A television, but please no TV
December 9, 2014 7:13 PM   Subscribe

We have one TV and several devices (Windows, IOS, laptops, tablets, phones). We have no cable service, no antenna, dish, no DVR, no VCR, etc., and we don't want them. We receive all the content we want on our devices, via broadband. We just want to play that content on our TV. Without wires. So ... we need hardware to pick up a wireless signal from our devices and transmit it, via a wire, to the TV. What hardware is that?
posted by LonnieK to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Google Chromecast seems like it fits the bill.
posted by akk2014 at 7:18 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

Hrm not sure you can beam to a TV. I have an hdmi cable running from Apple TV to TV. I get all iTunes content and can "mirror" iOS content via wireless to apple tv.

Other debices, Roku, chrome cast, windows computer I plug in via hdmi cable or USB.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:19 PM on December 9, 2014

Amazon fire stick.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:22 PM on December 9, 2014

Yeah, you want a Chromecast. That is what they do: beam stuff to a tv.

Amazon Fire TV Sticks are terrific, but they don't so much beam streaming sources from a third device as access Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, etc. on their own with onboard apps. You can put Plex or XBMC on them and beam local content to them that way from a desktop or laptop iof you like. The remote is nice and it makes for maybe the easiest solution to use, in terms of simplicity for non tech-oriented family members. If you check their list of apps and feel that and/or Plex/XBMC will cover you, that's your best bet.

Alternately, the Matchstick comes out early next year and is--supposedly--going to be like a Chromecast with a more open system, hopefully making for more supported apps and services.

FWIW, this is basically my hobby: streaming of home entertainment from various sources across various devices. I have ridiculous amounts of said devices, dating back ten years, including the Chromecast, the Firestick,the WD TV Live, a Tivo, smart TVs, a Matchstick on order, etc. I love this shit and you can ask me via MeMail if you want to know more.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:23 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, sorry... one more thing: all of the options discussed here so far use HDMI. If your tv isn't HDMI ready, get Western Digital's WDTV Live Plus, which can hook up via component cables.

If it would be helpful, I can also go on and on about UPnP/DLNA.

(Seriously... I'm like someone's dad if someone went into his garage and asked for advice on power tools or model trains. This is my nerdy person sweetspot.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:34 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yeah, you want a Chromecast. That is what they do: beam stuff to a tv.

Amazon Fire TV Sticks are terrific, but they don't so much beam stuff as access Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, etc. with onboard apps.

Chromecast actually also runs the apps onboard, but they're controlled and launched from the phone/tablet. Unless you're talking about screen mirroring, or using the Chrome app with Google Cast? It does both, really.

LonnieK, can you specify what kind of stuff you're wanting to play? Is it streaming apps like Amazon Prime, Netflix, HBOGo or is it files like mkv/avi/mp4? Letting us know specific services/filetypes might help us make a better recommendation. For example, the Chromecast only supports Amazon Prime streaming via a workaround, since Amazon has a competing product, but it can be controlled/streamed from Chrome Browser/Android/iOS. If you just wanted to use a computer, you could always try Wireless HDMI, but honestly the Chromecast is only $35 so it's probably the best route.
posted by JauntyFedora at 7:40 PM on December 9, 2014

ChromeCast, Roku and Amazon Fire TV all do this. Chromecast is cheap, but Roku and Amazon Fire TV come with little remotes, if you want that. They all offer different apps, like Amazon wants you to stream via Amazon Prime, for instance. Compare them.

If your TV is not HDMI though, you are going to need to use wires connecting it to your computer, mostly likely.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:44 PM on December 9, 2014

This is what we use our Chromecast for, both for streaming from YouTube (there are NetFlix and Hulu apps), and for mirroring screens (we have Nexus phones and tablets). You can also do photo slideshows and so on.

All you need is mobile device + WiFi + Chromecast + television with HDMI in.
posted by Nevin at 7:46 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing Chromecast - this is exactly what we use it for. Works pretty seamlessly and with minimal fiddling.
posted by rtha at 7:52 PM on December 9, 2014

Well, yeah, technically there are apps inside the Chromecast, too. But the experience of using them is less of using an integrated device and more of having a way to send stuff to your tv from apps you were already using. So it's less like using a new device and more like adding "send to tv" as a function of stuff you already had. There is the lack of Amazon Prime, yeah. The screencasting workaround sometimes makes for unsynced sound, so that's worth knowing.

At this point, the Chromecast offers the most ways to get the most kinds of stuff to your tv. At this point. There are multiple competitors including the Firefox-based Matchstick that are either out or coming soon that may eclipse it, though.

The Fire Stick is my favorite of all of the devices I own, but the caveat is: unless you're going to go the XBMC/Plex route, it's a limited ecosystem. If you do go that route, it opens things up considerably and I cannot sufficiently stress how helpful using a simple remote instead of a hodge podge of cell phone/tablet/PC apps can be when it comes to getting your family comfortable.

Unless your content comes entirely with the Apple Store and the short list of services supported by the device, do NOT get an Apple TV. It's a lovely, elegant device but it exists only to further your commercial relationship with Apple and its partners and offers less flexibility than any of its peers. It's also expensive.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:53 PM on December 9, 2014

We used an AppleTV 3 for almost a year for this kind of thing and never bought a single video from iTunes. The AirPlay "mirroring" stuff will receive video from an iOS device, a Mac, and I'm pretty sure there is a Windows-based server out there, too. I'd stream a movie via DLNA from my NAS onto my iPad, and then mirror it to the AppleTV. Efficient, it was not. But it worked astonishingly well. AppleTV wouldn't be my first choice - but I wouldn't rule it out, either.

The nature of the video content you're streaming may matter. Ie, AirPlay worked well for playing MP4 / M4V files off of disk - but would it work with the Amazon or HBOGO iPad apps? I don't know.

Currently I've got a Synology NAS running Plex through a Roku 3. It's far from perfect but the interface is pretty simple and the movie and television metadata makes my wife and kids happy. It's a pretty good solution for both streaming and file content. I know you didn't mention a NAS in your question, but you may want to consider it if you have lots of file content. It beats having to boot a PC whenever you want to watch television.
posted by doctor tough love at 11:50 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another vote for Chromecast here! Chromecast + Netflix + Plex = bliss in our household.
posted by nerdfish at 1:11 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love my Chromecast, but caveat emptor if you're a predominantly iOS family. The "remote control" experience is far, far better for a Chromecast on an Android device. In fact, I would probably buy a cheapo mini Android tablet to use as a dedicated remote, in your situation, if I didn't have an Android device already.
posted by telegraph at 6:16 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since you best-answered the answer about what to do if you don't have HDMI inputs, I'll just add that the old Roku 2 XS allows you to connect it to your TV via RCA cables, then stream basically anything to it. That link is to Amazon to buy it new but you can almost certainly find it cheaper on ebay since lots of people are selling theirs to upgrade. It should work great at CRT resolution.
posted by dialetheia at 8:28 AM on December 10, 2014

My LG smart tv does this without any additional hardware. It has Netflix, Amazon, youtube, and Hulu apps built in, and it also will mirror anything that is on the same wireless network that it is. So, if someone out there wants to go the new tv route, there's that to consider.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:59 AM on December 10, 2014

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