With the explosion of new trainer apps over the last few years, many of us are running apps on numerous platforms – from iOS to Android to Windows. Not to mention numerous form factors such as tablets, phones, and desktops. All of which leaves everyone trying to figure out how exactly to get these apps from the small screens they’re usually running on– to something a wee bit more appropriately sized for the many hours we’ll sit on the trainers this winter staring at them.
This is your end to end guide on how to do exactly that. Virtually every trainer app out there today falls into one of these platforms. From there, you need only decide whether you want a wired or wireless solution.
I suspect that many here might find that things are quite a bit easier (or cheaper) than they expected to get from that small screen up to the big-screen TV. As for the apps themselves, check out my guide from last year. Most haven’t actually changed that appreciably since then, though I am working to update it. But I’m trying to balance that massive lift of creating new screenshots, wordy sections, etc… vs other new product reviews at the moment.
Finally, note that for this post I’m primarily focusing on the easiest and most mainstream options (except where non-obvious solutions are cheap and easy). As is often the case in technology, there are numerous ways you can get from point A to point B. The ease of those solutions though will heavily vary on one’s geek-factor. This is especially true on Android, Mac, and Windows platforms. Feel free to list alternatives in the comments below, but I just wanted to give some perspective on how I selected what I did.
From an iPad/iPhone:
When it comes to broadcasting from your iOS handheld device (either iPad or iPhone), it’s all handled exactly the same way. You’ve got two basic options:
Wired: In this case you’ll pickup an HDMI adapter that will connect via either the Lightning or 30-pin port on your iOS device. You can get all sorts of lengths of HDMI cables, as well as adapters if you have older/other plug types. I just use these 3m (9ft) long HDMI cables from Amazon Basics to connect to my TV.
If you plug-in via the wired adapter, it’ll automatically show on the screen, so there’s pretty much nothing to do – it just happens magically.
Wireless: If you want to go sans-wires you can do so with Apple Airplay and an Apple TV. The Apple TV is a small box (just $69 these days) that allows all sorts of other streaming goodness (i.e. Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, etc…). In this case your iPhone/iPad display is typically mirrored onto your TV, however some apps can also show a separate screen so you can have basically two different things shown – one on your iPad and the other on the big screen TV (called Dual Screen).
If you’re going via the wireless method with Apple TV, then you’ll need to tell the iPad/iPhone to mirror, just simply swipe up from the bottom of the screen and you’ll see the ‘Airplay’ option.
One minor note is that you’ll need to obviously be on the same network for this to work (i.e. same WiFi network). Here’s the full instructions as well.
Finally, note that you can use Chromecast to mirror some apps from your iOS device to a Chromecast display adapter, however I’m not aware of any trainer apps that support it at this time on iOS.
(A brief note on Apple accessories: You’ll want to be semi-careful of purchasing non-Apple branded connectors, simply because sometimes they do wonky things. Generally speaking just check out the number of reviews on Amazon for a non-Apple connector to validate it’s not a bad knock-off, but rather a good knock-off. For things like generic HDMI cables though, there’s zero reason to not just buy something like the Amazon Basics or similar products.)
From a Mac:
Next up, a Mac. When it comes to this you’ve got fairly similar options as the iOS devices, including both a wireless and wired option.
Wired: In this scenario you’ll pickup an HDMI adapter that will connect via the Mini Display port, or USB-C adapter (newer Macs). Some also just simply have an HDMI port already, in which case you’re good to go. You can get all sorts of lengths of HDMI cables, as well as adapters if you have older/other plug types. I just use these 3m (9ft) long HDMI cables from Amazon Basics. Note that depending on how old your Mac is, you’ll want to check out this post to validate if it carries with it audio by default.
If you plug-in via the wired adapter, it’ll automatically show on the screen, so there’s pretty much nothing to do – it just happens magically.
Note that you’ll want to carefully study whether or not your Mac has a Thunderbolt or Mini Display Port. There are very subtle differences there that might cause you issues if you don’t get precisely the right cable.
Wireless: If you want to go sans-wires you can do so with Apple Airplay and an Apple TV. The Apple TV is a small box (just $69 these days) that allows all sorts of other streaming goodness (i.e. Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, etc…). In this case your Mac display is typically mirrored onto your TV, however you can also configure the Apple TV to simply display to act as a secondary screen altogether and then just drag that application to the Apple TV.
If you’re going via the wireless method with Apple TV, then you’ll simply select Airplay from the upper right corner of your screen and choose/tweak any resolution options you want.
One minor note is that you’ll need to be on the same network for this to work (i.e. same WiFi network). Shouldn’t be an issue for most, but just noting it.
Finally, note that you can use Chromecast to mirror some apps from your Mac to a Chromecast display adapter, in that configuration you simply specify a given window to display on Chromecast. Chromecast is handy in that it’s about half as much as Apple TV.
Wired: This will vary a little bit, but in the vast majority of cases you’re going to use a micro-USB to HDMI adapter. These cables are cheap, and cost about $6-8 (this one is nifty because it also enables you to charge your Android device too). Some Android tablets also contain a micro-HDMI port, in which case you’ll need a micro-HDMI to HDMI cable, also cheap. This is slightly more desirable than the micro-USB option, because it doesn’t block the charging/USB port.
Wireless: This is by far the cheapest and easiest wireless connectivity option out of everything on this page. All you need is virtually any Android device from the past few years, along with Google Chromecast, which costs about $35. This allows you to quickly simply mirror your screen, or a portion of it – direct to your TV.
The Chromecast adapter is sorta like an oversized USB thumb drive, but with an HDMI connector instead. It also comes with a small extender-adapter in case your TV is a bit tight on space.
Chromecast is basically a streaming ‘box’, without the larger size or cost of an Apple TV. It’s a competitor to Apple TV, as well as other streaming devices (and also somewhat of a competitor to Miracast in a round-about way). You can stream apps like Hulu and Netflix here too. In any case, once setup, you’ll simply stream your Android app right to the TV, quick and simple:
Now Chromecast is fairly versatile, and there are many solutions out there on the interwebs to make it work for a host of platforms. For example, you can use it to ‘cast’ your entire PC screen to the display. Also works for Mac too. And again, at $35, it’s the cheapest option there is for wireless display unless your TV already supports wireless broadcasting.
Finally, note that Miracast (I talk about that more in the Windows sections) is supported natively on Android 4.4.2 and later. So that’s one option that’s potentially free for compatible TV’s.
So you’re using a trainer app that’s designed for a Windows PC? Examples would be Trainer Road, Zwift, PerfPro, and many others. No worries, there’s plenty of options here.
Wired: Depending on how old your PC is (and your TV), you’ve got a host of options. Most newer Windows laptops will have a mini-display port on them. The right side of the below cable is the mini-display port, while the left side is the HDMI port.
Meanwhile, many tablet style devices (i.e. Surface RT) have a micro-HDMI display port on them. And others yet use mini-Display Port (such as other Surface units). For this you’ll need a cable that connects to HDMI on your TV. In order to make it easy to figure out cables when I’m fishing behind a TV, I often label some of the less-obvious ones with a simple tag of paper and a piece of tape.
Finally, if you’ve got a desktop, then you’re probably looking at either a VGA, DVI, or HDMI adapter. VGA is a little less common on TV’s than HDMI, and DVI is even less common on TV’s. HDMI is your best overall option, because it’ll seamlessly include sound as well as video. Whereas with VGA you’ll have to get yet another cable for that. But sometimes if you’ve got some random larger PC screen floating around, it’ll be VGA or DVI.
Wireless: There’s so many ways of doing this, that I’m just going to focus on the easiest. If you’re more geeky, then you can implement varying degrees of geeky solutions. What you’ll need to ensure that is that all your devices (PC and TV) are fairly new and updated, mostly though that your TV is new enough to be connected via WiFi or has WiFi capabilities. Else, you can get adapters to help connect all the pieces together.
There are two parts here:
The transmitting device: Your Windows PC (ideally Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 to make things easy) The display device: Your TV, projector, or other big screen on a wall.
You can use Windows 8.1 & Windows 10 with Miracast, and then connect and then broadcast to a compatible Miracast display device (here’s the official listing of supported units). Unfortunately in the studio, I had no such newer TV’s. However, at my house my relatively new TV did support it. This supports both audio and video.
And then you just use the ‘Project’ option to connect and display on it:
If your TV doesn’t natively have WiFi in it, you can still simply get a Miracast display adapter. Basically it’s just a small little WiFi adapter that’s connected to a very short HDMI cable that plugs into the back of your TV. Think of it like a USB thumb-drive on steroids:
I’ve only used the Microsoft Wireless Display (Miracast) adapter, which is silly-simple to use – and only about $45. You simply plug it into the back of your TV, and then from there just select it from your computer. I find this also great when I’m travelling and want to watch something like Hulu or iTunes on a hotel TV, since I can just plug it in easily.
After that you can choose whether to mirror your screen, or just add it as a second screen (which you can drag your app to) – all using the same ‘Project’ option as before:
Finally, you can also use Chromecast too/instead. There’s pros and cons to using that over Miracast. The pro to Chromecast is that it also does other streaming pieces, whereas with Miracast it’s just acting like a secondary monitor. Meanwhile, if your TV already has Miracast, then there’s no reason to buy another adapter just to stream it.
Keep in mind I’m sorta an abnormality in that I’m using all sorts of technologies depending on what device I’m using. But here’s the rundown nonetheless:
From iPhone/iPad: I simply use Airplay with Apple TV
From Windows Laptop: I use the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter, or native TV support when the TV has it, for Miracast
From Windows Desktop: I just use an HDMI cable from the desktop PC to my TV
From Android: I rarely use this combo for trainer apps, but when I do, it’s just Chromecast.
As you can see, I kinda keep it simple. Like I said at the beginning – anytime you want to play integrator in the tech world, there are a lot of ways to skin the cat. But for me, I generally want the easiest/quickest solution that requires the least upkeep. I find that when it comes to trainer time – I don’t want to be screwing around wasting time with something that’s jury-rigged up. I’d rather be riding!
With that – go forth and enjoy a bigger screen!
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