Google clearly landed on a fantastic formula when it built Chromecast, and that product's standout success has led other companies to push out their own HDMI dongles in recent months. Roku's got its $49.99 Streaming Stick, and now Microsoft is trying to create a worthy competitor with the brand new Wireless Display Adapter. No, names don't get much more generic than that. But Microsoft's device shares a lot in common with Chromecast. Its primary purpose is sending something you're viewing on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to the TV screen (or a projector, since Microsoft is also targeting business users here). It's also powered by USB, but unlike Chromecast, it looks like the USB cord is hardwired and can't be unplugged or replaced, Whereas Google's approach is based around the company's own Cast technology, Microsoft is relying on Miracast to make the Display Adapter work.
The protocol is picking up steam with plenty of Windows and Android hardware, and there are some significant benefits that come with choosing Miracast. First, individual apps don't need to bake in support as they would with Chromecast; if the device running an app has Miracast, it should work. Second, since Miracast is made possible by Wi-Fi Direct, there's no need for an actual internet connection. So Microsoft's Wireless Display Adapter should theoretically work when there's no web connectivity available or in hotel rooms where the connection may be awful. If there's one negative, it's that Microsoft isn't competing on price. The new adapter is $59.95. That's not quite double Chromecast's cost, but it's still significantly more expensive. The Wireless Display Adapter may be a hard sell for consumers when it's lined up next to Chromecast at Best Buy starting next month.