Mar 172011

I haven’t seen too much coverage on what you can do when outputting the iPad2 to a TV or monitor, so I decided to see how it all works. Using the “Digital AV Adapter”, it’s pretty simple to output the iPad to a HDTV. It mirrors the iPad screen as advertised, even the home screen. Rotating the iPad also is mirrored on the external screen, so it’s always replicating what you’re seeing on the actual iPad screen. It doesn’t up-scale the resolution, (unless your TV is set to do that, of course) so you’re basically seeing a 1:1 ratio (1024×786) on the external screen. Apps are all also mirrored completely on the external display. Additionally, with the HDMI adapter, it will send the sound output over HDMI as well, which is great.

Some apps are “external display aware”, so you may get different results, depending on the app. Netflix is one of these apps, and how it works is you can browse the library of titles on the iPad while the external display just shows a red Netflix screen. Once you start playing a video, it goes full screen on the external display at 720p, and the iPad just shows controls for pausing, fast forwarding, etc. Same is true of another favorite app of mine, the MLB app. Other apps that have embedded video like news apps or even Safari work fine, and when you tap the full screen icon, it will show in full screen on the TV as well with no letterboxing. No trickery needed…it just works. I even gave the Hulu Plus app a shot. I don’t have a Hulu Plus subscription, but the app is free and it will let you watch a few select things for free to “tour” the application. I was half expecting Hulu to have some clever block in their app preventing output, but that’s not the case (yet?) While the Hulu video didn’t go completely full screen on the external display, it was still completely mirrored on the TV.

Taking a look at the Keynote app, which is another “external display aware” app, it lets you output your slides to the TV, and gives you options of showing just the slides or slides with your own notes on the iPad screen only. Great for giving presentations so your not broadcasting your personal slide notes to everyone in the room.

Of course, being a gamer, I was thinking it’d be pretty neat to play some games on the big screen. It’s probably not the most ideal from a comfort standpoint, but I just wanted to see how it’d work. I’ve hoarded a few higher end games through various sales, so I had a few I wanted to test out.

First up, I gave Rage HD a test. The intro movie played only on the TV, while the iPad was blank. Then the game’s main menu showed only on the iPad. Once the game started, the TV remained blank, and all that I could see on the iPad was the HUD and no other graphics. Definitely weird. After playing around with it, I found if I pause the game, disconnected, then reconnected the connector, the full game showed on both the TV and iPad, and I could play the game. It’s probably not the most optimal way to play the game because I kept looking down to tap the controls, but it works.

Next I gave Infinity Blade a shot. It had no problem mirroring the full game on both displays. Graphics were crisp on both. Same goes for Dead Space and Madden, no issues with either. While I don’t see the iPad replacing the Xbox or PS3 in your entertainment center anytime soon, it’s not as far away as you’d think. Graphically, the iPad2 can rival and even beat those consoles, although touch controls will always be more limited than analog controls.

One thing I did find, that’s not widely reported, is that the original iPad/iPhone VGA adapter will also mirror the iPad2’s display to a VGA connection. It’s $10 cheaper than the HDMI one, and will work great in more business settings where low cost VGA projectors are everywhere. Chances are most small/medium business won’t have a high-def projector or display in their conference rooms yet, so the VGA adapter is a safe bet if you’re planning on doing presentations. The down side is that you’ll lose the sound output, so you’d have to use a stereo cable off of the headphone jack if you needed to output the sound elsewhere.

So overall, I’m impressed with the output functionality of the iPad2. It really makes it take a big step closer to replacing a computer with this functionality, and it can be useful in a lot of different scenarios. I don’t see it being a permanent item in an entertainment system, but it’s not really meant for that. More of a temporary hook up for presentations or other demos of a “hey let me show you this” type situation. I’ll have a video demonstrating all this in the near future, time permitting.


I have been involved in both computers and video games since a very young age, cutting my teeth (literally) on an Apple IIe and an Intellivision. I've been writing about both for fun, off and on throughout the years, which eventually led me here -- still playing games and casually writing about them off an on. Follow @dab784

  2 Responses to “iPad2 Output to an External Screen”

Comments (2)
  1. Thanks! You just cost me $40…

    On a related note, did you get one of the covers? How do you like it?

  2. Yeah, I got a smart cover too. The smart cover is pretty good, it keeps the screen covered adds almost no bulk and is about as close to a “built in” stand as you’d get with the iPad2. It’s solid, but I think you’ll still need something else to put it in if you’re lugging it around in a laptop bag or something, for extra protection. Also the back is unprotected, and that’s where you’re more likely to end up with scratches.

    I’ll have a write up on that and trying out a little video demo to go along with it. I’m thinking tomorrow or Saturday I’ll post that up.

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