Demystified: DLNA vs Miracast vs WiFi Direct

Demystified: DLNA vs WiFi Direct vs Miracast
Demystifying DLNA, WiFi Direct and Miracast.

Today we start a new series that focuses on various technologies that we hear a lot about and use a lot, but which are not well understood or are even a mystery to many users.

In this first article of the series, I will be demystifying DLNA, Miracast and WiFi Direct, and clear up any confusion between the three technologies.

WiFi Direct

Probably the best way to understand WiFi Direct is to think of it as a version of WiFi that allows your BlackBerry to connect directly to another device without having to go through a router.

Usually, when your BlackBerry wants to communicate to other another device like a smart TV, both the BlackBerry and the smart TV have to connect to a router in a WiFi network. With WiFi Direct, your BlackBerry creates a WiFi connection directly to the TV, basically creating a 2-device WiFi network, without talking to any router. You don’t even need to have a router in reach.

WiFi vs WiFi Direct
WiFi Direct allows your BlackBerry to connect directly with another device, without having to talk to a router.

There are a few advantages to using WiFi Direct:

  • the traffic on the WiFi Direct connection won’t be affected by traffic on any WiFi network
  • you don’t need to know the password for any WiFi network — you just need the WiFi Direct password for the device you want to connect to
  • nobody can snoop on the traffic between devices in a WiFi Direct connection (network) because no other devices are on that WiFi Direct network (Not surprisingly, the original name for WiFi Direct was WiFi Peer-to-Peer)

The main disadvantage with WiFi Direct on the devices I’ve tried, is that you can’t be connected to a WiFi network and a WiFi Direct network at the same time. If you want to create a WiFi Direct network with your BlackBerry, you have to disconnect it from the WiFi network. I can confirm that Samsung smart TVs have the same disadvantage.

Miracast

Miracast is basically HDMI over WiFi. It was created to replace the HDMI cable with a wireless version that runs over WiFi. It’s best used for screen sharing, such as when you want to play a game on your BlackBerry and have the graphics displayed on a TV, or when you want to run a presentation on your BlackBerry and have it displayed on the projector or monitor in the meeting room.

With Miracast, your BlackBerry pushes the video and audio to the receiving device, but your BlackBerry cannot receive video and audio from another device.

Finally, Miracast uses WiFi Direct, so you don’t need access to a WiFi network to use Miracast. But that also means that the receiving device has to support WiFi Direct as well.

DLNA

DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) is a media sharing technology that allows users to share media (video, audio, photos) over a network. It’s not tied to a particular type of networking technology, so it will work over WiFi and wired networks. I haven’t tried using it over a WiFi Direct connection.

DLNA can be used to push media to a receiving device like a smart TV or stereo, or pull media from another device, such as a NAS (Network Attached Storage), PC or BlackBerry.

Using DLNA to play music on another device.
Using DLNA to play music on another device.

To send music from your BlackBerry to another DLNA device, simply tap on Play On in the overflow menu (three-dots on the right) of the Music app, and select the device you want to play it on. To play video on another DLNA device, simply do the same thing in the Video app.

Lots of consumer devices, such as TVs and game consoles, support DLNA, but unfortunately some manufacturers use their own name for it. For instance, Samsung calls the DLNA support in their smart TVs AllShare, which I admit is a better name for it. Hopefully the DLNA folks will come up with a good marketable name for the technology, so we can put the confusion to rest.

So there you have it. I hope this article has cleared up the confusion between DLNA, WiFi Direct and Miracast.

bartron

I'm programmer with 13 years experience, and a former electronics technician. My first BlackBerry was a Z10, and I'm now rocking a Passport.

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