A Guide to iPad AirPlay Screen Mirroring

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How to mirror your iPad’s display to a projector or TV.

Screen mirroring on the iPad turns Apple’s tablet into a truly transformational teaching tool.

By simply double pressing the iPad’s home button, or swiping up the screen with four fingers, then swiping the task manager to the right, the AirPlay screen mirroring options are displayed. From this menu you can send a live stream of your iPad’s screen to an Apple TV or software that supports AirPlay.

airserver-screen-mirror

When screen-mirroring is enabled the status bar at the top of the iPad turns blue to remind you that your screen is visible externally. A feature that may save a few embarrassing moments!

There are a number of ways to mirror your iPad’s screen, here are the options available to you:

Apple TV

Apple-TVApple TV is Apple’s official solution to mirroring the iPad’s screen. The device is a small black box, which connects to the HDMI port of your TV or projector.

The unit also comes with the sexiest uni-body aluminium remote I’ve ever used. You’ll never put it down.

The Apple TV can be connected by either ethernet cable or WiFI to your network via which the unit communicates with your iPad.

Aside from AirPlay mirroring, Apple TV also features a number of apps, such as Netflix and YouTube to video streaming.

Pricing

The lowest price I’ve found for Apple TV is £79 (approx. $120)  from a local supplier, but most suppliers will be able to provide pricing lower than the RRP.

You’ll also have to purchase an HDMI cable, if you don’t already have one, as Apple do not provide one with the device.

Apple TV can be purchased from most online retailers and suppliers

Pros

  • Password protection is built in, so you can control who can stream content to your Apple TV.
  • In iOS7 Apple is promising features to allow you to centrally manage Apple TV via MDM.
  • Video streaming is great and rarely stutters.

Cons

  • Apple TV cannot access the Internet via a proxy server. If you’re just using the screen mirroring feature this won’t be a problem, but if you want to take advantage of the range of Apple TV apps, such as YouTube, you may struggle.
  • Compared to the alternatives Apple TV is expensive.
  • Some teachers struggle to switch source to the Apple TV on projectors. Most of the Apple TV support issues I deal with are related to this issue.
  • Apple TV settings and passwords are managed on each individual device. This means a user with an Apple TV remote can change the password or other settings.
  • Additional teacher training may be required to reduce support issues.

Reflector and AirServer

reflectorapp

Reflector and AirServer are software that turn your Mac or PC into an AirPlay receiver — no additional hardware required.

On the iPad screen-mirroring is done in exactly the same way as with the Apple TV, however, instead of sending the iPad’s display to a dedicated device the display is overlayed on your computer’s monitor.

Because both applications run on your current PC, transition between PC and iPad is seamless during your lessons. One minute you can be displaying a Powerpoint presentation on Windows, the next you can have a full screen iPad display without needed to adjust input sources on your projector.

Both applications allow for multiple iPads to be displayed simultaneously on screen at once, a feature that Apple TV is missing. If you’re just displaying a single iPad a full screen option is available.

Pricing

Compared to Apple TV both Reflector and AirServer are extremely cost-effective.

Reflector costs $9.99 per install, $39.99 for 5 installs, and there are also some options for bulk purchasing, although you need to contact the company for details.

AirServer educational licensing is an amazing $3.99 per install when you purchase 20 or more licenses, and a standard single license is $14.99.

Both applications come with a free trial which is worthwhile downloading to discover your preference.

Also available from the Reflector website is AirParrot which gives you the ability to screen mirror your PC or Mac to an Apple TV. An interesting option if you’ve already invested in an Apple TV.

Both AirServer and Reflector can be purchased directly from their respective websites.

Pros

  • No additional hardware is required, just a PC or Mac and your iPad.
  • Both AirServer and Reflector App are extremely cheap compared to the Apple TV.

Cons

  • Passwords have to be set manually and are reliant on the teacher to manage them. Due to the number of AirServer installation we have we created a script to edit the Windows registry settings which hold the password to allow us to centrally manage the settings.
  • We also found that passwords are per user, not per PC. This means if a teacher sets a password then another teacher logs on to the same PC the password will be removed.
  • In our experience streaming video from the iPad with both Reflector App and AirServer was stuttery and inconsistent.

Wrap Up

Unfortunately, iPad doesn’t support the industry standard Miracast, so we are left to pick from the above options.

In my opinion there is no perfect solution. Apple TV is great, but expensive, and Air Server and Reflector app are cost effective but have some problems playing video.

For general use, such as demonstrating apps, displaying images, and Internet browsing Air Server and Reflector work exceptionally well, but if you are likely to be playing HD video often you will want to look at Apple TV. On the other hand, AirServer and Reflector’s ability to stream display images from multiple iPads at once is extremely compelling in a classroom situation.

Ultimately the option you choose will be down to how you use screen-mirroring in your classroom. In my school we are using the significantly cheaper AirServer as our “default” screen mirroring software, but if a specific teacher requires the ability to regularly stream HD video we will consider an Apple TV.

Let me know how you’re using AirPlay screen-mirroring in the comments below!

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About Author

Karl is an award winning school Network Manager, IT Lead Professional for Bedfordshire Borough Council, and is an ICT Across the Curriculum Co-ordinator based near London, England. He has been working in education for more than ten years and founded ClassThink in 2013 to share technology best practice with other schools. In 2014 he won the NAACE Impact Award for support services in schools, and writes edtech articles for Education Executive Magazine.

15 Comments

  1. Thanks for this clear guide, Karl. We are using AirPlay with Reflector when we have an IWB in the room as having the computer physically cabled is a necessity. In classes without an IWB we have a mixture of AppleTV or Reflector. The difference is that AppleTV runs independently of a dedicated computer so actually can cost less. We find teachers want to use their laptops and still have students be able to AirPlay rather than tying up their laptop.

    When I present, I use Reflector as I can walk into any environment and connect both my Mac and my iPads.

    I’m looking forward to MDM for AppleTV as the updates haven’t been easy for us to manage.

    • Hi Christine,

      You’re right, both solutions have their benefits. We’re also using a mix of products to suit the situation.

      We’ve also had problems with Apple TV updates to the point where the only way we could get them to work properly was for one of our technicians to taken them home and update via their home internet connection.

      I’m glad you found the post helpful. Let me know how you get on with your iPad strategy!

  2. julie tollervey on

    i have tried both of these, and although i can get them to work at home ( on and off) i can not mirror to my whiteboard in school. it has now let me down a few times in lessons…im stuck!(and not the most technalogically minded so not sure where to go next)

    • Hi Julie,

      Has it worked at all in your classroom?

      I would suggest checking the following:

      - That you have a strong WiFi signal
      - If you’re using Apple TV make sure you’re using it with a network cable rather than wireless to connect it to your network.

  3. Hi

    Has anyone tried using iPads with chromebooks to connect to an IWB?
    I’m using airserver for Microsoft but want to try out chromebooks also.

    Thanks

  4. Hi, I’m running a vpn app on my iphone. Is there a way to stream to Apple TV 3 while vpn is running ?? Reason is that talk talk block certain sites so I need to run the vpn app. But when I want to stream Apple TV won’t accept it :(

  5. Excellent writeup Karl. I appreciate it. We have AppleTV but have encountered some trouble in some places. I tried out both Reflector and AirServer but it was great to see your in-depth review of both of them.

  6. I just purchased Reflector to use in my high school English classroom. I want to use to mirror to my macbook, which is hooked up to my projector. However, the ipad image is too small when projected (especially when I’m using apps to write on PDFs). Any fix for this?

  7. Hi Karl, my PC is connected to a VPN which prohibits me from using Reflector or any other mirroring app to display my iPhone 5 (iOS 7.1.1) since it thinks it is connected to another network. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Brian,

      As I’m sure you know, Reflector/Air Server and other AirPlay receivers only work between devices connected to the same network. An Apple TV would work — you wouldn’t need to connect via your PC — but there’s a cost involved there.

      You could use a Lightning to HDMI cable to connect directly to a screen or projector if you don’t mind not being wireless.

      Does that help you out?

      Karl

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