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Is Chromecast Better Than Screen Mirroring? Key Differences

Is Chromecast Better Than Screen Mirroring

In the past, connectivity was highly dependent on cables, when sharing between screens required VGA or HDMI cables.

Today, all that has changed.

Screen mirroring technologies and others like Chromecast has made wireless media consumption a lot easier.

Which one is better?

Chromecast is better than screen mirroring if you’re using the technology to consume multimedia content, especially via streaming platforms. However, screen mirroring technologies like Miracast allow easier sharing of content across work devices in corporate environments.

In this article, I’ll go into a bit more detail on what you can expect if you choose one or the other.

What Is Chromecast?

Chromecast is a simple plug-and-play dongle device, which connects to your TV’s HDMI port and adds a few smart TV functionalities. 

The unit relies on your home internet connection, and you can control everything from your smartphone.

Once properly set up, you can open entertainment apps like Netflix or ESPN on your phone and seamlessly play the content on your TV.

Chromecast relies on the Google Cast protocol to deliver content to your TV.

So, the media source has to be compatible with the protocol.

Most major video streaming platforms meet this requirement, and a ton of other apps (including browsers) also support Google Cast.

Since its launch in 2013, Chromecast has seen three updates. The third-generation Chromecast (which is the latest) was launched in 2018. 

All Chromecast dongles support media consumption in 1080p (Full HD).

However, the newest models are faster and have stronger Wi-Fi connectivity, delivering an excellent viewing experience.

Chromecast is popular with people who want some of the benefits of a smart TV on the cheap.

What Is Screen Mirroring?

Screen Mirroring

The focus of screen mirroring technology is to share your screen.

It’s useful when you want to project what you’re looking at on your smartphone, tablet, or PC to a bigger screen without using any cables.

When you share your screen with this approach, the external screen will display a copy of what you have on the source device (your mobile phone or computer).

This means you can edit documents, play videos, etc.

Now, you should know that the “mirroring” here doesn’t mean you’ll get images that are horizontally flipped – which is what happens when you look in a mirror.

Instead, you’re getting an exact copy of the source screen on the external screen.

This is why screen mirroring is important in corporate environments and in academia, where presentations are common.

There are many screen-mirroring technologies around these days, but by far the most popular is Miracast.

It is based on the Wi-Fi Direct Protocol and allows you to connect a source device and another display. It is a peer-to-peer technology that can create its own Wi-Fi network.

The device holding the content to be displayed communicates directly with the receiving screen. Once the wireless connection is established, everything on the source screen shows on the receiving screen.

Screen mirroring solutions like Miracast don’t need an existing network to function, and there’s no need for a wireless access point. However, they can take advantage of a network where available.

This comes in handy in the corporate or academic environment because it ensures you can still share your screen without bogging down the network due to the video traffic.

While sharing your screen with Miracast, you can still connect to the internet when you need it during presentations. The screen sharing connection won’t switch from Wi-Fi Direct to standard internet.

The Miracast technology is popular for screen sharing because most gadgets made after 2014 come with the technology, under different names.

You can click here to confirm if your TV or tablet, or smartphone has this protocol built-in.  

You might also be interested in: 9 Reasons Why Your Chromecast Only Works With YouTube

Screen Mirroring or Chromecast: Which Is Better?

As I’ve covered above, both of these technologies are fairly similar. However, they have key differences, as shown in the table below:

 Screen MirroringChromecast
FunctionIt duplicates one screen and shows the content on other screens.It allows you to play content from the source device, displaying the media on the receiving device.
Content DisplayedThe receiving screen will display exactly what’s displayed on the source screen. Everything on the screen is displayed. You can use presenter mode on the source device to prevent this, but it means you can’t multitask.You can control what’s displayed and what isn’t.  In many cases, only a specific app screen is shared while you continue doing other things in the background with the source device.
ConnectionThere’s no need for an Internet connection because the technology uses the Wi-Fi Direct protocol. Still, it can work with an internet connection.Typically requires connection to a strong and stable wireless network—except when using Chromecast Ultra HD, which requires a wired connection.
TimeoutsYou have to keep the screen from blacking out as it will also shut off the receiving screen.Screen timeouts on the source device don’t affect the secondary screen (s)
App supportAny app viewed on the source device will show up on the secondary screen.Tons of apps support Chromecast, but there’s always the chance of running into compatibility issues.
Media consumptionYou can only consume content via screen mirroring if you keep the media playing on a source device. This means you need to worry about the battery power on the device.Chromecast allows seamless consumption of media. Once you start viewing media on, say Netflix, over your smartphone and use Chromecast to share it to your TV, Netflix’s servers will start communicating with your TV directly instead of the phone. This allows you to start a program, share it on the screen, and then leave the room anytime you want without cutting the connection.
Local contentYou can easily view photos and recorded videos on your smartphone on a secondary screen. Once it’s open on your phone, it’s open on the screen.  You can’t view local content like photos or videos unless you’re using an app that supports Chromecast.

Looking at the table above, you can see that the better solution will be highly subjective.

You should figure out why you need to share your screen or during what scenarios do you need screen sharing the most.

If you’re in an office or academic environment, screen-mirroring technologies like Miracast (or Apple’s copy of it known as AirPlay) will prove more useful.

You can quickly hold presentations from your device and share them with everyone else.

You can also turn virtually any screen in the room into a receiver and don’t have to worry about internet connection as you can screen-share offline.

However, you can’t share your screen for long hours without looking for how to keep the source device charged.

Chromecast is more tailored for media consumption. You can still show presentations as long as the app you’re using supports casting.

However, you can only have one receiver screen – the one with the Chromecast device plugged in.

With the TV plugged in, you can start media programs over Chromecast and go away while the content is automatically rerouted to the TV.

This is why the Chromecast doesn’t work with internet connectivity.

Editor’s pick: How To Make a Chromecast Private? 8 Simple Steps + Tips

Final Words

Choosing between screen mirroring and Chromecast comes down to personal preferences. 

If you don’t have a Smart TV at home and you love consuming media from services like Netflix and Amazon Video, buying a Chromecast dongle is the frugal approach to take instead of buying a new TV.

On the other hand, if you’re thinking of an easier way to hold presentations from your PC or smartphone, screen mirroring wins.

It can work offline, and there’s a lot more flexibility.

Learn more: Does Chromecast work with an iPhone hotspot?