With a tablet or smartphone and a Netflix subscription, you can watch your favorite movies and series anytime, anywhere. But the screens of mobile devices are usually small and if you want to watch with several people, this way is not ideal. However, not every TV offers the option to download the Netflix app. How do you stream your favorite series and movies? Fortunately, you can connect your tablet and smartphone to your TV.
Tablet owners are living in a golden age of content: steaming video applications like Netflix and homemade videos and photos all need to be shared. And while sharing online is very easy, it's much more fun to do it in real life. The problem is the screen of your tablet: perfect for one or two people, but with five people around it is really too small. This is even more true for the iPad mini with its small screen.
The good news is that you probably already have a device in your living room that's perfect. Your TV is big, bright, and no one has to bother to see what's happening on it. There are an increasing number of ways to view photos and videos on it, from simple cables to ingenious - but often expensive - wireless options that send your living room into the 21st century.
Here we look at both options, as well as the services that allow you to share your subscriptions, photos and videos on the big screen - and the services that don't. Although we are mainly talking about Android tablets, the same advice applies to Android smartphones.
HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is the current interface standard. If you bought your television in the last decade, it will have an HDMI port, just like pretty much every set-top box, games console, and a fair number of still and video cameras. The advantage of HDMI, aside from its ubiquity (meaning it's cheap), is the fact that it can accommodate both HD video and audio at the same time, so you don't have to watch a movie in full HD with the bad speakers. from your tablet for the sound. An HDMI output is an advantage that many Android tablets have over Apple's iPad.
There are three sizes of HDMI plugs. Regular HDMI (Type A, left) are the full-featured ports you'll find on devices where space isn't an issue: think TVs, laptops, and games consoles. The ports you usually find on tablets and phones will be either Type C (also called Mini HDMI, center) or Type D (Micro HDMI, right). Of these, Micro HDMI, or Type D, is the smallest.
Whatever type of port your tablet has, you can connect it to an HDMI port fairly cheaply: You probably don't have to spend more than 10 to 15 euros on an HDMI to Mini-HDMI or Micro-HDMI cable.
A lot of tablets have HDMI or one of the scaled down variants. The Acer Iconia A1, Archos 80 Titanium and Nokia 2520 - among many others - have it. It's the simplest approach.
But you don't necessarily have to buy a tablet with an HDMI output to be able to connect it to your TV.
MHL / Slimport
HDMI is easy to understand: it's a port that only does one thing. The downside is that not all tablets have an HDMI output. The good news is that a few widely supported standards have emerged that allow Android owners to connect to external displays using their own microUSB port.
The standards in question are MHL (Mobile High Definition Link) and the newer SlimPort. They both look the same, which is obvious as they simply use the microUSB port on an Android device to deliver video.
Like HDMI, SlimPort and MHL support both video and audio, with up to eight channels available for surround sound. Both normally require a breakout box: a small dongle between your device and TV that converts your phone's signal into one that's HDMI-compatible.
You can expect to pay between 15 and 35 euros for a SlimPort or MHL signal converter. This makes it a bit more expensive than using a tablet with an HDMI port, but MHL in particular is supported by many phone and tablet manufacturers.
There have been several versions of MHL: we are currently at version three, which increases the maximum resolution to 4K. This is the same as SlimPort, meaning that both standards offer very similar technical specifications. An advantage of MHL is the wide support from TV manufacturers: look at the back of your TV, and if the HDMI port has an MHL logo above it you can use an HDMI to microUSB cable to connect the two together - the HDMI cable supplies power to your tablet or phone, so you don't need any extra adapters or cables.
If your TV does not support MHL, or if you have a SlimPort device, you will need an adapter. SlimPort users can expect to spend around 20 euros, while MHL users have to pay a little less. If you're using MHL, chances are you'll need an external power source: MHL 3 can use up to 10 watts from the host device.
SlimPort has the advantage here: no external power source is required, making the setup less cluttered. However, both devices require the tablet's screen to be on, so breakout boxes usually have a microUSB port so you can use a charger.
Support for MHL and SlimPort varies greatly. Since there are three different versions of MHL, plus SlimPort, be sure to check your device's specs before purchasing an adapter. The Microsoft Surface and Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 support MHL, while the Google Nexus 5 supports SlimPort.
Apple users have it easier: While the iPad is technically compatible with DisplayPort, you can only connect it to a display using Apple's own cables. The downside is the price: You have to pay almost 50 euros for an official HDMI adapter that you can connect to the Lightning connector of an iPad (a 30-pin version is available for older iPads).
There are also adapters that are not produced by Apple and that makes a huge difference in price. You can buy such an adapter for just over a tenner. Keep in mind that these adapters may not work as well as the official ones from Apple. Therefore, before purchasing, do some research about the adapter you want to buy.
It's great to be able to beam video straight from a tablet to your TV. The good thing about Android is that there are multiple ways to do this. Miracast is a wireless standard that creates an ad hoc network between two devices, usually your tablet and a set-top box that supports Micracast.
An increasing number of TVs support Micracast without the need for additional hardware. Miracast uses H.264 for video transmission, which means efficient compression and good full-HD image quality. Better yet, Miracast supports DRM (Digital Rights Management), meaning services like iPlayer and YouTube can be streamed to a TV. But not all services work. Android devices with Android 4.2 have Miracast support.
An alternative is Google's Chromecast. You can plug this cheap dongle into an unused HDMI port on your TV, and it connects to your wireless network. Chromecast support is becoming more ubiquitous, allowing content from services like iPlayer, Netflix, etc. to be played with the Chromecast while the dongle does all the work instead of your tablet, which is good news for your battery life.
Since July 2014 it is also possible to use Chromecast to mirror the display on your Android device, allowing you to press Play on your tablet and play (DRM-free) video on your TV. The same goes for anything the screen can display, including apps, games, and photos.
Apple users again have a simpler, but more expensive solution. The iPad and iPhone don't support any open streaming standards, so you'll need to purchase an Apple TV (around $160). It supports AirPlay mirroring from iOS devices only, and like Chromecast, it offers several streaming services including Netflix.
Make it work
Streaming video from your smartphone or tablet to your TV will depend on the setup you've chosen. If you're using a physical connection, such as HDMI, MHL or SlimPort, the content on your tablet's display will simply appear on your TV once everything is connected.
This is simple, but there are some drawbacks. Your tablet only sends a signal when the screen is on. This means your battery will drain quickly, so chances are you'll have to plug in the charger to make sure it doesn't run out during the show.
If your tablet has video that you supplied yourself, in the form of DRM-free files, you can use mirroring just fine, and the same goes for commercial services such as Netflix, ITV Player and iPlayer. But it's not all rosy. Content providers know that consumers will pay extra for the convenience of streaming TV series around the house.
If you're going wireless, Miracast is currently the best option for display mirroring, as it simply transmits the content on your Android device's screen wirelessly. So when you open a photo on your tablet's screen, it appears on your TV - just like with a physical connection like HDMI. The same goes for many apps: BBC's iPlayer, YouTube and Vimeo all work via Miracast.
The downside of Miracast is the same as with a cable connection: your tablet's screen has to be on all the time for it to work. That, combined with higher demands on your device's wireless radio (especially if you're streaming from the internet at the same time), can leave you with a much shorter battery life.