The large 9.7 inch iPad screen is fine for viewing with a few people at a time, but you may want to share the output with a larger audience in the boardroom or living room. Apple (and others) sell cables and adapters to hook your iPad to monitors, televisions and projectors. Support for external displays depends on the capability being built into the app (more on this later). You can’t mirror (duplicate) everything you see on your iPad screen.
There are three different cable configurations you should know about. Each had advantages and disadvantages. All have a 30 pin dock connector on one end to connect with the iPad. I’ll talk about the other ends next.
The first is the composite video connector which Apple calls the Apple Composite AV Cable
. You’ve seen three of the connectors on one end of this cable many times. These are the standard video and two audio (left and right channel for stereo) that are common on many consumer electronics including TVs, VCRs and camcorders. These are RCA type connectors where the video is yellow and the audio are red and white. Look for inputs on your TV that match. These will often be labeled video
. You’ll need to use your TV remote or onscreen menus to switch the TV input so it recognizes this connection.
The next type of connector is component and offers a better quality picture. These connectors are red, green and blue. You should be able to find matching inputs on your HDTV labeled component
, component video
, or perhaps Y
(blue) and Pr
(red). Component video carries the video portion of the signal only, not the audio. You get the sound to your TV using the standard red and white audio connections. The Apple Component AV Cable
has these two audio connectors and includes a USB power supply to keep a trickle charge going to your iPad. However, I recommend you have more than a 50% charge on the iPad battery when you want to watch a full-length movie. Once again, you’ll need to use your TV remote or onscreen menus to switch the TV input so it recognizes this connection.
Your iPad will play High Definition (720p) TV shows and movies found on the iTunes store. The component cable is the one to use for viewing these on an HDTV. Why? Most of these HD shows and movies are copy protected using HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) to insure that only devices that support HDCP can play the video. The component cable passes HDCP. The VGA cable we talk about next does not, but it has other compelling uses.
Even with the component video cables, copy-protected HD (720p) content coming from the iPad will play back at standard definition (480p) on your TV. The reason is piracy concerns and control by media companies, not a technical limitation. Also, videophiles among us will argue the iPad truly doesn’t display all the pixels required for 720p on its screen. I agree, but let’s not quibble over that point here.
Apple also sells a VGA adapter for your iPad, known as the iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter
(VGA is Video Graphics Array). You can use this VGA adapter to get high quality output from your iPad to an LCD projector (sometimes called a beamer) or to most HDTVs or to a computer monitor. The VGA connector only carries the video portion of the signal.
You need a separate cable to share the audio output. In this case, a cable connected to the headphone port of the iPad carries the audio to your TV or projector. Most often, a simple cable with mini-audio connectors (like those found on headphones or earbuds) on both ends will do the trick. See the image below. The audio input is often located adjacent to the VGA connector on your projector, monitor or HDTV.
Most often the VGA connector and accompanying audio hookup will be used with a projector or big-screen monitor for large scale presentations. This is where the VGA connector really shines (pun intended). You’ll get the highest resolution with VGA (1024×768), but won’t be able to play copy-protected movies, even those purchased from Apple’s own iTunes store. A handful of iPad applications can use the connected projector or large screen display. A good example is Apple’s Keynote app, which is made for sharing multimedia slideshows and even includes an onscreen, red laser-style pointer for directing audience attention. Other iPad apps that can access the VGA output include the Videos, Photos and YouTube apps that come standard on the iPad; Netflix, a movie subscription service; CloudReaders, a comic book and graphic novel reader; GoodReader, a viewer for multiple file types; and Expedition, a tool for sharing web browser content. Safari webpages can’t be projected, but most videos embedded in a webpage seen in Safari can. You’ll get the best quality output from these apps using VGA, but the composite and component cables should also work. Photos and videos sent to your TV using the composite connection may be satisfactory. Text and webpage displays, probably not.