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Apple TV 4: Using AirPlay

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iTunes can’t play everything. If you want to beam a web-based video or a DVD onto Apple TV, iTunes’ AirPlay support won’t work. Fortunately, there are a few third-party AirPlay tools that allow older Macs, PCs and even Chromebooks to use AirPlay. I have used and recommend AirParrot 2. Although this app costs $14.99, it is both professional and rock solid. It supports screen mirroring, multiple desktops and the ability to beam individual apps onto Apple TV. AirParrot also provides advanced settings for frame rate and video quality. This is important, because an older Mac or PC may not have the computing power to handle AirPlay gracefully. It is important to note that older, less powerful computers may have problems beaming AirPlay using AirParrot 2 or any similar third-party app.

AirPlay Works with Android, ChromeOS and Linux Too!

AirPlay is not an open source technology. Apple has licensed the technology to third-party companies for the purposes of developing AirPlay compatible apps. Developers are clever, however, and have been able to reverse-engineer AirPlay. Virtually every desktop and mobile operating system supports AirPlay. Some of these third-party apps are free. If your computer or device doesn’t have native AirPlay support, simply search the web for other options. Unless you are running some strange academic OS or have a very old computer, you can probably find an AirPlay app.

Surf the Web Using AirWeb and AirPlay

Apple TV 4 opens up a whole new world of apps for your TV. The absence of web browsers, however, is an unfortunate deficiency. tvOS does not provide the WebKit API, which enables developers to create web browsers. Apple won’t approve apps that use other web browser frameworks. Developers can’t create a browser for tvOS until Apple adds WebKit to the operating system and developer tools.

AirWeb Apple TV Web Browser

AirWeb provides an excellent alternative for those who wish to surf the web on the biggest screen in their home. At $1.99, AirWeb is an inexpensive iOS app that provides a browser for Apple TV. It turns your iOS device into an intelligent control surface, while the web content is displayed on your TV. This is different from using AirPlay screen mirroring with Safari. AirWeb uses Dual Screen AirPlay technology to turn your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch into a smart browser controller. With AirWeb, you won’t need to shift attention between your iOS device and Apple TV. Using multi-touch gestures, you can completely control the browsing experience without straining your neck. It even has smart controls for interacting with web-based videos. For more information, please read “AirWeb: The Apple TV Web Browser”.

Fixing AirPlay Dropouts

I purchased my first Apple TV 2 several years ago. After trying Apple Music, I ended up subscribing to Spotify. I found Spotify to be more stable. The user interface was easier to use. Spotify even offers better audio quality. I could use AirPlay to beam music to my Apple TV and it just worked.

With iOS 9 and tvOS, Apple overhauled AirPlay. Unfortunately, they seemed to have made it more fragile in the process. AirPlay connects faster and there is no latency between my iOS device and Apple TV. Unfortunately, they seem to have eliminated any sort of buffer. I now experience the occasional audio drop out (dead air) when beaming Spotify to my Apple TV. This is frustrating, but it is still not as bad as Apple Music. This isn’t due to weak WiFi reception. My Apple TV 4 is in the exact same place as my Apple TV 2 was. I am using the same device to beam AirPlay. It is clearly a problem with the new, “improved” AirPlay implementation. It can’t be totally fixed, but the problem can be ameliorated.

It seems that the problem is due to dropped packets in the AirPlay stream. It tends to happen if I walk in between my iPad and my Apple TV. This never happened with my Apple TV 2 and both devices get perfect WiFi reception from a nearby Apple Airport Extreme WiFi router. The best solution is to turn on Bluetooth and place the beaming device (my iPad) right next to my Apple TV. This has limited the frequent dropouts to being almost non-existent. It still happens sometimes when I stand right in front of both devices. (continue…)

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