If you are one of the many people that carry around your life on your smartphone, you probably have all the entertainment you need right there, ready to watch. But sometimes you might want to cast that content onto your big screen, to share with others or just enjoy yourself.
While, in theory, most smart TVs and TV boxes and sticks should be able to do this, they do not all do this well. Many of the apps you have on your smartphone just won’t be compatible with your TV.
The easiest way to get your content from your smart device to your TV is via a dongle specifically designed to mirror your small screen on your big screen.
Great. So, which dongle should you buy? We are going to recommend the four best dongles on the market, and also tell you what exactly you should be looking for when choosing a TV dongle.
Spoiler Alert! Word on the street is that Google will soon be releasing the Google Chromecast 4 Sabrina on the market, which will be both a next generation dongle and a full-fledged TV stick. We’re sure this will make the list when it is available, but for now we are waiting on confirmed details.
Best Android TV Sticks Reviewed
AnyCast Wireless HDMI Display Adapter
Can mirror any device, not just Android but also iOS, Windows, and more. Read More
X96 Android TV Stick
A full-fledged Android TV stick that can make your TV smart, while also seamlessly mirroring your other devices Read More
Google Chromecast 3
Perfectly integrates with Google’s suite of products, so ideal for Google users Read More
While we’re talking about Android today because we are Android users here, it might be that you have a mix of technologies in your home. An Android smartphone but a MacBook laptop for example. Obviously, you are going to want to be able to mirror all of these devices on your TV using the same dongle. The name gives it away: the AnyCast let’s you do that, and do it in style.
The AnyCast can stream up to 4K from whatever device you are using to your TV (as long as your TV is 4K).
The device is easy to use, and there are no settings to change if you want to stream from your Android smartphone (5.0 and above), Apple Macbook (iOS 9.0 and above), or Windows-powered XBox. And you don’t have to install apps on any of your devices—you just need to make sure they are both using the same Wi-Fi network.
At only around $30, this dongle is your one-stop-shop for anything you might want to cast from any of your devices to your TV, or pretty much to any other device for that matter.
If you basically thought you wanted a dongle, but then decided it would be cool to have a TV stick that makes your TV smart as well, then the X96 is the option for you. This is a full-fledged TV stick, and despite costing only $60, it is one of the most powerful on the market.
It has the capability of mirroring your screen, but also turns your TV into a smart TV. You can download applications like Netflix and Amazon Prime directly to the TV for happy streaming.
It is hard to believe how much power has actually been squeezed into such a small package. The X96has an Amlogic 64 bit quad-core ARM Cortex A53 CPI, which delivers HDR10+. That means you can get 4K picture quality at 60 fps, and it’s fast with H.265 decoding. There is 4GB of RAM and 32GB of ROM, and you can expand the storage up to 64GB with a TF card. There is also a USB 3.0 port.
The system runs off Android 9.0 Pie, which means the best compatibility with the latest applications and that it can support 3D graphics. Add to this a 12-month warranty and what’s not to like?
These are good specs for any TV box, and you get them with this little and affordable TV stick that is also a very effective mirroring dongle.
No one familiar with the world of dongles will be surprised to see the Google Chromecast on the list, as they largely paved the way for the modern-day dongle. The latest third-generation version of the dongle doesn’t do anything fancy; it still just lets you cast things from your Android smartphone to your TV, but it does it well.
The Chromecast is probably the best option for anyone who has “bought into” Google. You use GMail, you use Google to save your videos and photos, you use Google Drive. Google stuff is designed to work with Google stuff, so you will get a more consistent experience with a Chromecast.
It is a bargain at just $30, and you do get nice features like seamless Google Voice command and integration with Google Smart Home systems as well.
It is not a powerful device, only delivering up to 1080p at 60 fps when it comes to media streaming, but if you are generally happy to watch content on your smartphone, this probably won’t bother you.
If you are thinking about using your dongle to mirror to something other than your TV, like a projector, or to mirror something other than your smartphone, tablet, or computer, then this option from MiraScreen can do what you need.
This little box lets you mirror the screen of your phone, tablet, laptop, or any HDMI devices, such as TVs, projectors and monitors. So, yes, in theory you could mirror what is happening on one TV in your house to another. Seems an unlikely scenario? You and a friend can play a game together on two different big screens at the same time, all from the same gaming device.
Compatible with Android devices 4.2 and above, there is pretty much no set-up involved—it’s just a matter of plugging it in. This is perfect when you are using something less sophisticated, like a projector, because it just works.
Android TV Dongle: Buying Guide
Dongles are actually not a sophisticated or expensive piece of it, so there aren’t too many features to worry about when choosing the right ones. But there are a few things you should consider when making a decision.
A dongle that is just a dongle should not cost you more than $40. The technology involved just doesn’t justify spending more than that. More expensive options will need to deliver more, such as also functioning as a TV stick, which can also allow you to stream content directly from the Internet to your TV.
If you are looking for a TV stick, see our review of the best Android TV sticks.
Compatibility needs to relate to both what you want to mirror and where you want to send it. You probably have an Android smartphone in your pocket, and you will want to make sure your dongle is compatible with whatever version of Android your smartphone is running. Most will be compatible with 5.0 and above, but there are exceptions.
Also consider what other devices you have in your home. While you might not be thinking of streaming from your computer or your gaming system at the moment, you might change your mind in the future. If you have a mix of technologies in your home, it might be worth thinking about getting a dongle that doesn’t just work with Android.
Remember as well that whatever device you stream to will need a HDMI port, as that is how the dongle works. While you are probably thinking about your TV, are there other devices you might want to stream to, like a projector. If this is the case, you might want to seek out an option that is plug and play, as you won’t have the same access to play around with a projector.
The resolution you can mirror depends on your smart device, your TV, and your dongle. If you have a 4K TV, and you have content on your phone that is available to watch in 4K, if you want to actually deliver in 4K you will need a dongle capable of doing that as well.
Consider what kind of content you want to mirror and therefore what kind of resolution you need.
4. Is A Dongle What You Need?
Finally, you might need to ask yourself whether a dongle is really what you are looking for. If you are looking only to share your own photos and movies with maximum ease, a dongle is probably the answer. If you are looking to share work documents, again, you can do that.
But, if you are looking to watch things from the Netflix app that you have on your Android phone or the Plex app that you have on your phone, you might actually want a TV box or a TV stick. You can install these same apps on that TV device and stream directly from those apps to your TV, without having to use your phone. This gives you more flexibility, and you are likely to get a lot better picture quality for about the same amount of money.
While not all TV boxes and sticks mirror as well as they could, and might exclude certain apps from mirroring, there are actually a variety of apps in the Google Playstore that can improve your mirroring experience. So you can get everything in one.
You can learn more about Android TV boxes, how they work, and why you might want one here.
A dongle can be the easiest way to share content from your smartphone and other devices such as your laptop, on your big TV screen. It can often be the right choice if this is all you want to do, and you don’t want the fuss of a full-fledged TV box.
However, it doesn’t cost much more to get an Android TV stick or box, which can deliver the same mirroring and a lot more. It is certainly worth considering.
Do you have an Android TV dongle? What would you recommend to others considering investing in one for themselves? Share your experiences in the comments below.