First impressions: Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter (2nd edition)

Microsoft released their original version of this hardware back in 2014.  The reviews were pretty mixed, with complaints about latency and connectivity.  They released a new version of the Wireless Display Adapter earlier this year, and recently I put a couple of them to the test.

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The Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter v2.

Most people are going to find these useful when it comes to connecting to a TV or projector without a cable.  They support a distance of close to 25 feet and provide a feasible solution for a quick and easy video connection.  I wanted to try something a little different with my setup; I didn’t need them to plug-in to a TV, rather I wanted to add a couple of monitors to my existing Dell XPS27 AIO configuration.  Although the XPS27 provides an HDMI out, this was a chance to add a monitor wirelessly.  As I thought about the type of configuration where I wanted to extend the number of monitors I wondered:

  1. Will I have display options other than “mirror”?
  2. Can I use the wireless display adapter to span my desktop to that additional screen (or more)?
  3. How many wireless digital adapters can I connect to from a single source?
  4. What happens when I try to connect to a wireless display adapter that is already connected to a different source?

Setup & configuration

The unboxing of this device is pretty uneventful.  The contents are simple … a dongle and a USB extension cable.  The dongle is a cable with an HDMI connection on one end and a USB connection on the other.  The dongle uses the USB connection for power.  In most scenarios like a TV or projector, you’re most likely going to have a USB port that you can draw power from.  In my scenarios where I was using the dongle with a 24” monitor, the only connection ports were HDMI, VGA, and VDI.  My monitor was close enough to a powered USB 3.0 hub that I plugged it into that which was enough to provide the needed power, then I plugged the HDMI end into my monitor’s “HDMI1” port.

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The Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter app is available for free in the Windows Store.

The monitor came to life with the Microsoft logo as the dongle “booted”.  When it was ready, it gave me a few onscreen steps to follow to connect to the wireless display adapter, along with the adapter’s name.

Reading through the tiny little instruction manual, I decided to download the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter app from the Windows Store.  The app isn’t required, but it does provide you the means to be able to do firmware updates on the adapter, change the name of the display adapter, and configure settings like a connection passcode and a few other options.  Once the app was installed and I launched it, I followed the steps to try to make the wireless display connection to the adapter.  To my surprise, it connected almost immediately and defaulted to “extend” mode which extended the desktop from the AIO display to my monitor with the wireless display adapter installed.  The app at that time also told me that there was a new firmware update available for the dongle, so it downloaded it and prepared for installation.  The firmware update takes a minute or two, disconnects, and then reboots.

Keep in mind that the latest version of the firmware has been updated for Windows 10 Anniversary Edition.  I should also mention that the wireless display adapter requires that you’re at least running Windows 8.1, but I’d venture a guess that your experience is going to be much better with the latest and greatest.

Connecting a display

Microsoft has made connecting to wireless displays in general a simple maneuver in Windows 10.  Projecting to another screen via a wireless display adapter is as easy as using the Windows 10 Action Center and then clicking on the “Project” shortcut.

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Then click “Connect to a wireless display”.

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You’ll see the wireless display adapter in the list.

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Select it and it will start the connection process.

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Disconnecting a display is just as easy.  Follow the same process, but in Step 2, you’ll see “Disconnect” as an option.

Answering the questions

  1. Q: Will I have display options other than “mirror”?
    A: You’ll have the same options as you would with a monitor: duplicate, extend, and second screen only.
  2. Q: Can I use the wireless display adapter to span my desktop to that additional screen (or more)?
    A: Yes, by default when I connected to the wireless display adapter, it was in Extend mode, making the monitor with the wireless display adapter a secondary display.
  3. Q: How many wireless digital adapters can I connect to from a single source?
    A: Windows 10 only supports connecting to a single wireless display adapter.  Attempts to connect to more than one will force you to disconnect from the first adapter.
  4. Q: What happens when I try to connect to a wireless display adapter that is already connected to a different source?
    A: A wireless display adapter that already has an established connection will not appear as a wireless display option in the devices list of the Connect dialog.

Wrap-up

The Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter (version 2) is a viable option for providing access to a display (TV, projector, or a monitor) wirelessly.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was to setup and how reliable the connection remained, as I never experienced a disconnect over the course of several days of it being connected.

This product is available for $49.99 online and at the Microsoft Store.  If you watch carefully, you can pick these up on Amazon for under $30 (used).  Heck, for that price, it’s worth picking up an extra one to travel with!

For more information on this product and additional specific system requirements, check out the product page here.