Appreciating Apple TV

At our school, we’ve mostly used Reflector as the way of doing AirPlay mirroring from our iPads into a large projected image. This has worked well when using old-fashioned VGA projectors and a 4:3 image. However, the connection can sometimes be unreliable, which is probably down to network/wifi issues. But, due to the advantages I’ve previously outlined, Reflector seemed a better choice than the main alternative: Apple TV.  Apple TV is a little black box that works (amongst other things) as an AirPlay receiver for content from your Mac or iOS device.

However, after some discussion with some fellow ADEs, I’ve come to appreciate the advantages that Apple TV has over Reflector.

  • It’s Apple’s AirPlay mirroring solution, rather than a third-party reverse-engineered hack, so that means it’s more likely work more reliably.
  • If connecting to an HD device via HDMI, setup is super simple.
  • You can have one-time device authentication, where a new AirPlay connection requires entering the on-screen passcode. This stops accidental AirPlay connections (thank you Early Years!) without having to remember or share a password.
  • Peer-to-peer. Which is amazing! With a lightning connector iPad, it uses Bluetooth to set up a direct wifi connection to the Apple TV, thus bypassing the local network and so reducing the network load.
  • Modern macs can AirPlay to Apple TV. I’m interested what impact this will have on its use in the classroom, is it makes it the same class citizen as the iPad.

Here are some things I’ve discovered to make setup easier:

  1. Turn on Conference Mode so that it shows instructions for AirPlay mirroring, rather than the normal grid of video apps.
  2. Turn on device authentication to make peer-to-peer AirPlay connection work.
  3. Have a wired Ethernet connection to the Apple TV to reduce load on your wifi.
  4. Do a restart on the Apple TV after setup to make the changes take effect.
  5. Make sure it’s an HDMI HD display your connecting to, either a projector or a TV. It just doesn’t work very nicely with old school VGA projectors, even widescreen ones.
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