Your smartphone and tablet are both capable of doing a lot for you, but sometimes you want some of that cool stuff to leap off their small screens so you can enjoy it more on a much bigger scale. That’s where mirroring your device’s screen to your TV comes in.
Sure, not every mobile device or TV has this capability, but at this point, most do. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer or universal instruction manual. Depending on the type of phone, tablet, and TV you have, the way that you mirror will vary.
What is screen mirroring?
These days, most smart entertainment devices let you cast content from your smartphone or tablet to enjoy it on more capable hardware. Whether you want to watch your favorite vlogger’s latest YouTube upload on a massive TV or hear Spotify’s newest album releases on a pair of connected smart speakers that can emulate a small earthquake in your home, the utility of casting makes it easy to do it all from your mobile devices.
Sadly, not all content sources support native casting, and unless you own a Chromecast, Android TV, or Vizio Smartcast TV, the options built into services like Netflix and Hulu won’t do you a ton of good. Screen mirroring allows you to display whatever’s showing on your smartphone or tablet at any given moment. It’s almost like casting, but instead of playing back a single file or using built-in app controls, it shows everything that’s showing on your phone or computer in real-time — home screen and all. We used the same method to cast Amazon Prime Video to Chromecast before updates brought us proper functionality.
Thankfully, screen mirroring is nearly as ubiquitous as direct casting, and if your source and destination devices are perfectly compatible, it can be just as painless. Whether you have an iPhone, iPad, or Android device, options for sharing your screen in 2020 are plentiful. Read on to determine which of these products will best help you do the job.
Set-top boxes and streaming sticks
Apple TV ($150 to $200)
Unless you’ve been living under a pile of cathode ray TVs, the Apple TV set-top box is a streaming device that competes head-to-head with Roku devices, Amazon’s Fire TV devices, and other streamers. Boasting a wide selection of apps and an intuitive touch remote, the pricey Apple TV 4K is a solid choice for those entrenched in the Apple ecosystem.
What makes it great for our purposes is AirPlay. Apple’s proprietary wireless protocol suite is a brilliantly simple way to mirror video, audio, and pretty much any other content wirelessly from your iOS device to any display with an HDMI input. It’s done by swiping up from the bottom of the screen and tapping the AirPlay symbol in the quick menu (which looks like a square with a triangle through it). AirPlay mirroring is just the start, too. Savvy users can find all kinds of interesting ways to use this box as a media or smart home hub.
Even if an iPhone is your only piece of mobile Apple tech, the Apple TV makes a lot of sense as the mirroring device of choice. AirPlay 2 offers increased functionality, and though it doesn’t offer any new mirroring features, the tech has arrived on an assortment of new TVs (and some older ones) from Vizio, LG, Sony, and Samsung, meaning you may not need an Apple TV at all for iOS mirroring.
Roku ($25 to $96)
Roku’s diverse collection of streaming devices are perennial favorites among reviewers and consumers alike. What really makes Roku fly is its combination of a great interface and a ridiculous selection of apps that number well over 1,000. Better yet, while the Roku family (which includes multiple iterations and price tiers) was long bereft of any real native mirroring, the company now offers straight-up screen mirroring for Android and Windows devices.
On your Roku, in the settings menu, you can choose whether mirroring requests are auto-granted or auto-denied, or if you want to be prompted for your permission. You can also add devices to approved and banned lists.
The service is available for Android devices running 4.2 or higher and Windows devices running 8.1 or higher. Your “hardware must support screen mirroring,” according to Roku, though most devices do in one form or another. For Android devices, Roku notes that there are many terms used for mirroring, including Smart View, Quick Connect, SmartShare, AllShare Cast, Wireless Display, HTC Connect, Screen Casting, and Cast. (Whew!) Once you’ve identified the correct terminology, you can usually enable mirroring from the settings menu under the Network or Display headings.
For Windows 8.1 devices or higher, you can mirror by following the instructions in this Microsoft article. For Windows 10 devices, open the Action Center, select Project > Connect To A Wireless Display, and then the Roku device on your network.
While iOS devices can’t mirror Roku natively, users can display personal photos, videos, and music to the Roku with the Play on Roku feature in the Roku app. Also, a few popular apps allow you to sling content to the TV through Roku, including Video & TV Cast and AllCast. On iOS, the Netflix app will let you cast to a Roku device. Third-party apps may require more time to set up because platforms require you to download apps to your destination device and your iOS device. For AllCast, you’ll need to upgrade to the $5 version (otherwise, you will be limited to a few minutes of video playback). These apps also work with Roku TVs, including the affordable TCL 6-Series TVs and other TCL models.
This RokuCast Chrome extension looks promising if you really want to cast to a Roku from your Mac using Chrome, and you aren’t afraid of a few extra steps and software tweaks.
As for Apple users, we hoped that Roku devices would gain AirPlay 2 functionality with the arrival of the Apple TV app, but the functionality was absent when it finally launched. That doesn’t mean it never will, but for now, you’ll need a different device to mirror your iPhone or iPad.
Amazon Fire TV ($30 to $88)
Amazon’s Fire TV made its debut in April 2014, with several newer (and more powerful) iterations following in the years since. The latest devices include the 4K HDR-ready Fire TV Cube, which offers a bevy of features, including the ability to control most of your home theater gear with only your voice, as well as the Fire TV Stick 4K, which offers a similar, though scaled-down feature set. Like other newer Fire TV devices, the Fire TV Cube and Fire TV Stick 4K also boast support for 4K, HDR, and Alexa.
Early in the Fire TV’s history, Amazon added native mirroring for Android devices via Miracast. However, users first had to have their device tethered to the same Amazon account as their box. Thanks to an update, any user with a compatible device can now get in on the fun. Enabled devices include Android devices running 4.2 Jelly Bean or higher, Amazon’s Fire HDX tablets, and the Fire Phone (if anyone still has one). Older Fire TVs don’t support mirroring. To enable mirroring, go to Settings > Display & Sounds > Enable Display Mirroring. Then connect your desired device from your Android phone or tablet.
Like the Roku, iOS users will find AllCast a viable option for transmitting individual videos, photos, and other media to the Fire TV from outside the Android mafia. Another (paid) app to try out is Reflector 3, which also works with iOS devices. Like Roku, while Amazon got an Apple TV app of its own, it does not currently support AirPlay mirroring.
Chromecast ($35 or less) and Chromecast Ultra ($69)
Since its debut in 2013, Chromecast has become a go-to device for affordable wireless streaming. What makes Chromecast devices special is their ability to bypass your device’s internal resources thanks to Google’s “cast” method of streaming, allowing you to start playback on your mobile device. Just click the cast icon and let the Chromecast take it from there, which also ts your phone or tablet (or computer) rest and save battery.
Outside of casting from streaming apps, Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra also feature near latency-free mirroring of anything on an Android smartphone or tablet, including games, photos, video, and more. The options combine to make for a host of very cool applications. As of now, nearly any Android device running Android 4.4.2+ supports Chromecast. As a bonus, Chromecast can also mirror anything from a Mac or PC’s Chrome browser or desktop by simply clicking the Cast button in the corner of your browser, but performance quality varies.
If you’re an iOS user, Chromecast mirroring isn’t supported for content loaded on your device. Still, Chromecasts are great for streaming content from tons of popular apps, including YouTube, Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, and Google Play Movies & TV. You’ll need to download the Google Home app first, though.
Miracast ($40 to $70)
While we prefer the methods outlined above, if you’re an Android aficionado, third-party Miracast devices from lesser-known companies are also available. Miracast is a Wi-Fi certified, high-definition wireless protocol similar to AirPlay. Miracast is unique in that, unlike AirPlay, it does not require a Wi-Fi network. Instead, it sets up its own private streaming network through a protocol that arrived with Android 4.0 called Wi-Fi Direct. The network is accessible from other local devices but is safe from any internet hooligans outside its short range.
Miracast is versatile and offers a host of mirroring capabilities. While it works with Android devices, it is especially useful for mirroring PCs. Like AirPlay, its Achilles’ heel is that it relies on your device’s internal resources, which ties it up and drains the battery. It also has a history of instability, though many of those issues have been ironed out by now. Still, if Android (and especially PC) mirroring is your game and none of the options above fill your needs, Miracast-compatible devices may be worth checking into.
Some options with solid reputations include theand the .
Xbox One S ($300 or less),($300), ($400)
Unfortunately, none of Sony’s gaming consoles — including the PS3, PS4, PS4 Pro, or PS5 — have native mirroring features included. While there is an official PlayStation smartphone app that allows you to control your PS4 and browse the PlayStation Network remotely, that’s about all it can do. Instead, users will have to resort to third-party options. Plex is probably your best bet here, as with Xbox. Options like R-play allow you to do the opposite of phone mirroring, i.e., play games from your PlayStation to your iPhone — a pretty neat parlor trick, but not for our purposes here.
Most new smart TVs are equipped for mobile mirroring. Suppose you have a newer TV, and you noticed an acronym on one of the HDMI inputs labeled MHL. In that case, you already have a plug-and-play solution to connecting your Android phone, albeit from a decidedly 20th-century, hardwired connection. MHL stands for the mobile high-definition link and allows you to mirror most content right on your display through an HDMI input. You will need to get a cable that is compatible with your phone’s output and will establish an HDMI connection with your TV. Note: MHL will also power and charge your device while connected, but we haven’t seen many great reviews for the cables in our research, so you’ll need to proceed at your own monetary risk.
You’ll love wireless mirroring because you won’t have to get up to control your streaming experience. Manufacturers include wireless mirroring on their newer models of smart TVs. For some time, most of the built-in mirroring options available have been proprietary, like Samsung’s AllShare system, which works only with select Samsung Galaxy phones, or LG’s ScreenShare, which is compatible with both Miracast and Intel Wi-Di devices. As we mentioned above, however, that’s changing thanks in part to the addition of AirPlay 2, Apple’s long-proprietary video, image, and audio sharing protocol rolling out in a wide array of new TVs (and some older ones), from Samsung, Vizio, LG, and Sony.
There are other options available, as well. Roku TV can mirror from your phone just as the set-top devices do. For other TVs, check your settings manual to determine if MHL or wireless mirroring is part of the package. If you’re interested in other options, here is a handy list from Best Buy of televisions with mirroring capabilities.
- What is Android TV? Google’s smart TV platform fully explained
- What is Roku? The streaming platform fully explained
- How to use Plex to manage and play all of your media, everywhere
- Become a master caster with these Google Chromecast tips and tricks
- The best online streaming services for movies and TV