Tablets are great because they are portable. But while a small screen is fine when you’re in the back of a taxi, just about everyone would prefer something much larger when working in the office. The Actiontec ScreenBeam Mini2 Continuum Edition allows a Windows device to wirelessly connect to a big external display, as long as the monitor or TV supports HDMI.
The goal is to allow someone to bring their tablet into an office, plug this wireless adapter into a screen that’s already there, hook up a keyboard and mouse, and essentially transform the tablet into a desktop. Or the same trick can be performed with a phone as long as it’s running the latest version of Windows.
The ScreenBeam Mini2 Continuum Edition is available now for $59.99 MSRP.
Build and Design
The hardware for this accessory is quite portable. At 3.9 by 1.2 by 0.5 inches, it fits easily into a gear bag or purse. It’s pocketable in theory, but room for a micro-USB power cable and has to be factored in too.
This cable is plugged into one side of the wireless adapter using the micro-USB jack. A Y-split on this end makes room for a female USB Type A port. This latter feature allows the user to use a regular keyboard and mouse if their tablet has just a micro-USB port. It supports USB hubs, so both a keyboard and a mouse can be plugged in, but not any other kind of accessories.
If the user isn’t interested in this – say they can plug their keyboard and mouse directly into their tablet or prefer Bluetooth ones – then the ScreenBeam Mini2 can be powered with any micro-USB cable, like the ones used to recharge many phone models. This will save room in the gear bag.
Actiontec’s latest wireless video adapter has an HDMI jack on one end. There’s an HDMI male-to-female extender cable included in the box for anyone who finds there’s not enough room on the back of their monitor to plug in the SBM2CE. Those who are going to be traveling with this item and using lots of different monitors might consider investing in a female-to-female HDMI adapter (about $10) in case they need to occasionally plug into a male HDMI jack.
The ScreenBeam Mini2 is all black plastic with a blue LED to indicate that it’s receiving power, but the appearance of the casing is almost immaterial as it’s going to be stuck into the back of a monitor when it’s not in a bag.
The real challenge with wireless monitors is latency: how long the delay is between something happening on a computer and that change being transmitted to the monitor. If the delay is long – called high latency – the user can find themselves extremely frustrated, as controlling the mouse can be very difficult, sound and audio in movies isn’t synchronized, etc. Happily, Actiontec has managed to get the latency in this product down to where it’s very, very low.
It’s down to the point that there’s really no effect on business applications, like word processing. As part of testing the ScreenBeam Mini2 Continuum Edition, we wrote this entire review with Word 2016 running on a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 connected to an external monitor, and experienced no difficulties. If we hadn’t known the two were wirelessly connected we would have assumed the display was using the tablet’s video-out port.
Latency is not completely gone though. There’s a tiny delay, just a small fraction of a second, as data is transmitted wirelessly from the tablet to the monitor. Those who are looking for it will see that voice and audio are not perfectly synchronized when watching video on an external screen. It’s so slight that most people will probably not be bothered, but those who demand perfection should use a wired connection, as no wireless one is likely to satisfy them.
Another thing to keep in mind is that performance is going to be affected by how capable the tablet itself is to drive a large monitor. An inexpensive device running a slow processor with a small amount of RAM is going to struggle with a 1920 x 1080 display, especially if it is being used to extend the Windows desktop. In this case, mirroring the screen might be the better option.
There is an area where this accessory does have a problem: in our tests, it would occasionally drop the connection to the keyboard and mouse that are plugged into the SBM2CE, without affecting the connection to the external monitor. The only way we could find to reconnect them was to completely disconnect from the wireless adapter then reconnect. Hopefully this is something Actiontec can fix in a future firmware update, or else users might find themselves forced to turn to keyboards and mice that can be plugged directly into their tablets, or to Bluetooth ones.
Connection and Configuration
The ScreenBeam Mini2 Continuum Edition makes its wireless connection over Wi-Fi Miracast or Intel WiDiv. Miracast is built into Windows 10, so there shouldn’t be any problems getting virtually any tablet to connect to this accessory, but problems are always possible. Actiontec does not promise that every Windows computer will be compatible with this product. All we can say is that we were able to connect to it without a hitch with the Surface Pro 2.
The connection process starts with plugging the SBM2CE into the monitor, giving it power by plugging the micro-USB Y cable in, then connecting the keyboard and mouse into the other part of the Y cable. Next, go to the Windows tablet and open the Windows 10 Action Center, choose Connect, and tap on Actiontec’s wireless accessory on the resulting list. A few seconds later the PC will take control of the monitor.
Most of the configuration can be done with the Settings app built into Windows 10 because for this purpose the external monitor acts like one that’s physically connected. The external display can even be made the primary one, allowing the tablet’s built-in screen to function as small secondary screen.
Actiontec provides a free Windows app called ScreenBeam Configuration Utility. Its most useful feature is the ability to rename the wireless accessory so it can be more easily found in the list of possibilities when connecting.
The Actiontec ScreenBeam Mini2 Continuum Edition offers a mostly outstanding solution to those who want to connect an external monitor to a Windows 10 tablet that doesn’t include a video-out port. It will be even better when intermittent problems keeping a reliable connection to a keyboard and mouse can be solved.
This wireless display adapter is well suited for those who need to give presentations — either business or education — without having their tablet wired to a projector or large monitor. It’s a decent solution for those who want to cast their tablet screen to a large TV to watch video, though some might find the very slight latency distracting.
The suggested price for Actiontec’s latest is $59.99. There are rival devices available, like the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter (CG4-001) that costs just a bit less: $54.99. There are also much cheaper options, but these are mostly from less reputable companies.
Those who have a tablet with a Mini DisplayPort have a lower-cost solution: the cable needed to hook up a monitor runs $10 – $20. But a wireless solution is the way to go for those who have a mid-range or budget tablet with just a micro-USB slot.