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Q. Any ideas about how I could connect a computer monitor wirelessly to a Windows PC?

A. The reader who tweeted this question already has most of the necessary components. You may too if your laptop is new enough, courtesy of growing support for a wireless-display standard called Miracast that's advanced considerably since the awkward, early "Wi-Di" setup I tried in 2010.

But anybody trying a Miracast connection may also need their share of luck.

To start, you'll need a recent laptop with a compatible processor running not just Windows 8 but the recent Windows 8.1 update, the first version of Microsoft's operating system to support Miracast. The reader is off to a good start, owning a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet.

But you could forgive him for not knowing that device speaks Miracast. Microsoft's only mention of this capability seems to pop up in an update-history document.

To see if your own Windows 8.1 machine supports Miracast, Microsoft suggests tapping or clicking in the bottom-right corner of the desktop to bring up the "charms" list, select the Devices icon, and select "Project." If you see "Add a wireless display," you're all set.

Google's Android operating system has also supported Miracast since version 4.2 shipped last spring. Windows Phone 8.1 also includes this feature, but only a few devices can run it.

A decent variety of monitors, HDTVs and even Blu-ray players include Miracast receivers; you can search for compatible display devices in the Wi-Fi Alliance's database. To confuse things a bit more, many manufacturers slap their own brand names on this technology; for example, Samsung labels it "AllShare."

For display devices without Miracast support, such as the reader's older Samsung monitor, you'll need to plug-in a Miracast adapter.

Name-brand adapters start at $50, which is itself a problem when a Google Chromecast sells for $35. It can't put more than the contents of one Chrome browser tab on the big screen, but that may be enough if, as I covered here last year, you only want to watch Web video on an HDTV.

But there's also the reliability of Miracast screen mirroring in practice. Two recent reviews found erratic setups and inconsistent performance.

At ZDNet, Ed Bott tried several tablets and laptops with a Miracast-equipped HDTV and came away unsatisfied: "Miracast is delightful when it works and maddening when something goes wrong."

He found that the Surface Pro 3 and two earlier models worked best, connecting to the TV as advertised and playing audio and video "with only occasional, very minor glitches."

At Tom's Guide, Sean Captain did not approve of the results of tests of four third-party Miracast adapters with Windows laptops and Android phones and tablets: "They rarely work." Among those receivers, reviewer Marshall Honorof had the best results with ActionTec's $70 ScreenBeam Pro.

If you have a 2011-vintage or newer Mac, meanwhile, OS X's Airplay mirroring and a $99 Apple TV should let you pull off the same wireless-display trick with far less uncertainty.

Or you could drop a few bucks on an HDMI cable to connect laptop and display and not worry about any of this, if you don't mind the extra clutter.

TIP: SHARE YOUR ANDROID DEVICE'S ENTIRE SCREEN VIA CHROMECAST

Last month, Google added a new option for users of its handy little video-sharing pod: They can put an Android phone or tablet's display on TV through Chromecast.

As a blog post explains, you can set this up through the Chromecast app: With the TV on and the Chromecast active, bring up the app's navigation menu and select "Cast Screen."

Nexus devices don't need that app; swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers to bring up the Quick Settings panel and tap "Cast Screen." If that button doesn't appear, open the Settings app, select Displays, then tap "Cast Screen," selecting your Chromecast from the list if necessary.

If you've ever wondered what your phone's 5-inch display would look like blown up to 40, 50 or 60 inches — wonder no more.

Rob Pegoraro is a tech writer based out of Washington, D.C. To submit a tech question, e-mail Rob at rob@robpegoraro.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/robpegoraro.

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