I'm a notorious cheapskate who loves to watch TV but who hates to spend big bucks to do it.
The way that I get the most for the minimum has changed, over the years, so this is my current favorite way to get it done.
What you'll need:
- Amazon Fire Stick that includes the "Mirroring" option. I use the inexpensive "4k" stick. If you long-press the Home button you'll see if it offers the Mirroring option.
- A Windows 10 laptop. (Apple may work but I'm not an Apple person, so I don't know, for sure.)
- A cellphone with (preferably) an unlimited data plan. (Hotspot plan not required.)
- Pdanet+ app (costs around $10)
Step 1: Install the Pdanet+ app on your phone and install the client app on your laptop. Connect them with the WiFi Direct option. This should work whether or not your phone plan includes hotspot functionality.
Step 2: Turn on your TV and switch to the HDMI input that hosts your Fire Stick. The Fire Stick does not need to have a connection to the internet. In fact, I prefer that it doesn't. Hold the "home" button for a few seconds until a menu comes up that offers you the option for "Mirroring" and select it. Your Fire Stick will be ready to mirror a connection from your laptop.
Step 3: On the bottom right of your laptop screen click on the dialog box and then select "Connect". It should show you your Fire Stick. Select the Fire Stick and you should now see your computer screen displayed on your television.
Step 4: If you want to get rid of the annoying looking box at the top of your screen just click on the pushpin and it will disappear.
With this setup you can watch anything you want and have it show up as on-device data on your phone. You can use Pluto, Netflix, Locast, SlingTV, or whatever you want.
The next thing you'll need to worry about is bandwidth. Some video services don't allow you to select video quality. Instead, they try to use every bit of bandwidth they can grab. If that puts you over your soft cap then you could get deprioritized and you may experience buffering when the towers get congested.
Let's set up our laptop so that we can control bandwidth, in the future:
- Open Chrome browser then press F12 to open the DevTools window.
- Click on the down arrow next to where it says "Online" (you might have to click on "Network" first) and select "Add" at the bottom of the window. This is where we're going to create custom profiles to use in the future.
- Click on "Add Custom Profile" and create one called "1Mbps" and give it a maximum download bandwidth of 1000 kbps. I've also created two others called "0.8Mbps" and "0.5Mbps". After you've created them you can exit that window.
Now, when you stream video from a source that tries to gobble as much bandwidth as possible you can hit "F12", then the down arrow next to "Online", and you can select the amount of bandwidth that you'd like to use.
I don't need super mondo high def for anything I watch. I do most of my streaming in SD/480p. As such, I can usually come in just under the 50GB soft cap for T-Mobile, each month. That keeps us under the radar and nobody messes with us.
If you stream at 1Mbps you'll use a maximum of 450MB per hour. (Probably around 480p.)
If you stream at 0.8Mbps you'll use a maximum of 360MB per hour. (Probably around 360p.)
If you stream at 0.5Mbps you'll use a maximum of 225MB per hour. (Probably around 240p.)
I'm estimating those 240p/360p/480p observations based on recollections of video that I've watched in the past where I knew what the resolution was at the time. I've noticed that Netflix and Amazon Prime are able to deliver surprising resolution at ridiculously low amounts of bandwidth. You can easily get away with using 0.8 with them.
Note 1: When you select a throttled profile you need to MINIMIZE the DevTools window, not close it. If you close it, it will go back to full bandwidth.
Note 2: The throttling only affects the one tab that you have open. If you open another tab in Chrome it will be at full bandwidth.
Note 3: If your DevTools window appears docked to the side of your screen, rather than as a separate window that can be minimized, you can change it by clicking on the "three dot menu" in the DevTools window and change the docking behavior.
I usually try the 0.8Mbps setting, first. If it makes the streaming service puke then I go to the 1Mbps, which seems to work with just about everything.
It sounds like a lot of steps but, after you've done it twice, it only takes seconds.
My laptop is always already connected to my cellphone and my TV is already on and in Mirroring mode. All I have to do is click "Connect", then click on a bookmark to start streaming, and throttle the bandwidth with F12 if the streaming service doesn't have a "Quality" setting.
Try it. You might like it.