Thanks to a recent software update, Amazon’s inexpensive Fire TV Stick—an HDMI dongle that works as a sort of mini digital media set-top box—has improved its support for Miracast wireless display. This means that in addition to its normal functionality, you should be able to use Fire TV Stick to mirror the display on your Windows Phone, Windows PC or tablet, or Android device. But there’s just one problem.
And that problem is: it doesn’t work reliably.
On the Windows Phone handset I tried—my Lumia 930—I was able to mirror the display, but audio didn’t work. This means that you can’t play music or audiobooks, of course. But you also can’t hear the audio in videos, like the TV shows or movies in Xbox Video.
I also tried to test this with two Windows PCs, my Surface Pro 3 and another Windows 8.1-based laptop. In both cases, it successfully connected Fire TV Stick as a wireless display. But the video never worked, nor did the audio. According to one emailer, he was able to get video to work with Windows 8.1 but not audio.
As it turns out, there is another problem too.
And this one has been around since Amazon announced (but didn’t really deliver) Miracast support in Fire TV Stick when the device launched last fall. That is, Fire TV Stick doesn’t elegantly handle display casting. With other devices—Chromecast, Roku, Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter (which I use and recommend), and so on—the device just sits there waiting for a remote display request. But with Fire TV Stick, you have to first configure it for this use by navigating to Settings, Display & Sounds and then turning on remote display. That’s a silly and time-consuming extra step.
I asked Rafael Rivera about this—he’s done more testing of Miracast devices than anyone—and he told me that even if these issues get fixed, the Miracast performance of Fire TV Stick is so bad, you’ll be stuck with a very low resolution display (1024 x 768) or very bad latency, which renders the experience unusable. He’s published the results of his Miracast work in his post Raw: Wi-Fi Display dongles and associated latencies if you want to learn more. (The Fire TV Stick is by far the worst of the devices he’s tested from a performance standpoint.)
Which is all too bad. Because in my experience Fire TV Stick offers the best performance of the stick-type living room gadgets … as a standalone device. And it really is a great little standalone device, with access to Amazon’s services, of course, but also Roku, Hulu Plus an all the other major services.
But my position on Fire TV Stick for Miracast sadly, hasn’t changed: You’ll want a Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter—just $64 at Amazon.com—or another similar device instead.