I read about Tony's woes earlier, where he had to run Office Web on a hotel TV using a hotel-supplied USB transmitter, a keyboard, and an archaic version of Firefox and it reminded me that I have a trip to the Windows IT Pro main office next week in Ft. Collins, CO. It also reminded me that it's about time to load up my Microsoft Surface Pro with movies from the Xbox Video store for watching movies on the plane ride and also in the hotel room.
When I'm on the road, I like to avoid unnecessary costs in the hotel room. Paying for Internet access at the hotel is a must, so I can't avoid that cost, but it's the cost of movie rentals that it my biggest concern. Hotels charge close to $20 US for a single movie rental, yet they tease me into renting one anyway by offering movies that are still in theaters. For me, I'm generally watching movies as I prepare to bed-down for the night. So, there I am, comfy in bed, just spent $20 and I fall asleep about 20 minutes into the rental. And, then I wake up with about 10 minutes left. Happens every time.
The Microsoft Surface Pro, with a few accessory add-ons, has changed all that. Instead of wasting $20 for a movie I can't honestly say I've seen based on the length of my viewing, I can download movies from Xbox Video, or stream Netflix, Amazon, Crackle (for Seinfeld episodes) or Hulu and display my selections on the hotel TV screen. How do I do it without considering purchasing Google's $35 Chromecast?
When I travel, here's what I carry with me to accomplish it:
Microsoft Surface Pro - $899. As you've already read before (hopefully), the Surface Pro is the only computer I carry with me now when traveling. I have a laptop (Lenovo) that gathers dust in my office because I simply no longer have the need for it. The Surface Pro does everything I need.
AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable - $5.79. Amazon Basics series of products are just phenomenal. Amazon has found a way to produce quality components for much cheaper than similar offerings. I'm not sure how they do it, but I'm glad they do. The Amazon Basics HDMI cable supports more than I actually need (Ethernet, 3D, and Audio Return), but it's nice to know those capabilities are there. Hooking the Surface Pro up to a hotel flat screen TV is quick and simple. The best experience I had with this was in New Orleans for TechNet 2013. The hotel TV had ports on the front, making it even easier without having to dig blindly behind the TV for the right port and cable connector orientation.
DATASTREAM Gold Plated Mini DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter - $21.99. The Surface Pro has a Mini DisplayPort for external video, so an adapter is needed. At the time, I couldn't locate an Amazon Basics version so I went with the Datastream, primarily because it looked cool and the Amazon description actually listed Microsoft Surface Pro as a supported device.
Plugable USB 2.0 Ethernet Adapter - $13.95. The Plugable Ethernet adapter is not a critical component in my media streaming setup, but rather, a safe one. Those that travel quite a bit understand how unreliable the Wi-Fi in a hotel can be. Those that have attended large Microsoft conferences know what it's like to have the hotel Wi-Fi saturated with thousands of geeks checking email late at night and early in the morning. I learned quite a while back to always carry a portable Ethernet adapter with me, just in case, so I found the Plugable for the Surface Pro. Obviously, it's not needed if I'm simply showing Xbox Video rented movies I've downloaded to the Surface Pro's hard drive, but when streaming Netflix, Amazon, Crackle, or Hulu, it's a must, ensuring the network stream is steady and reliable.
Incidentally, my family cut the cable TV cord earlier this year. My wife is traveling with me next week to Ft. Collins and she has some actual TV shows that she likes to watch. Yes, we could take advantage of the "free" cable TV at the hotel, but we've gotten completely used to watching actual TV shows streaming from Amazon. This is another thing that Amazon has gotten right. Amazon offers "Season Passes" to certain TV shows. We love Longmire and Justified and because we've signed up for a Season Pass for both, the day after they show on live television, they show up in our Amazon streaming queue. Purchasing an Amazon Season Pass gives you the full run of the season's episodes at $1.89 an episode, (normally $1.99 if you purchase each episode separately). I mentioned this to a bunch of IT geeks, recently, and was surprised how many of them didn't know about it, so I thought I'd mention it here.
Anyway, even though the wife and I will be away from home next week, using Amazon's Season Pass, we'll still be able to maintain our TV viewing habits just as if we had never left. It's a great service to check out.
Now, if hotels would just start purchasing televisions that support Miracast before Windows 8.1 is released, I could shed these accessories.
The ONLY think I'm missing is a remote control. I've searched pretty frequently for a remote session app that would pair my Windows Phone with the Microsoft Surface Pro, and have yet to find anything – at least anything good. If you have something you are using, that works, let me know. I'd love to complete the full mobile television experience.