A few weeks ago when I reviewed the Google Chromecast I believed I found the perfect device for watching streaming media (TV and Movies) while vacationing.  I still think the Chromecast is great, however it won’t be in my bag when I head south for a week in Anaheim later this month.

What will be making the trip with me is my new Microsoft Surface Pro with Windows 8.1 and a slick companion device I picked up at Best Buy called PTV3000 it’s made by Netgear.  Unlike many of my techie friends, I am not a Windows 8 hater; in fact I have thought it was a superb OS with a few rough edges since it debuted a year ago, and with the release of the 8.1 update, I couldn’t be happier with the software.

One of the cool new features is Miracast; I won’t go into all the technical details, but the important thing to know is Miracast allows one to connect to enabled televisions or devices connected to an HDTV (such as the PTV3000) and use those as a second screen for your laptop, smart phone or in my case Surface Pro tablet.

I have an older TV, and I don’t expect the hotel I am staying in to have a Miracast enabled TV so I bought the PTV3000 which uses an HDMI cable to plug into any HDTV.  Connecting is as simple as a swipe and a tap on the Surface Pro and then selecting duplicate, extend, or second screen only.  With the extend option selected I am able to run a web browser, the Netflix app, or my second favorite media center app J River Media Center on the second screen.  I can watch videos and listen to music on the TV while emailing, browsing the web and texting through Verizon Messages.  The great thing with this setup is that one doesn’t stream to the device via WiFi (well not exactly) as with a Chromecast or Apple TV, it is a direct connection which greatly simplifies things when traveling; Miracast eliminates the need for a travel router, or mobile broadband device such as a MiFi.  I will simply access the internet through my iPhone’s 4G connection and then cast directly to the PTV3000.

I like this setup so much I have found myself using it to watch Netflix and Amazon Instant Video quite a bit lately and I have thought a few times that the experience is almost good enough to make me give up my Windows Media Center, and I have never thought this with any of the other streaming devices I have tested.

If you have a Windows 8.1 device and plan to spend some time on the road, check to make sure your PC or tablet is Miracast enabled (instructions here) and then get yourself a PTV3000 for around $60 at Best Buy or Amazon, it’s a little pricier than the Chromecast and a little cheaper than the Apple TV but you’ll find it much more flexible than either.

For more info on the PTV3000 click on the image below.

– John Morton