Talking tech since 2003

Long gone are the days when video and audio cables were necessary to get content from a computer to a television. Apple’s AirPlay technology, coupled with its Apple TV, introduced us to a more simple way, blazing a trail for competing technologies like Miracast and Chromecast. AirPlay works great if you want to play audio or video from an AirPlay-supported app, or if you want to mirror your Mac or iOS device’s display over to your Apple TV-equipped set. But what about using your TV as a second monitor, wirelessly?


It’s now possible thanks to the absolutely, positively free Mavericks update for Mac OS X and a new feature called “AirPlay Display.”

Enabling the feature is quite simple. First off, your Mac and your Apple TV need to be connected to the same wireless network. You can then click the AirPlay icon in the menu bar at the top of the screen and then click the “Apple TV” option under “Connect to AirPlay Display.” At first, your Mac may try to mirror one of your existing displays. To fix that, just click the AirPlay icon once more and then click “Extend Desktop.”

If your extended desktop doesn’t quite fill out your TV, you may need to adjust the resolution. You can do so by opening Settings > Displays and then fixing the resolution on your television.

Once you’re all set up, the extended desktop works on your TV just as you’d expect a connected display to. You can drag windows to and from it and you can open full screen apps and swipe back and forth between them. There is some slight lag, but if you’ve ever used AirPlay in the past to mirror any kind of display through your Apple TV, this is nothing new to you. This doesn’t affect video playback, which is smooth, and sound is piped through the Apple TV to your set so that you aren’t hearing the action before you see it.

Since I started playing with the feature last night, I’ve already come up with a couple of different scenarios where the feature would come in handy — streaming video like Hulu or NFL Sunday Ticket while still being able to use your Mac, for instance, as well as conducting a video chat on your couch while keeping some other content handy on your large HDTV display. For those who have an HDTV sitting in the office, AirPlay Display is a way to turn that set into a second display without having to go out and buy another one. It may not be something you’ll use all the time, but when you do, you’ll be happy it’s there.

AirPlay Display is just one of many new features you’ll find in 10.9 Mavericks, but in my mind, it’s one of the best. AirPlay certainly isn’t alone in the wireless TV streaming game — I did mention Miracast and Chromecast earlier. But AirPlay’s integration into the OS is something that, to this point, no other company has matched, and AirPlay’s expansion through AirPlay Display means you can do a lot of really cool things with your Mac, a $99 Apple TV and your HDTV set.

Putting all that together certainly isn’t a cheap investment, but right now, you’re not going to find anything else that works as well at any price.

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