Have you ever seen the above icon on your Mac or iOS device? That’s the AirPlay icon, it shows up when there is an Apple TV or AirPlay compatible stereo system connected to the same Wi-Fi network. It can be used to mirror the screen of your Mac, iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone to your TV screen, or even to make it take a video that is playing on your iPad and have it play wirelessly to your Apple TV.
How to Mirror a Mac and iOS device to an Apple TV
Mirroring with AirPlay means that your Apple TV will display the entire screen of your Mac or iOS device. There are two ways to use mirroring, one is to display the screen and play any audio on your TV and the other is to just play audio without showing the screen on the TV.
To enable AirPlay on your iOS device bring up the multitasking bar (double tap the home button or 4 finger swipe up). Next swipe from the left to the right until you see the AirPlay icon.
*Update: This has changed with iOS 7. Airplay is now located in Control Center (swipe up from the bottom of your iOS devices screen).
Clicking the AirPlay icon will pop up a small little window where you can choose how you’d like to use it. If you have more than one Apple TV or an AirPlay speaker system, they will all show up here.
To just play music/audio without mirroring the screen of your iOS device, simply turn “Mirroring” to the off position.
It’s relatively the same thing when using AirPlay from a Mac. If your Mac and Apple TV are connected to the same Wi-Fi network you should see an AirPlay icon displayed in the menu bar. Clicking on it will show an option to connect to your Apple TV or AirPlay speakers.
The mirroring feature works the same way. You can show the entire Macs screen or just have it play the audio. There are two different features you should choose between however, what you want to match the desktop size to.
- Match Desktop Size to “This Mac” will optimize the content going from the Mac to the Apple TV. Use this setting to maintain the resolution on your Mac.
- Match Desktop Size to “Apple TV” will optimize your Macs screen to show the sharpest possible image on your Apple TV. So for example, the resolution on my Mac is 2560×1440 and my TVs resolution is 1080. With this setting my Macs resolution will change from 1440 to 1080 while I have AirPlay enabled.
Using AirPlay without Mirroring
The above method of streaming content from your Mac or iOS device is not the only available way to use AirPlay. It’s also really easy to simply send a video you are watching on your iOS device straight to your TV. So lets say for example, you’re using your iPad to watch a video on YouTube and decide you’d rather watch it on your Apple TV. Click the AirPlay button and select Apple TV. This will stop the video playback on the iPad and instead show the video on the Apple TV. You can exit the YouTube app on your iPad and go off and do other things and the video will continue to play of the Apple TV.
AirPlay works for more than just videos, you can also use it to display pictures in Camera Roll from your iOS device to your TV. Again, just click the AirPlay icon, select Apple TV and swipe between your pictures.
Want to use AirPlay to wirelessly send music from your Mac or iOS device to your stereo system? If you have an AirPlay compatible stereo system it will also show up when the AirPlay button is pressed.