Turn your TV into a smart TV with your Android smartphone or tablet

When we consider how much our smartphone or tablet can do, it doesn’t make sense to rely on a “smart” TV or streaming box like a Roku or Amazon Fire Stick. We already have the same access to Netflix, Hulu and other big providers in our pocket. So how do you bring that screen from your smartphone or tablet to your TV?

It is a question that is both simple and complex. Solutions like Chromecast make it relatively easy to “cast” your screen, and depending on your particular smartphone or tablet, you may have to explore some wired options as well.

The following information should apply to most Android phones, regardless of manufacturer, including Samsung, Google, Huawei, and Xiaomi.

Connect Android to your HDTV with a Micro HDMI to HDMI cable

The cheapest, easiest, and perhaps best way to connect your Android device to your HDTV is with an HDMI cable. It is not as common for manufacturers to include a Micro HDMI port on their devices as it was a few years ago. But if you are lucky enough to have one, it makes the whole experience that much easier. Micro HDMI to HDMI cables are about the same cost as a regular HDMI cable, so you can get one for as cheap as $20 or less. You can find them at local electronics stores.

After connecting the device to one of the TV’s HDMI inputs, switch the TV’s source (usually via a source button on the remote) to the HDMI port and you’re good to go. Make sure your Android device is in landscape mode for the best viewing experience. While Apple has stuck with the 4:3 aspect ratio with the iPad – which is great for browsing the web, Facebook and the computer side of tablets – most Android tablets have a 16: 9 that looks great on those big HDTV screens.

The big downside to using a wired solution is the difficulty of using the device while it’s connected to the TV. If you’re watching a movie, this limitation isn’t a big deal, but if you want to play a game or watch YouTube videos, it’s not ideal.

Go wireless with a Google Chromecast

Google’s Chromecast is the cheapest alternative if you don’t have a Micro HDMI port on your device. But don’t confuse it with similar streaming devices like Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV – the Chromecast dongle doesn’t do anything on its own. It relies on your Android device to be the brains behind the operation, while you simply cast your Android screen to your TV.

The biggest advantage of Chromecast is the price tag, which comes in under $40. Another really cool feature is the compatibility with Android and iOS devices. While you can only do true screen mirroring with an Android smartphone or tablet, you can still cast video from Netflix, Hulu, or any other Chromecast-enabled app from your iPhone or iPad. This versatility is ideal for households that have both major mobile platforms.

And Chromecast setup is easy. After connecting the dongle to the TV and connecting the power cable, download and launch the Google Home app. This app will detect the Chromecast and establish a connection to help set it up. It can even automatically transfer Wi-Fi information through your device on some devices. Google Home is also the app you use to mirror your screen, though with many popular apps like YouTube, you just have to tap the cast icon , which looks like a box or TV with the Wi-Fi symbol in the corner.

Connect to your TV using MHL

Mobile High Definition Link is the technical term for a Micro USB to HDMI adapter. Many major brands support MHL for their Android smartphones and tablets, though you may need to double-check your own device by browsing a list of all MHL-compatible mobile devices.

This connection offers the same benefits as connecting through a Micro HDMI port, but is slightly more expensive due to the need for the MHL adapter, which can cost between $15 and $40. This option can be more expensive than a Chromecast.

Just like the Micro HDMI to HDMI solution, it just works. You shouldn’t have to do anything special other than make sure your smartphone or tablet is in landscape mode for the best viewing experience.

Samsung has dropped support for MHL and all other protocols for sending video and audio over USB, so if you have a newer Samsung smartphone like the Galaxy S6 or Galaxy S6 Edge, you’ll need to opt for a wireless solution like Chromecast. Samsung tablets do not generally support Chromecast at this time.

Connect to your HDTV using SlimPort

SlimPort is a new technology designed for all kinds of devices, from smartphones to tablets to cameras. It uses the same basic technology as DisplayPort to pass audio and video to a television or monitor. It has growing support that includes devices like the LG V20, Acer Chromebook R13, HTC 10, LG G Pad II, and Amazon Fire HD tablets. You can check this list to see if your device has a SlimPort.

SlimPort works almost the same way as MHL. You’ll need a SlimPort adapter that costs between $15 and $40 and you’ll need an HDMI cable. After purchasing the adapter and cable, setup is easy.

Connect your Android device with Roku or other wireless solutions

Chromecast isn’t the only game in town when it comes to wireless, though it may be the cheapest and easiest solution. The Roku 2 and new Roku boxes support casting. You can find the screen mirroring option in the Roku’s settings. On the Android device, open the Android’s Settings app, go to Display and select Cast to see the available options for casting the screen. Both devices must be on the same network.

Some brands like Belkin Miracast Video Adapter and ScreenBeam Mini2 also support using mobile screen on TV. However, with price tags easily outpacing the Chromecast, it’s hard to recommend these solutions. The Roku may be a good option for those who want a Roku or similar streaming device without the need to always plug in their smartphone or tablet, but with the option to do so.

Connect your Samsung Smartphone or Tablet with your Samsung HDTV

Check if your TV supports Samsung to Samsung mirroring by going to Menu, choosing Network and looking for Screen Mirroring . On your smartphone or tablet, pull down extended notifications with two fingers to swipe down from the top edge of the screen. You will see a “Screen Mirroring” or “Smart View” option if your device supports it.

Confused? Go with the Chromecast

If you’re not sure which ports are on your smartphone or tablet, the easiest option is to use Google Chromecast. And in most cases, this is also the least expensive option.

Chromecast will allow you to cast video from most of your favorite streaming apps and mirror your screen for apps that don’t support casting. It’s also relatively easy to set up, and since it works wirelessly, you can hold the device in your hands on the couch while projecting the screen on your TV.