Revisiting the Apple TV (peer-to-peer AirPlay on iOS 8)
In October of 2011, Apple introduced wireless mirroring via AirPlay from an iPad (or iPhone, or iPod Touch) to an Apple TV. This functionality was later reproduced on computers (Mac or Windows) running programs such as Reflector, Air Server, X Mirage, or others. Working with an Apple TV resulted in a few negative consequences:
- Your connection was at the mercy of your wi-fi network. If your network was not set up properly with Apple's Bonjour Services enabled, your Apple TV didn't work. Additionally, if your network was slow or bogged down, your AirPlay connection would suffer (stutter, crash).
- You are always at the mercy of Apple's most recent movie releases that can be purchased in the iTunes store and played on a TV. Imagine my daily joy of teaching a freshman men's choir while Cameron Diaz's “Bad Teacher” was a daily selected movie.
- The Apple TV requires an HDMI to VGA adaper, most notably the Kanex ATV Pro.
- It became cheaper to install one of the “AirPlay” apps on a computer already connected to a projector than to purchase an Apple TV and Kanex ATV Pro.
- The Apple TV always mirrors an iPad in a 4:3 format (unless playing a movie), often adding an additional border that is not present if you connect your iPad to a projector directly with a cable.
With iOS 8, Apple quietly announced a new feature with the Apple TV…you can connect to an Apple TV without using a network. This is called peer-to-peer networking.
Apple recommends connecting your Apple TV to your network with an Ethernet cable, and then simply searching for your Apple TV as a separate device. Here's the trick: you need an iPad from 2012 (or later) and the latest version of the Apple TV (Ver. 3, Model A 1469), or newer (should the next version come out).
Many problems with Apple TVs and mirroring are directly connected to wi-fi networks. As a result, I literally couldn't wait to try mirroring without having to use a network. Today I purchased one of these new Apple TVs ($99 plus tax) and immediately went home and installed the device in our TV system, with the intent of bringing it to school (we had an existing 1st Generation Apple TV, so I simply unplugged it and plugged in the new Apple TV). I didn't have an ethernet connection available, so I used our guest wireless network to connect the new Apple TV. Updating the device to its latest software took about 30 minutes. Once that was finished, I looked for the Apple TV, and sure enough, it was present on the AirPlay menu. For the record, my iPad runs on our personal wireless network, so it is not using the same network connection as the Apple TV.
Everything works flawlessly. There is still a slight delay in audio/video, which should be expected. I love the idea that the Apple TV doesn't have to be hindered by a wi-fi network any longer. This really frees the teacher that loves their iPad, wants to project it at school, but has an anti-Apple IT department that will not authorize the Apple TV (or iPad) to connect to the district wireless. Furthermore, if your iPad is already connected to a network, your wi-fi connection on your iPad remains connected to the internet–I have tried to use Ad Hoc networks generated by my MacBook to mirror to Reflector in the past, losing my connection to the Internet. I see presenters across the country bringing along an Apple TV to be able to wirelessly project to their audiences (I will be doing this as well).
Was there anything special in the setup of the Apple TV? No. I choose to rename my AppleTV and to enable a password to connect to the device; but even this is unnecessary. The only thing you have to do is update the operating system of the Apple TV, and have a 2012 or later MacBook (yes, AirPlay works with later MacBooks), iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch running iOS 8.
There are still additional benefits for using a computer-based AirPlay program, such as the ability to project more than one device at a time (the Apple TV is a one-device-at-a-time device). But the ability to wirelessly project without needing a network is a wonderful addition–at a very affordable cost. Have you been waiting to wirelessly mirror? Here's your chance!
Note: My 1st generation Apple TV, which we use to watch movies from iTunes, Netflix, and from my Mac Mini (we use Mac Mini as a Entertainment Center with all of our audio and movies), will NOT allow peer-to-peer networking with a MacBook, iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. Although the exterior of the device hasn't changed (a rather understated black box), the internals of the Apple TV have changed over time. Make sure to buy the 3rd Generation Apple TV, Model A 1469, or newer.