Microsoft’s latest OS will stream media to an Xbox or Miracast device but DLNA compatibility is a mixed bag and configuring a connection isn’t always straightforward. Moreover, screen mirroring is only possible through a limited number of receivers.
Thankfully, there is a third-party software application that makes it simple to mirror Windows 10. Moreover, it can stream to the hardware built by Microsoft’s two main rivals. Squirrels’ AirParrot 2 mimics most of AirPlay’s features and can work via an Apple TV or Chromecast dongle. It makes it easy to use Windows 10 devices for presenting, lecturing or other activities where wireless screen mirroring capability would be useful.
Squirrels doesn’t explicitly state that AirParrot 2 is Windows 10 compatible but I was able to install and run it on Microsoft’s new OS without any significant problems. There are versions of AirParrot 2 for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows and for OS X and Chrome OS, too.
Once AirParrot 2 is installed, an icon is placed in Windows 10’s Quick Launch toolbar that lists compatible receivers, including Chromecast dongles, Apple TVs and computers running Reflector, a software receiver that is also available from Squirrels. Like AirPlay and Chromecast, AirParrot 2 will automatically detect compatible receivers on the same LAN as the computer that will be the source of the stream.
You select a receiver by clicking on its name in the list and unlike AirPlay, AirParrot 2 will let you stream to more than one device at a time. This could be useful when you want to demonstrate something on several screens simultaneously, such as in a classroom. Other options in AirParrot 2 allow you to mirror your entire screen, only stream content from the window occupied by a running app or directly stream playback of a media file without screen mirroring.
Screen mirroring happens at the sending computer’s native resolution. There is, however, an option to force 720p in AirParrot’s Settings menu and several sliders that can be used to select low, medium, high and very high quality streaming. I played around with these settings but didn’t notice substantial changes in the quality of the output mirrored to an HDTV.
I tested AirParrot 2 from a Dell business laptop and Best Buy’s Insignia 8-inch budget Windows tablet reviewed here. The laptop is a model used by many businesses for presenting at meetings and conferences. The tablet is one of the best I have tested at its price point and a potential choice for anyone looking for a Windows 10 slate for basic pleasure use.
Streaming was done over a 2.5 Ghz wireless N network because it is still a commonly used standard. Video streaming was tested directly using media files and through Netflix, Plex, and iTunes. Video game streaming was limited to games from the Windows store because neither of the source devices is powerful enough for serious gaming.
Screen mirroring of Windows 10 desktop applications and Modern apps (Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Photos, Music) to an 1080p HDTV produced satisfying results. Selecting an Apple TV as a receiver produced an instant connection. The streamed image was slightly fuzzy but that is inevitable given the lower resolution of the source devices. It was sharp enough to read small text clearly from a distance, there were no noticeable pixel dropouts and the signal was stable.
As expected, the quality of streaming media varied with the type of media file being processed. Audio was streamed from the laptop and tablet without a problem. Furthermore, AirParrot did a great job of casting video in HD (720p) and SD to an Apple TV when MKV or MP4 media files were selected directly from File Explorer or the Media option in AirParrot’s menu. In contrast, mirrored playback of HD movies in iTunes, Plex and Netflix produced an image that was, at best, jittery and pixelated. Full HD (1080p) videos would barely play at all.
Mirroring of FIFA 15 Ultimate Team and Minecraft for Windows 10 Beta worked well from the laptop but was poor from the tablet. This is probably due to the difference in processor quality between the two devices. Even so, its worth considering that AirParrot 2 might not be a viable solution for getting games on a big screen if you play them on a budget Windows 10 tablet.
Overall, AirParrot 2 is an effective answer to Windows 10’s streaming and mirroring limitations if you need to share business or educational material on your Windows 10 screen without streaming video. AirParrot 2 can also be useful in the home if you want to show off photos or home videos from a mobile device or laptop or stream music to a Chromecast dongle or Air Play speakers.
On lower specification hardware AirParrot 2 can be less effective for mirroring playback of videos that have to be viewed in other applications, such as iTunes. It’s easy to find out how well your equipment can handle these demands, however, because Squirrels offers AirParrot as a seven-day trial (albeit it with a watermark). Hence, whatever Windows 10 device you want to stream from, it’s worth a try.