Connecting Your iPad to a TV or Projector: How to Get the Big Picture

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 (green) Pb (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.

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About Andy Brovey

Dr. Andy Brovey, The Portable Prof, teaches about digital tools through his work, websites and social media. In 2007, Apple Inc. recognized his work and named him an Apple Distinguished Educator. He started this iPad Academy website shortly after the first iPad went on sale. On his Freelance Teaching site you'll find the resources you need to teach like a smart entrepreneur.

8 thoughts on “Connecting Your iPad to a TV or Projector: How to Get the Big Picture

  • Andy Brovey Post author

    Should show up almost immediately. Is the projector set to the correct source or input? May need to select the input, a button on the projector, to recognize the VGA connector. Also, test on another device such as a common computer monitor with a VGA connector. Check also that the VGA dock connector is firmly connected to the iPad. The signal can be interrupted when you move the iPad and the cable tugs on that connector.

  • Pink Sun

    I have tried to connect my Ipad2 with a projector using Ipad VGA connector but it doesn”t work. Is there any special setting to make it work?
    Thank you for attention.

  • ronny

    hi..try to connect the ipad to a benq projector (got the adaptor) but the projector can t find the signal….any idea?


  • mani rajendran

    i want know whether it is possible to hook up Ipad to a wireless LCd projector,if so what would be the quality and the streaming speed,would it be fast enough to support a presenation without any time lags so as to appear as one continous stream
    your opionion would be highly appreciated

    • Andy Brovey Post author

      Wireless projectors

      I am not aware of any method to transmit content from the iPad over WiFi directly to a projector. Solutions do exist to transmit from a computer to a projector without cables. One involves an adapter attached to a projector.

      The other has the wireless capability built into the projector itself.

      Neither has sufficient bandwidth for full motion video, though simple animations with PowerPoint or Keynote should work.

      I believe what you have asked for is technically possible and would be welcome in the iPad marketplace. How might this work? For example, we know the USB adapter in the iPad camera connection kit works with a few other USB devices. Some of the wireless adapters for projectors use a USB transmitter plugged into the computer. If the video out of the iPad could talk to this USB adapter then it may be able to send presentations wirelessly. Other adapters connect to existing projectors (NEC makes one) and employ software loaded on the computer to send the transmission to the projector. So it may be possible to code an iPad app that works with such an adaptor.

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