Thanks to COVID-19, many people are spending a lot more time inside with their fellow housemates, be they spouses, children, or just friends they’re splitting the rent with. That also means more sharing, both of the chores and of the TV.
But just because you’re all stuck inside with one TV to share among yourselves, doesn’t mean you’ve got to sit there and fume while your significant other watches fan-free German soccer when you’d rather be watching movies or gaming. Thanks to some clever streaming technology embedded in your gadgets, you’ve got options to enjoy the content you want while letting others keep their fun going, too.
Here are three ways to share your TV and other tech without letting the stress of quarantine overwhelm you.
Turn your laptop into a lap TV
While Netflix is usually best enjoyed on a big screen, let’s not forget that you can watch your favorite shows on devices with smaller screens. That includes your smartphone, laptop, and tablet. Of course, your favorite streaming service (be it Spectrum, Crunchyroll, CBS All Access, Amazon Prime Video, or myriad others) can stream media whether you’re using an app or just your web browser. But a consequence of streaming your favorite shows during the workday or weekend is reduced bandwidth for everyone else at home, an unnecessary hobbling of your internet connection when the alternatives can leave everyone satisfied.
A little proactive planning goes a long way to keeping everyone satisfied, online, and occupied. If you know you’re gonna spend a few hours watching your current television obsession, why not download the episodes to your device beforehand? Not only will it spare you the lamentations of your spouse or kid over what a terrible internet connection they’re dealing with, it’ll give you instant access to high-quality episodes instead of the variable quality associated with streaming content. Downloading episodes or films to your device usually requires you to use your streaming service’s app of choice, so be sure to download it from your operating system’s respective App Store.
Stream your video games
Thanks to the prevalence of streaming games and media, both locally and over the web, gamers can have their cake and eat it too, preferably in the other room while someone else watches TV. Depending on your console, you’ve got yourself a compromise waiting to happen.
PlayStation 4’s Remote Play, which basically streams your PS4 game to the device of your choice, is perfect for letting someone else binge something on the big screen while you enjoy some much-needed gaming time either in another room or right next to them on the couch.
To run Remote Play, you’ll need a PC, Mac, iOS, or Android device running the PS4 Remote Play app, your PS4’s controller, and either a steady wired or wireless internet connection. You need to enable Remote Play on your console, which you can do from the Settings app. In the Remote Play app, you’ll need to login with your PlayStation account, and locate your console on your home network. You’ll be able to adjust settings like resolution and frame rate from the app, while you can modify the remote play settings on your PlayStation to instantly play remotely just by opening the app (which starts your console without you touching it). One caveat: Your PlayStation will be tied up while using Remote Play, meaning your housemates will need to use another device to watch Netflix or anything else.
More of an Xbox player? Well, you can still avoid hogging the TV, you’ll just need to jump through a few more hoops. Currently, Microsoft’s Console Streaming service is in beta, and rolling out to select members of Microsoft’s Xbox Insider program. You’ll need to sign up for the company’s (free) Xbox Insider program and download the Xbox Game Streaming app. You’ll also need a Bluetooth-friendly Xbox Wireless controller, a 5GHz Wi-Fi or LTE mobile connection, and a compatible Android device, the only platform currently supported.
Free up your PC (or at least your monitor)
What about PC game streaming? It works a little differently, especially if you’re using Valve’s Steam, a marketplace and library for PC and Mac games. On a PC or Mac, you just need to download the Steam app from Valve. If you’re using a mobile device or Apple TV, you’ll need to use the Steam Link app. From there, you can log in to your Steam account, enter the code to link your primary gaming computer to the streaming client device, and get going.
While streaming using Steam Link lets you game while socially distancing from your PC, it takes over your computer during use, meaning you can’t hand it off to your kids or spouse to use while you stream to another device. For PC gamers who simply can’t give up their monitor so their partner can be productive, here’s a clever workaround: You can get Steam Link up and running on your gaming PC and client device, then — if your monitor has multiple input options — simply connect their laptop to the monitor, leaving you free to play in another room while your PC continues to stream your game to your laptop or tablet and they use your monitor to get some work done.
For a more streamlined and polished version of streaming PC games to your devices, check out Nvidia’s GeForce Now streaming service, a subscription service that allows you to stream your library of owned games to a laptop, Mac, Android device, or the big screen using Nvidia’s SHIELD TV. If you sign up for the free version, you’ll be limited to an hour of playtime, while the $4.99 per month option nets you unlimited playtime and improved streaming quality.