[German article]Windows 8.1 (like Android 4.2.2) supports Miracast on capable hardware. Till now Windows 8.1 was only able to stream to Miracast receivers. Now it's possible, to turn your Windows 8.1 machine (if hardware fits) into a Miracast receiver.
I still remember the question, raised in summer 2013 in Microsoft's Answers forums: "So, if upcoming Windows 8.1 supports Miracast, can I use my Surface Pro to receive a screen mirrored from another Windows 8.1 machine?". Well, that question was answered "No, that isn't possible". Windows 8.1 itself doesn't come with a "receiver application" for Miracast at all.
What is Miracast?
Miracast is a vendor independent standard to stream audio and video signals wireless from a Windows 8.1 machine or an Android 4.2.3 device to Miracast receivers. But there is a mandatory hardware support for for Miracast. See this wikipedia article and this Microsoft article for further reading.
Within my (German) blog I've tested many Miracast receiver and also several Windows 8.1 and Android 4.x devices as Miracast sender. A link list (to my German blog articles) is available in the following article.
Is Windows 8.1 capable to act as a Miracast receiver?
If hardware supports Miracast, can we use a Windows 8.1 machine as a Miracast receiver? This question was on my agenda since August 2013. Till August 2014 the answer was always "no chance, Windows 8.1 doesn't support Miracast as a receiver".
Miracast Receive – exposes a set of Wi-Fi direct APIs for Independent Hardware Vendor (IHV) drivers or OEM drivers to develop Windows 32-bit applications that run on all supported x86-based or x64-based versions of Windows 8.1, enabling the computer as a Miracast receiver.
Obviously the message was "Microsoft had no plans, to release a Miracast application" – but they added some APIs to allow third party developers enables a Windows 8.1 machine as a Miracast receiver. Since August 2014 I searched the web from time to time for hints of upcoming solutions – till now without success at all.
But last weekend everything changed. I was searching the web for another topics (to prepare an article about mirroring Android screens to Windows desktop) – and on page 2 of Google`s search results I stumbled upon this article.
AirServer Universal: Turns your Windows 8.1 machine into a Miracast receiver
Well, on October 31st, 2014, App Dynamics released AirServer Version 3.0.12. AirServer was known to me as an AirPlay receiver for Windows (see Windows per AirServer als AirPlay-Empfänger nutzen). The new 3.x version of this program was rebranded as AirServer Universal. The PC version supports now – beside AirPlay (Apple) – also Miracast on capable Windows 8.1 machines.
App Dynamics developed this extension in cooperation with Intel and Microsoft, to enable Windows 8.1 as a universal mirroring receiver for AirPlay and Miracast. With AirServer Universal you might be able to use a Windows 8.1 machine to show the screens of AirPlay iOS devices (iPhone, iPad) and Miracast devices (Android, Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1) streamed wireless to this Windows machine.
AirServer Universal is available here as a 7 day trial and will be licensed for educational purpopses (8 to 12 US $), for private use (14 $) and for business use (20 $). I've tested it on my Windows 8.1 machine during weekend. The requirements for a Windows 8.1 machine are:
- The new AirServer Universal can be installed on Windows 8.1 based PC/tablets with latest updates (Windows 8.1 August 2014 Update Rollup is mandatory)
- The WiFi adapter used on such a machine need Windows 8.1 specific NDIS 6.4 drivers.
This allows many Windows 8.1 machines, including the following:
- Surface Pro
- Surface Pro 2
- Surface Pro 3
- Intel 7260 based machines
as Miracast receivers. I have used a Akoya S6214T Windows 8.1 Tablet (convertible), that was sold here in Germany by Medion (a Lenovo subsidary). My test scenarios was:
- Run my Akoya S6214T with Windows 8.1 Update and AirPlay Universal Version 3.0.15 as Miracast receiver.
- Use a Akoya P2214T Windows 8.1 Slate as Miracast source
- Use an Android 4.4.4 Nexus 4 Smartphone, an Android 4.4.4 Nexus 7 (2013) Tablet and a Samsung Galaxy S4 with Android 4.4.2 as Miracast source .
Installing AirServer Univeral on my 64-Bit-Windows 8.1 machine was no issue. A setup wizard guided me through the install steps. Here I was asked in a custom setup to select the functionality.
AirPlay was de-selected – which is a good choice. This means, you haven't AirPlay support, but it also means, you haven't to install Bonjour protocol (via iTunes). I always avoid to install iTunes or Bonjour on my productive Windows machines. Missing Bonjour will result in this warning, each time AirServer Universal launches.
But it's easy to close this warning. If somebody use a 7-day-trial, this dialog box is also shown, asking for a key and offering to buy.
Entering a valid license key will hide this dialog box on further program starts. AirServer Universal sits in your taskbars tray – a right click on that icon opens a context menu.
Here are the Settings-page of AirServer Universal, which provides several settings tabs.
As you can see, it's possible to enable AirPlay and/or Miracast as separat services. If a micracast devices tries to connect to AirServer Universal, a popup will be shown in taskbar.
I was able to connect two machines with Windows 8.1 Update without any problem. Here are the two machines (receiver in background, source is a tablet pc in foreground).
Seems genius, and it is genius – you are able to mirror your Windows 8.1 screen with audio and video to a 2nd Windows 8.1 machine. But there are a few pitfalls, as far as I've seen during my tests.
- I wasn't successful to connect my Android devices (Nexus 4, Nexus 7 (2013), Samsung Galaxy S4) with my Windows 8.1 machine running AirServer Universal. The best what I received, was a message on my Windows 8.1 screen, to type a security code 5555 5555 on my Android device. But I wasn't able to type anything on my Android device, because there was only a Android screen informing me about waiting to connect. I noticed this mis-fit during several Miracast HDMI-receiver tests last year (since then, most vendors updated their firmware, so that I was successful to connect my Android devices to these Miracast HDMI receivers).
- And during my streaming tests, using a Windows 8.1 machine as source, I've have had each 3 – 4 seconds terrible artefacts on my reciver (as it may be seen in the image below). These flaws are also present, even there was a static screen on my source machine. Streaming a screen with a Youtube video results in video artefacts and also audio stutter.
Although I'm not sure, to blame my hardware for these issues, my feeling is, that it's a software bug (either in AirServer Universal or in Microsoft's API routines). Wi-Fi direct hardware should be fast enough to transport all data (I've never had problems, using this machine as a streaming source for a Miracast HDMI-receiver like a Netgear Push2TV PTV 3000). I tried also to change AirServer Universal settings (I enabled slow network connection option and set the streaming buffer up to 1 second). The artefacts occurs every 3-4 seconds. I also enabled frame rate view – and during tests I recognized, that AirServer Universal receives 59 or 60 frames per second – there was no frame drops.
My conclusion: While AirServer is genius as a AirPlay receiver, I feel, that the developers (or Microsoft) needs to invest further time for improvements. It's partial genius, to have a solution, that enables me to use my Windows 8.1 machines as a Miracast receiver. But in practice I need to be able to connect Android devices as well – and AirServer Universal needs improvement in audio- and video quality. So at least I'm eager to see, what the guys in Island will present in future updates. I guess, AirServer Universal has a great potential to be a great piece of software for streaming enthusiasts.