Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter vs Google Chromecast

chromecast

MicrosoftDongle

On September 24th, I pre ordered the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter from the Microsoft Store. (estimated availability date was October 30th) Microsoft, for some strange reason, has not spent a lot of time and money promoting this device.

For those of you who have never heard of it, the Microsoft Wireless display adapter is Microsoft’s answer to Google’s Chromecast. This little dongle features Miracast technology and complies with 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz 802.11n wireless standards, so you can easily mirror content from your compatible device on an HDTV or monitor.

The box came equipped with…

  • Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter
  • 7.1″ HDMI extension cable
  • Owner’s manual

Setup was a breeze, simply connect  the Microsoft Wireless Display adapter to the HDMI port on the TV and an available usb port for power.  Setup on my HP ProBook and my Surface Pro 2 was also a breeze.  Simply type “Device Settings” in the search box, select “Device Settings” and click “Add Device”.  Windows will detect the dongle and add a new entry to the “Projectors” category called MicrosoftDisplayAdapter_43

The picture quality is decent and for the first time, I have a device that also enables me to project the display on my Nokia Lumia 1520.  This is a big deal for me since neither of my former Windows Phones (Lumia 920 and Lumia 1020) worked with various bluetooth accessories over the years.

System Requirements

All Miracast® enabled Windows 8.1 tablets/laptops/phones and Android devices with 4.2.1 and later. Internet access not required for use.

Note: ensure the latest Windows updates are installed

Miracast® enabled Android devices 4.2.1 and later

Full functionality not available with non HDCP devices.

Not compatible with Surface RT

Cost

Chromecast = $35.00

Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter $55.00

Ease of setup

Last Christmas, my son bought me the Chromecast dongle.  I installed the Chromecast software on my old HP laptop running Windows 7 pro without any difficulty, but it would never successfully communicate with my HP ProBook or my Surface Pro 2 running Windows 8.1.  After many failed attempts, I packed it up and stuffed it into my computer bag.

The Microsoft dongle connected with ease and without fail, to ALL of my devises.  I would highly recommend to all of my family, friends and customers looking for a wireless solution to project a project, picture or even a movie from their Windows laptop to their TV, to spend the extra $20.00 for a hassle free experience.

Unboxing the Surface Pro 2

Last week I purchased the Surface Pro 2 along with the Type 2 keyboard. (See Specs below)  I heard rumors that Microsoft was going to announce a Surface Pro Mini but I didn’t want a tablet with anything less than a 10.6″ screen.  I couldn’t wait for it to arrive so I could set it up just the way I like it and start using it.  The packaging was simple and minimalist, sure to please all the environmentalist out there.

The Surface Pro 2 weighs two pounds and feels very solid. It’s small enough to carry like a book or share space with my laptop in the same bag and large enough to comfortably get some work done or surf the Web comfortably.

The power cord has a built-in USB slot to charge your cell phone or another electronic device while plugged into the outlet.  The other end connects magnetically to the right side of the Surface.  The magnetic connection is a great idea, especially in high traffic areas where the threat of someone tripping on the cord is a possibility.  After a full charge, the battery lasts a respectable 8 plus hours.

I purchased the Type 2 keyboard because I spend countless hours programming, so to me, it’s imperative that it feels like a traditional keyboard.  The keyboard attached as seamless as advertised and when closed, it provides a layer of protection for the touch screen when not in use.

After pressing the power button I was greeted with a screen asking me to enter or create a Microsoft account.  I have a Microsoft account  for my HP ProBook 4540s running Windows 8.1 so I entered it and waited for Windows to complete the setup process.  I was pleasantly surprised to find my desktop and settings were setup exactly the way I have it on my laptop.  All of my apps were there and some required installing which took only a few minutes.

The screen is beautiful, the colors are vivid and the sensitivity of the tough screen is perfect.  The Surface Pro 2 is very responsive whether you’re using an attachable keyboard or the OnScreen Keyboard.  Windows 8.1 makes perfect sense on a touch screen vs the clunky feel that I reported in previous blogs.

The Surface Pro 2 also came with a pen that Microsoft claims to be paired to your specific tablet, right out of the box.  To test this, I opened Fresh Paint and decided to dabble with a few samples that were provided.  I was very impressed with the results.  It has the same length and feel of a ball point pen.  I adapted to it immediately.  For the left handed users out there, myself included, Microsoft has us covered too.  Simply click on the Search charm and type “Hand” then select search result “select which hand you write with” and change the default to Left Handed.

The Bluetooth 4.0 Technology, made connecting my Bluetooth Microsoft Wedge Mouse and my Logitech K810 Bluetooth keyboard effortless.

The volume rocker button feels solid and is conveniently located, on the upper left side of the device and the sound quality from the front facing speakers are very good.  The one and only USB 3.0 port is also located on the left side.

The right side facilitates a Micro SD port, the magnetic power connection and an HD Video Out Port.  (HDMI Cable and adaptor sold separately)

The front and rear are equipped with dual 720p webcams for Skype or taking pictures.  The 720p takes good quality photos even in low light situations.

From the moment I pressed the power button on the top right corner, till the “Logon Screen” appeared, took exactly 5 seconds.  To go from the “Logon Screen” to a fully loaded “Desktop”, ready to rock and roll, took 5 seconds respectively.  The shutdown process took exactly 10 seconds from selecting “Shut Down” till the lighted keyboard turned off.  In comparison, performing the same test on my laptop from the “Power Button” to the Logon Screen” took 16 seconds and from the “Logon Screen” to a fully loaded “Desktop”, ready to rock and roll, took 45 seconds respectively.  That’s a full 51 seconds longer than the Surface Pro 2.  With that said, if I want to surf the Web or check my email, I tend to grab the Surface rather than fire up my laptop.

I would highly recommend the Surface Pro 2 to anyone who is looking for a tablet that can truly replace your laptop computer.

Specs

  • 4th Generation Intel Core i5 CPU and 8GB RAM; performs superbly to manage all of your workloads
  • 256GB Storage; stores plenty of files
  • 10.6-inch Full HD 10-point Multi-Touch Display; ensures vibrant visuals and responsive touch functionality
  • Wi-Fi technology; allows stable wireless networking experience
  • Dual 720p webcams; offers instant image and video captures
  • HD Video Out Port; integrates to a bigger screen
  • USB port and Bluetooth 4.0 Technology; ensures clutter-free connections with wireless mice and headsets
  • Dual 2 x 2 MIMO Antennas; allows reliable Internet connections

Logitech Ultrathin Touch Mouse T630 Review

J.A. Watson from ZDNet wrote a report on his experience with the new Ultrathin Touch Mouse T630 by Logitech.  In his review he wrote “As with essentially all Logitech products I have tried, I highly recommend this one.”  After reading his article, I was compelled to hop on over to Amazon’s Website and .check price and availability as well as the specs and reviews.  The specs on the T630 were impressive…

  • Designed for Ultrabooks: Brushed metallic body and silky-smooth touch surface perfectly compliment the sleek look of your Ultrabook
  • Ultra-portable: Super-thin design slips easily into a computer sleeve or the pocket of your jeans
  • Windows 8 touch gesture support: Simplifies touch navigation with natural, intuitive gestures (also works with Windows 7)
  • Bluetooth wireless pairs multiple devices: Connects to your Ultrabook, tablet and desktop PC with easy switching between devices
  • Charge over USB: No battery hassles. Just 1 minute of charge time powers your mouse for an hour. (Based on typical user experience. Your results may vary.)

The customer reviews gave the Logitech T630 a four star rating and the $55.22 price tag along with free shipping clinched the deal.  I took delivery of the T630 today and I couldn’t wait to start using it.  I have been using the Microsoft ARC Touch Mouse for almost a year now and I have been very pleased with size and function, but the thought of ditching the dongle (Plug-and-go Nano Transceiver) for total Bluetooth connectivity experience excites me.  The T630 supports two Bluetooth channels, enabling me to use it with my Bluetooth enabled desktop computer as well.  This little device perfectly compliments my Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard K810 making me truly wireless!

Windows 8.1 and the T630 connected as you would expect from a Logitech device.  After my laptop connect to the mouse, I went to http://www.logitech.com/en-us/support/ultrathin-touch-mouse-t630 to download “Setpoint”.  Setpoint provides smooth scrolling and gesture support for Logitech touch products to enhance your navigation experience.  As you would expect, this went without a hitch.  A restart was required and a splash screen appeared with a link to register your new device along with taking a short survey.  I always register my devices and I’ve taken the survey when registering other Logitech products, so I knew it would only take thirty seconds to complete.

Okay, so after six hours of using the T630 I have to say I like it.  I’m reminded of the days when I used to use a Mac.  There are no visible buttons on top but you still have the functionality of a two button mouse just by pressing on the left side or the right side of the singular surface.  One feature I didn’t want to give up that the Microsoft ARC Touch Mouse supported was the ability to rapidly scroll Websites just by double tapping on the arch of the mouse.  I was pleased to discover that this simple looking mouse offers the same feature simply by pressing straight down on the center of the mouse.

The small profile makes it extremely portable and Logitech claims the expected battery life is ten days on a full 1.5 hour charge.  On the other hand, the small profile can make it somewhat uncomfortable for a person with a medium to large size hand over an extended period of use.  Although it is lightweight it feels solid in your hand.  The switches on the bottom feel solid when powering on and off and switching from channel one to channel two.  I have to agree with J.A Watson “As with essentially all Logitech products I have tried, I highly recommend this one.”

Windows 8.1…from a users perspective

Many of my customers ask my advise before buying their next computer.  My advise is based on a how they use their current computer and their future needs.  Some of my customers use their computer just to check email and surf the Web, others use their computers for work related functions such as documents and spreadsheets.  My first question is “Are you looking for a desktop, laptop or a tablet?”  If the customer is looking for a desktop replacement and they don’t have a touch screen, then I would recommend Windows 7, but if a customer is looking for a touch screen laptop or a tablet, then Windows 8.1 would make sense.

I’ve used Windows 8 since it became available as a public beta.  Windows 8.1 is a major improvement to the initial release of Windows 8.0, but the experience on a non-touch screen device versus a touch screen device is like night and day.  I use a laptop for my business projects and I spend a majority of my time programming, so a touch screen computer or tablet is useless to me.  Using Windows 8.1 on a non-touch screen device is a bit…well…clunky.  Steps that previously required two clicks of the mouse now takes three, ie shutting down from the Windows Start button or from the “Charms” bar.

Recently, one of my customers sold her house and moved to the Carolina’s.  Before moving, she wanted to buy a laptop or tablet so she wouldn’t have to be chained to her desk when she wanted to go online.  I was concerned to promote Windows new OS for a few reasons…

  • New OS…most of my senior customers do not like change.  Their philosophy, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
  • Her computer skills are limited
  • Windows 8.1 is radically different from the Windows XP experience that she was used to

As a service to all of my customers, I offered to go with her to Best Buy so she could hold a laptop and tablet in her hands.  I pointed out considerations such a weight, screen size, battery life etc.  After kicking the tires on just about every laptop and tablet they had on display, she decided she wanted the functionality of a full size keyboard that a laptop has to offer when she needs to type a letter and the convenience of a tablet when she just wanted to check her email and surf the Web.  With that said, she purchased the HP Envy x2 that sports a laptop and a tablet all in one.

After setting up the hybrid computer for her specific needs, I was surprised to watch her get around with ease even though she had never been exposed to the new OS.  I decided to kick the tires myself on this touch screen experience.  What I discovered was adapting to Windows 8.1 is less about the age of the user and more about the device they were using it on.  

As more of my customers make the switch to the new OS and devices continue to develop, I will continue to report my findings and their experiences in a future blog.

Windows 8…from an installers perspective

As a computer service company, I have installed Windows on various computers since 2001.  When a reinstall is necessary due to a hard drive failure or upgrade, I can usually count on the customer telling me that they don’t have the restoration CD/DVD’s.  As time went on and PC’s became cheaper and cheaper, new computers, accompanied with physical restoration CD/DVD’s, became a thing of the past.  With that said, I always bring my laptop with me so I could download the OS (operating system) and adjacent drivers from the manufacturer’s Website.

Recently, I have installed Windows 8 on a number of various laptops and desktops from ASUS, Dell, HP and Generic brands alike.  What I’ve experienced during each of these installs, was that my laptop was no longer required to get the job done.  Windows 8, from an installation perspective, just works!  After installing Windows 8, I was able to connect to the Internet and register the product without the need to hunt down drivers for the Ethernet card.  Along with installing the correct Ethernet drivers, Windows 8 installed the proper sound, video, mouse and keyboard drivers as well.  In each and every installation, Windows 8 also installed the correct drivers for the various brands of wired and wireless printers and scanners.

What about Bluetooth connections?  Although my customers Bluetooth devices are limited, my personal collection of Bluetooth connected devices have worked with two notable exceptions.  Since I upgraded from Windows 8 Pro to Windows 8.1 Pro on my laptop and upgraded to Amber on my Nokia Lumia 920, the two devices can no longer communicate with each other via Bluetooth.  This is not a deal breaker because Microsoft Skydrive keeps my files and pictures on the two devices synced at all times.  The second device was a Logitech K810 Keyboard.  Although it works well on my laptop, it doesn’t work with my Nokia Lumia 920.  It’s only fair to mention that when I purchased this particular keyboard, Logitech clearly stated that it does not work with the Nokia Lumia 920.

As time goes on and more customers upgrade to Windows 8.1, my installation experience may change so stay tuned for future blogs.

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