2 will run you about $35 dollars at Walmart.
3. Streaming Devices
If you want to connect your tablet to your tv to share pictures or videos, the most popular streaming devices have that ability. If you already own an Apple TV, Roku, Fire Stick or Fire TV, you should have everything you need.
- Apple TV comes equipped with AirPlay, and you should be able to connect any iOS device wirelessly. The set-top box connects to an HDMI port. Just swipe up from the bottom on your device, hit command center, then tap AirPlay. This is not compatible with Android or Windows devices.
- Roku 3 model 4200 running software version 5.6 and above or the Roku Streaming Stick model 3500 running software version 5.6 and above support screen mirroring. Check your Roku’s settings to make sure screen mirroring is enabled and that your devices are connected to the same wireless network. Under the screen mirroring settings, just select the device. This is not compatible with iOS devices. You can also check this list of devices Roku has tested and are known to work with this feature, which is still in beta testing.
- Amazon Fire TV can screen mirror Android devices running 4.2 (Jelly Bean) or higher. Simply hold the home button, select mirroring, and select the device. This is not compatible with iOS.
- Amazon Fire Stick is a Miracast device, which you know all about. The problem is that reviews indicate Miracast is a tad unreliable. Since the Miracast devices mentioned above cost around $60, and the TV Stick is only $40, this little devices is pushing its limits offering it at all. To make use of it, go to sound and display in the menu and select screen mirroring. This is not compatible with iOS.
The Chromecast 2 looks like the best option for wirelessly connecting your tablet to your TV. It works with Android and iOS devices and has Android screen mirroring capabilities. It runs about $35 and is a reliable device.