Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter v2 promises less latency

Microsoft has been busy at work with its Surface lineup and accessories. Today, the company is releasing a new version of its Wireless Display Adapter, a Miracast-enabled HDMI dongle meant to make it easy to pair a mobile device with an external screen.

The company says the previous version of the Wireless Display Adapter was a big hit with users in cases like using a hotel's TV as a laptop screen, streaming movies directly to a TV, or using overhead projectors with a minimum of fuss. The adapter's simplicity certainly helps: connect one end to an HDMI port and the other to a USB port, and that's it.

Microsoft says the Wireless Display Adapter v2 has better latency than its predecessor and carries an Intel WiDi certification badge. The adapter can be paired with multiple devices (though not all at once), and it can work at distances up to 23' (or seven meters).

Only HDCP-compliant devices running Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 are supported by this dongle. Predictably, MS touts the adapter as an ideal companion to one of its Surface convertibles or phones running Windows 10. The dongle will arrive in March for a reasonable $50. Preorders are up at Best Buy and the Microsoft Store.

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    • Jfs620
    • 4 years ago

    Had to return samsung galaxy s6 edge and downgrade to s5 due to s6 has no hdmi/mhl. Then update firmware on MSWA website. Adapter works good streams fine picture quality is not 100% and darker on tv. Brightness settings had no effect.

    • meerkt
    • 4 years ago

    What’s Intel WiDi certification?

    Maybe I’m missing details, but as far as I could figure out WiDi was a pre-Miracast Intel tech. Once Miracast started becoming common Intel switched to it. They still call their Win <= 7 software WiDi, but it’s not needed in Win >= 8 which support Miracast natively (even if apparently poorly, at least in 8.1).

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 4 years ago

      You need WiDi hardware to use Miracast software. I have an old laptop that can’t use Miracast even though the software supports it.

        • meerkt
        • 4 years ago

        Miracast is part of the WiFi standards and uses WiFi as transport. You do need hardware/drivers that support it, but it’s not WiDi hardware which was an Intel-specific hardware/standard, and which is incompatible with Miracast.

        What I understand is that Intel’s WiDi [i<]software[/i<] started also supporting Miracast at some point, and maybe nowadays that's all it does. Anyway I don't think Intel's WiDi software is needed, or is compatible, with Win8 and later.

      • Andrew Lauritzen
      • 4 years ago

      It’s complicated, and I won’t claim to be an expert but I’ll point out from experience that there’s still in the Intel WiDi solutions that isn’t supported with general miracast devices. Most importantly, there was a much lower latency mode that only worked with a Intel WiDi supporting receiver. No idea on the technical details there but I’m guessing it bypassed certain portions of the encoding stack or similar. May or may not be related to Microsoft’s claim of lower latency with this version.

        • meerkt
        • 4 years ago

        There are various non-Miracast hardware devices in the wild, including Intel’s, which may work better. But AFAIK their wireless transport is not Miracast/WiFi-compatible.

        I didn’t have problems with Miracast latency, it’s not like I’d be playing games on that. The problems I had were image quality, and difficulty in setting up and establishing a connection.

          • Andrew Lauritzen
          • 4 years ago

          Yeah file those issues simultaneously under “WiFi is inappropriate for this sort of data” (60Ghz WiDi much better) and “too much software trying to fix that underlying fact” IMO 🙂

            • meerkt
            • 4 years ago

            It shouldn’t be difficult to send 10-20Mbps on 802.11n over 2-3m line-of-sight. So I blame the sending software (though maybe can’t rule out completely some receiver software limitations).

            Looking at it superficially, I think it shouldn’t be that difficult to compress on the fly, and efficiently enough, mostly-static frames and with a high dosage of flat areas. I don’t know what’s a typical frame latency for normal H264 encoders, but at least realtime encoding from games manages to keep up, and typically using a limited CPU budget.

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 4 years ago

            10-20mbit absolutely still requires compression though, hence the complexity. There’s a tradeoff in compression latency and quality/bit rate too of course. Latency is indeed the rub here – no 2 pass or other niceness.

            It can be better than it is certainly, and I don’t know which version of it you ended up testing. See Steam streaming for instance which doesn’t do anything particularly fancy. That said, you still notice compression artifacts there too.

            • meerkt
            • 4 years ago

            Compression isn’t inherently a bad idea. I think sending uncompressed, even when it becomes possible, would be more susceptible to problems because it would push the channel limits much more. It would also preclude 4K in the near future.

            BTW, if you by “version” you meant of the Microsoft Display Adapter, I didn’t try it at all. My Miracast experience was with the hardware/software mentioned in the other comments thread: HD 4000 and Win 8.1.

    • meerkt
    • 4 years ago

    I haven’t tried the Microsoft adapter, but I did try Miracast from a notebook with Intel hardware (HD4000 and NIC), using Win8’s native support, sent to a TV that supports it natively.

    There’s a periodic jump in detail every second or two, whenever a new keyframe it sent. It’s similar to very old Divx/Xvid videos. This is especially visible on static content with details, like photo viewing.

    I think the problem is the software on the sending side. I wish they’d offered control over the compression settings. It would also benefit if it acted lossless whenever the content is static or with little change between frames.

    I assume it can work well even within the existing standard, but with the implementation I have here I don’t bother.

    And BTW, establishing a connection is difficult and flaky.

    • ryko
    • 4 years ago

    anybody else find it funny that it is a “wireless” display adapter that is essentially a wire?

      • Anomymous Gerbil
      • 4 years ago

      Huh?

        • the
        • 4 years ago

        The HDMI port is connected to the USB port by a wire. Both ends plug into the same device with the USB end presumably for power.

        [url=http://az648995.vo.msecnd.net/devices/2016/02/WDA_v2_back_of_TV_blog.jpg<]See this picture.[/url<]

          • Anomymous Gerbil
          • 4 years ago

          Exactly. I think ryko thinks the USB end goes into the “transmitting” device, not just acting as a power source.

            • ryko
            • 4 years ago

            umm, no…i understand how this device and similar devices work. i just thought it was funny that it is a wireless device that is a wire. irony here people. the picture juxtaposed with the headline is what did it for me. was just trying to interject some levity that is all. probably should have used the old <sarcasm> tags.

    • UberGerbil
    • 4 years ago

    Presumably this is superior to a Chromecast in that, unlike Google’s offering, it does [i<]not[/i<] require a working connection to the internet to be something other than inert silicon.

      • Anomymous Gerbil
      • 4 years ago

      They’re completely different use cases, aren’t they?

        • UberGerbil
        • 4 years ago

        No, they overlap. I’ve actually used a Chromecast for precisely both of [quote<]streaming movies directly to a TV, or using overhead projectors with a minimum of fuss.[/quote<]In fact the former is most of what I've used a Chromecast for; in the latter, the projector in question wasn't overhead, but it wasn't reachable because the laptop had to be tethered to the sound system by a too-short audio cord.

          • Anomymous Gerbil
          • 4 years ago

          Ah yes, I’d forgotten about that aspect of the Chromecast.

      • Andrew Lauritzen
      • 4 years ago

      In my experience if you actually need to project something from your device, these – while hardly robust and problem free – are the best current solutions other than the 60Ghz WiDi/docking stuff.

      If you’re trying to view some internet content, chromecast or similar “just use your device as a remote” solutions are vastly superior, especially for video.

        • UberGerbil
        • 4 years ago

        The thing is, I already have a Chromecast; I don’t have a WiDi dongle. And in the case of hooking up to the projector, the laptop was a Mac (not mine) and I don’t think they support WiDi/Miracast at all, do they? At least, not without a separate dongle of their own. So when the question is “two pieces of equipment I don’t own” vs “one that I do”…

        But it annoyed the hell out of me that I had to set up my phone as a WiFi hotspot just so the Chromecast would actually work, even though we were doing exactly zero with the internet.

        I’ve actually had really spotty results using the Chromecast for streaming internet content. Youtube is fine; Netflix was a slideshow. Local content on the LAN via Wifi was a hodgepodge, depending on what the file format was, and none of the Android video apps I’ve tried are 100% reliable. Nothing in the android ecosystem seems to crash / hang as frequently as VLC / ES Video Player / etc.

    • Chrispy_
    • 4 years ago

    My biggest problem with V1 was bandwidth, it’s only really usable for static or low-motion content 🙁

      • brucethemoose
      • 4 years ago

      You mean it compresses the video stream? Eww.

        • Chrispy_
        • 4 years ago

        Not only does V1 compress the video stream, it still couldn’t manage fluid framerates with the compressed stream at a distance of two feet.

          • DPete27
          • 4 years ago

          I’d call that a fail. How do products like that even make it to retail?

            • Chrispy_
            • 4 years ago

            Useful for presenting. Useful for showing photos on a TV from a phone, useful for anything that isn’t high-bandwidth basically.

            It’s even useful for TV’s or movies at a pinch, you just have to tolerate dropped frames and compression artifacts, but that really only rules out action movies. I’m sure dramas and sitcoms with static backgrounds would look much better.

            First thing I did with the V1 was load up the star wars trailer. Utter fail the whole way through – blocky and 10-15fps.

      • meerkt
      • 4 years ago

      Isn’t that a problem with the antenna configuration? Tech-wise it’s just WiFi.

        • Chrispy_
        • 4 years ago

        no, uncompressed 1080p 32-bit 60Hz is 475Mega[i<]bytes[/i<] a second of bandwith. A good Wireless-N can provides 450Megabits, so only one eight the bandwidth that 1080p60 needs A typical Wireless-AC can provide 1300Megabits, but it's still only a third of the bandwidth required. Video is [b<]really[/b<] bandwidth-intensive. I'm not sure if the V1's problems were bandwith-related, caused by encode/decode overhead or a bit of both, but it didn't work - hence why we have a better V2. As Andrew says below, what we really need is more bandwidth. "There's no replacement for displacement" etc.

          • meerkt
          • 4 years ago

          Miracast uses H264, not raw video. For 1920×1080 desktop uses, which are mostly static, you can get good quality at 10-20Mb, maybe less.

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 4 years ago

          You are wrong about what wireless connections can provide. That’s what they claim, but show me an actual real world result more than half those numbers.

      • Andrew Lauritzen
      • 4 years ago

      Yeah this is why I hope the 60Ghz stuff becomes more ubiquitous. It “just works”, is extremely low latency and doesn’t need to do any lossy compression (which also makes it more robust as there aren’t gobs of software and OS involved).

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