We know Google’s Chromecast is a great (and inexpensive) device for mirroring your desktop or Android devices to your TV, but if you have an Apple TV, you can basically do the same thing with your Mac or iOS device.
The Apple TV is a pretty versatile device and with its $69 sale price, it’s not a bad deal either, though we do think it’s best to wait until Apple unveils the next version if you’re thinking of buying a new one.
For the time being, we still recommend the much cheaper Chromecast for your streaming needs, which incidentally works with iPhone and iPad without mirroring, and OS X with mirroring, as long as you’re using the Chrome browser and Chromecast plugin.
All that aside, if you’ve never used your Mac, iPhone, or iPad with your Apple TV then you’re missing out. Apple TV works as an AirPlay device, which means that much like Google “casting,” you can throw or stream content to your Apple TV to view on your big screen.
In the grand scheme of the Apple ecosystem, it makes a lot of sense and works flawlessly. All you need is a supported Mac (basically anything made after 2011), an Apple TV (second generation or later), and a network.
Setting up AirPlay to Work on Apple TV
Before you can use your Apple TV as an AirPlay display, you need to make sure it is enabled. To do this, open the “Settings” from the main menu.
On the next screen, select “AirPlay”.
There’s a couple things you can do here, such as renaming your Apple TV’s name, setting up security, and playing iTunes from iCloud, but obviously the most important one is to make sure AirPlay is turned “On”.
With that done, you can now use your Apple TV as an AirPlay display.
Mirroring from a Mac
To mirror content from your Mac to your Apple TV, you first need to check your Displays settings. The easiest way to do this is to open the System Preferences and click “Displays” or use Spotlight and type “Displays”.
Either way, when you have the settings open, you can initiate mirroring from the options in the lower-left corner.
Alternatively, you can elect to show the mirroring options from the menu bar, which is what we’ll be doing in this article for the sake of simplicity.
Thus, from the menu bar, we can mirror our Mac’s display by clicking on the AirPlay icon and then connecting to our “AirPlay Display” i.e. Apple TV.
Once you’re connected to your Apple TV, click on the AirPlay menu bar button once again and you can choose options pertaining to your AirPlay display. For example, you can obviously mirror your display (or any display attached to it) or you can extend your desktop to the AirPlay display.
You can also match the desktop size to either your Apple TV or the display on or attached to your Mac.
What this means is, when set it to “Apple TV” your desktop’s resolution will try to best match your HDTV, and when set it to your Mac’s display, your computer’s desktop will retain the sharpest image, but might not fill your HDTV’s screen.
If you need to make adjustments to your AirPlay display’s resolution, use the Displays Preferences again.
If you need to calibrate your Apple TV on your display, such as if you’re using a projector, click “Open Projector Calibrator…” to make adjustments.
AirPlay mirroring is pretty much a cinch. We didn’t experience any issue getting it to work though extending the desktop results in better image quality on each display because they can remain at their optimal resolution.
That said, if you have any issues getting it to work properly, consult Apple’s support document for more information.
Streaming Music and Videos via iTunes
It’s also possible to AirPlay directly from iTunes, so you can stream anything from your computer to your HDTV, including music, movies, and TV shows. Simply click the AirPlay button as shown below.
When you AirPlay music, you can choose multiple devices and control the volume separately on each one.
If you play a movie on your Apple TV, it works the same way. Choose your film (or TV show) and then click the AirPlay button.
You can’t play movies on more than one device like you can with music but you can use your Mac or Apple TV remote to control playback.
Mirroring from Your iPhone or iPad
Mirroring your iPhone or iPad display is as easy if not easier than you Mac’s. Before everything works however, you need to make sure:
- AirPlay is enabled on the Apple TV.
- Your iOS device is connected to the same WiFi network as your Apple TV.
- Alternately, you can connect to Apple TV via BlueTooth if there’s not WiFi. This is useful if WiFi isn’t available or unreliable, such as in a hotel room (you do need a WiFi connection to stream content from iTunes).
Your Apple TV should appear as an option in the Control Center. Note, you may have to scroll through the AirPlay menu shown here to see the “Mirroring” option.
Once you turn on mirroring, your entire iPhone or iPad’s home screen will appear on your HDTV. Your TV will automatically adjust the image to fit on the screen, and the orientation and content will change to reflect what is on your iOS device as you use it.
If you experience problems or lag, it could be a weak WiFi signal or interference from another electronic device. Be sure to check Apple’s support document for other troubleshooting tips.
Streaming Content from Your iPhone or iPad
You don’t have to mirror your whole screen to stream content to your Apple TV. Many apps support AirPlay so you can stream content from Netflix, Pandora, and many more.
For example, as you can see the Netflix app has the AirPlay icon next to the playback controls in the lower-right corner.
Pandora sports it in the upper-right (right next to the Chromecast icon in this example).
If you don’t see the AirPlay symbol in an app (the YouTube app doesn’t have it) then you can simply use the Control Center to stream content that way. Just make sure you don’t have “Mirroring” turned on.
Overall, this is almost no different than casting from Android devices to a Chromecast and the results are largely the same. Perhaps the largest difference is that that Chromecast works on iOS devices with the Chromecast app installed, whereas AirPlay is an Apple-only technology (you can’t use your Android device with your Apple TV).