Mac guy that I am, it took me a long time to get around to buying an iPad, but I finally did so in late 2012 — a refurbished iPad 2 that works great. I wasn’t sure, but I had hoped to be able to use it for presentations. Yes, you can buy an adapter to go from the iPad to a VGA cable. But, you’re tethered to the system and I really liked the idea of being able to walk around untethered.
It can be done, but figuring it out was much harder than it should have been. So here’s a primer if you’re interested, combining several Google searches and two trips to Apple stores, in Raleigh, NC and Charleston, SC (there’s not one here in Wilmington, NC, alas) and to the AT&T store in Wilmington. I’m assuming you have an iPad and want to go to a standard VGA projector lacking either wireless connectivity or an HDMI input.
Update 2/10/13: One cool feature by using the iPad is the ability to switch between applications using Multitasking Gestures (in Settings). Much better than using ESC on a laptop and then hunting around for another application.
1) Does the iPad have AirPlay?
You need AirPlay to export video. It’s part of the iPad 2 and later. But Apple’s website is surprisingly unhelpful about this. I didn’t see any such icon on my screen and couldn’t find anything to download from the App Store. Here’s how you find it:
- Click the Home Button twice, quickly. You’ll see a list of recently-used apps on the bottom (this trick also took me a while to glom onto).
- Slide the apps to the right until you see a group of Play/Pause icons. The AirPlay icon is a rectangular box with a small triangle at the bottom, like this:
- You’ll need to return to this later.
2) Get an Apple TV
OK, this is another $99 + tax. But you’ll probably like it for all the stuff it can get onto your HDTV (see below) — Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, podcasts, etc., with typical Apple elegance. For our purposes the point is that this is how you’ll get your video signal to a TV or projector:
- Set up the Apple TV (relatively easy).
- Make sure you and the iPad are on a Wi-Fi network.
- On your iPad, locate the AirPlay icon as above.
- Select your Apple TV icon and Mirroring.
- If your TV has an HDMI connection, you’re nearly all set. Your TV will be mirroring your iPad screen.
3) Get the Apple TV signal to a projector
If the projector has an HDMI input, just hook up the Apple TV to it and proceed as above. But many projectors don’t have HDMI (digital) connections, just VGA analog inputs. You’ll need a converter an HDMI to VGA converter. I found one on Amazon for about $35 which had minimal documentation but seems to work OK.
- Connect the Apple TV to the converter with the HDMI cable.
- Connect the converter to the projector with a VGA cable (for video).
- If you want audio, connect the converter to the projector’s audio inputs with RCA audio cables.
- Turn on AirPlay and select Apple TV, as above.
4) Special problem #1: the picture is distorted
The first time I set this up, the picture was squished horizontally on both the TV and projector I connected it to. You’re trying to put a 16:9 aspect picture into a system accustomed to 4:3. For both, I had to fool around with the picture settings until I got it right. So if you’re doing a presentation, take some time beforehand to make sure everything’s copasetic.
5) Special problem #2: no Wi-Fi where you’ll be projecting
Cell phones to the rescue! Thanks to my new buddy Chris at the AT&T store, I modified my cell plan to allow me to use the phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot that will link the iPad and Apple TV. I’ll be taking this along just in case.
- Here’s a great tip, also from Chris: choose a name for your cell phone hotspot that is identical with your home Wi-Fi network and use the same password. Your Apple TV and iPad will automatically log in, as if you were at home.
6) A final tip
Get to the place you’ll be presenting early and make sure that everything is working.
7) How this would all be easier
- If every TV and projector had an HDMI input. Or:
- If every projected had a wireless connection.