Windows 8.1 features Miracast wireless display tech, and it works well

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For me, there was very little more frustrating than trying to get moving pictures from my PC to the TV. What should have been easy always turned into a nightmare of mismatching codec support (PlayTo), missing cables and adapters, and fumbling of FAT32 USB sticks (which can't even hold your typical H.264 encoded movie). But that was then. Windows 8.1 is now. And we now have wireless display capabilities baked right into the OS.

Miracast is here! 

To be more specific, Windows 8.1 (preview) ships with an implementation of the Miracast standard. This standard shipped a little under a year ago and defines a protocol that devices can use to share their "screen" with each other. That is, you can now do the things you wanted but failed to do with a TV companion, like show off a PowerPoint slide deck or stream a chick flick on date night.

The Miracast specification requires that devices transmit H.264 encoded video and at least 2-channel Linear Pulse-Code Modulation (LPCM) encoded audio. Devices can upgrade the latter support as needed (e.g. Dolby Advanced Codec 3) but otherwise that's it. There's not a lot room for OEMs to screw up here.

But does it work?

My set up consisted of a Surface Pro and an up-to-date Netgear Push2TV (PTV3000-100NAS, $59.99 Amazon) connected to a generic LG TV. The TV isn't important here as the adapter acts as a Miracast bridge, connecting to the TV via HDMI (and optionally USB for power). With just a few flicks and taps on the Surface, I was able to effortlessly stream its screen to the TV. Woot!

What about my xxx PC and yyy TV?

Of course you'll probably want to set this up using hardware different than mine. Here are the key features your Windows PC needs for success:

  • Wi-Fi. If you're thinking about streaming from the desktop, you may want to pick up a wireless adapter. But make sure it's...

  • A wireless device that supports Virtual Wi-Fi (introduced in NDIS 6.2) and Wi-Fi Direct (introduced in NDIS 6.3). You should see this in newer wireless devices that ship with Windows 8 support. (Most newer PCs have this so you're probably okay.) To print the NDIS version of your network devices, open Powershell and issue this one liner: Get-NetAdapter | Select Name, NdisVersion

  • A display driver specifically for Windows 8.1 (i.e. WDDM 1.3) with Miracast support. Both NVIDIA and AMD have preview code up but neither appear to support Miracast at this time. Microsoft is providing Miracast-supported Intel drivers (9.18.10.3200) inbox for select chipsets though.

(Based on preliminary code and findings. This list could change, beware.)

Walk me through this, please.

First, ensure you meet the requirements for connecting to a wireless display (see above).

Where can I read more? What if I need help?

There isn't a lot of Windows 8.1 wireless display information up just yet. But if you're a Windows driver developer, check out [Wireless Display (Miracast) Structures and Enumerations] on MSDN. Or the Miracast specification [Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Miracast™] on Wi-Fi Alliance's website.

If you run into snags and met the hardware requirements above, feel free to tweet or email me. But please be cognizant of the fact that this stuff is undocumented and bleeding edge. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Device compatibility list

(Last updated October 21, 2013)

Sources

  • Surface RT: Not supported. Microsoft has confirmed support will not be coming to the Surface RT. (Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 will though.)

  • Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro: Working. [Thanks David A.]

  • PCs with Intel HD Graphics 3000 or lower: Not supported.

  • PCs with Intel HD Graphics 4000, Iris Pro (5200), or P4### variants: Working in Windows 8.1 Preview (inbox drivers). Windows 8.1 RTM untested.

  • PCs with NVIDIA graphics: Not (yet?) supported as of GeForce driver set 331.40. Oddly, these drivers do support a home-grown version of Miracast for S.H.I.E.L.D. scenarios.

Targets

  • Netgear Push2TV PTV3000  ($59.99): Working. (Make sure you're on firmware 2.4.3 or higher, it smooths out a lot of pairing bugs.)

  • Panasonic DMP-BDT230  ($109.99): Prompts for button press to complete WPS Push Button pairing, but device doesn't have a button. [Thanks @davidkozera]
  • Belkin Screencast 4.0.18.0 ($119.99): Working (firmware 3.5.42.0) [Thanks David K.]

  • D-Link DHD-131 ($99.99): Working. [Thanks David A.]

  • Actiontec ScreenBeam Pro ($69.99) : Working. Supports everything you throw at it -- Intel WiDi, Miracast, and legacy devices (with a USB dongle).

  • Rocketfish Miracast Video Receiver ($79.99): Working with devices supporting 2.0 firmware (allows you to workaround WPS button press bug.)