Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been involved in a number of events where I needed to use my iPad to deliver a presentation or demonstration. I wanted to use AirPlay through Apple TV to allow me to mirror my iPad wirelessly on the screen but I knew that the projectors in the conference venues were VGA only. There doesn’t seem to be one easy solution to this problem, and following various bits of advice on the web and on discussion groups I ordered four different solutions from Amazon in the hope that at least one would work. I thought it would be useful to present my findings here. Within the education world AirPlay offers an amazing opportunity for using the iPad in the classroom, but the difficulty is likely to be connecting the Apple TV to a VGA projector. I hope these findings will be useful to teachers keen to use their iPads in the classroom and “project wirelessly”.
Please note that I’ve only been able to test these on the VGA input on a TV, rather than on a projector. I’m not 100% sure if this affects the findings but I would imagine that the image displayed on the TV through the VGA connection will be similar to that displayed on a VGA projector. In each case I’ve tried setting the resolution of the Apple TV at 1024×768 60Hz which I believe is the native resolution of the iPad. With solution 3 it defaulted to 720p 60Hz.
Solution 1 [FAIL]
Product: HDMI Male to VGA+3RCA Male Gold Plated 1.5m Cable
I wasn’t at all convinced that this cable would work: I figured that the HDMI signal from the Apple TV was a digital signal and that a passive cable wouldn’t be able to convert the digital signal to an analog signal. Having tried various options on the Apple TV settings I wasn’t able to get the cable to work at all, so this will be going back to Amazon!
Solution 2 [SUCCESS]
Product: Konig HDMI to VGA Converter Price: £46.00
This active box has an HDMI input and outputs the video to VGA and the audio to twin RCA sockets. It’s a powered box so you’d need to take that on board when planning power sockets at the presentation lectern or wherever your projector is located. The fact that the cables come out both sides of the box mean that it’s a bit of a “messy” solution, but nonetheless it seems to work well. A photo of the output can be seen below:
Note that the image is off-centre. The Apple TV display takes up the full screen, but something seems to happen when the 4×3 image of the iPad comes through AirPlay. I’ve had the same problem with Solution 4 which I used live with a projector at the conferences this week, so there must be some issue which prevents any of these boxes properly aligning the image on the screen.
Solution 3 [SUCCESS]
As you can see from the image, this box is a bit “tidier” than the Konig: all the connections are at the rear. In addition to VGA and 2x RCA outputs, this converter also offers optical audio (SPDIF), although you could take that straight from the Apple TV itself. It also has a component out option (YPbPr) and I’ve included a photo of that output below in addition to the VGA.
The image above is the VGA output. Again, notice a slight misalignment in that the image is not centred on the screen. It’s less pronounced than with the Konig, though.
The image above is using the Component out. It’s a bit crisper, but I suppose component options are less likely on standard projectors in schools. I have seem some schools with wall plates for VGA + audio etc., and some of these have component options, so it’s maybe worth considering.
Solution 4 [SUCCESS]
Products: HP HDMI to VGA Display Adapter and LINDY SPDIF Digital to Analogue Stereo Audio Converter
Price: £52.74 + £39.99 = £92.73
This is the only option I’ve used “in the real world” as it was the only one delivered before my conference last Friday. The HP adapter feels quite substantial – and more of a “professional” product than the converter boxes above. However, there are no screw holes for the VGA cable and it did have a tendency to disconnect, eg. when I lifted up the Apple TV to show how AirPlay was working. Note that the HP adapter does not require external power. The other issue is that the HP adapter is video only, so a secondary solution for the audio has to be found. Since the Apple TV only has digital audio out, I had to get a digital to analogue converter. I went for the Lindy box as you can see in the photo. No complaints with this: I connected an SPDIF cable (not supplied, so a further expense) to the Apple TV and the Lindy box converts this to analogue sound through twin RCAs. There’s also an option to use optical coax instead.
The output of this solution worked well, after playing around a bit with projector settings. It can be seen below – again it’s a bit off-centre.
So which solution seems to be the best? I think probably solution 3 is the least messy and provides the most connectivity options, but I’ve yet to try this in the real world. I’ll probably have the chance to do that this week so I’ll keep you posted on my findings! I hope that you’ve found this useful and please add any solutions you’ve found in the comments!