The Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter does exactly what its utilitarian name says. It provides a way to sling your screen (with audio) from a computer or Android device to a TV. The adapter is attached to your TV or projector using HDMI and is powered by USB. Otherwise, the device does nothing else. It has no apps of its own and requires a source device to be of any use.
This adapter uses Miracast, a technology which uses Wi-Fi Direct to communicate between devices. What this means is your PC and the adapter don't have to communicate through a common router, instead they create a peer-to-peer network. That might not sound like a big deal, but considering its diminutive size, the Wireless Display Adapter is pocketable and can easily be brought from the conference room to the hotel room.
At $59 in the US (international availability has not been announced, but UK and Australian pricing converts to about £40 or AU$70, respectively), Microsoft has some tough competition with similar devices such as the $35, £30, AU$50, and any number of Roku boxes, including the available for $50 or £50. However, thanks to its Miracast integration and Microsoft's push to pair this device with the Surface Pro line of tablets, the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter may have a place in your travel bag.
Design and features
The Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter is an unassuming rectangular device, similar to a USB stick. It's 3.5 inches (9cm) in length and weighs 1.2 ounces (33.1g). It has one HDMI connector and a short USB cable that is permanently attached to the body of the device. The adapter uses the USB for power. If your TV does not have a powered USB port (or one that is nearby), you'll need to get a USB extension cord and a USB power supply. Microsoft does not include those in the box. However, you do get a small HDMI extension cable included in case you need it.
Relatively painless setup
Hooking up the Wireless Display Adapter is pretty simple. Plug it into an HDMI port on your TV or receiver, then plug in the USB for power. Go to the matching HDMI input on your TV and you'll see a gray screen and a Microsoft logo with the name of your Display Adapter and a "Ready to connect" message.
The adapter currently supports Miracast-enabled Windows 8.1 devices such as the line and Android devices running 4.4 that have Miracast capabilities such as the phone or tablet (2013).
For a Windows PC, you'll have to make sure your OS is up to date and then add a wireless display by activating the charms bar on the right edge, selecting Devices > Project > Add a wireless display. On Android, you'd go to Settings > Display > Cast screen, then hit the menu icon and enable wireless display.
It's connected, now what?
The Wireless Display Adapter is just that -- an adapter. It doesn't do anything on its own other than wait for something to send it content. It can display content up to 1,920x1,080 and outputs audio at two-channel stereo and 5.1 surround sound.