An alternative for AirPlay Mirroring

Christopher Breen
18 July, 2012
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Macworld reader Michael Anders is thinking about a Mountain Lion update but is concerned that he may not be able to use one of its more attractive features. He writes:

I have a 2.66 GHz Intel Core i7 15” MacBook Pro, which was made in 2010. I’ve heard that some MacBook Pro models, although capable of running Mountain Lion, won’t support AirPlay Mirroring. Is that true? And, if so, is there an alternative for sharing my Mac’s screen via my third-generation Apple TV?

You have heard correctly. Take a look at the Feature-Specific Requirements section of Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion Tech Specs page and you’ll find this listed under AirPlay Mirroring:

  • iMac (Mid 2011 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Mid 2011 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Mid 2011 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Early 2011 or newer)

As you can see, your MacBook doesn’t make the cut. Powerful though it may have been at the time, install Mountain Lion on this laptop and AirPort Mirroring will be conspicuous in its absence.

AirParrot serves when AirPlay Mirroring won't.

As for your second question, there is indeed an alternative. When I tweeted about this issue recently, follower @joshfofer provided the answer: Squirrels’ US$10 AirParrot. This is an application, compatible with Mac OS X 10.6.8 or higher (or Windows XP or higher), that allows you to mirror your computer’s video and audio to a second- or third-generation Apple TV. It can mirror your complete desktop up to 1080p on a 3G Apple TV, mirror just a specific application (without background desktop cutter), as well as extend your desktop between your Mac and your TV (this is a feature that works only with OS X).

I’ve tried AirParrot with the HDTV in my office and it looks reasonably good, though no one would mistake that TV for a monitor plugged directly into my Mac. (I suspect Mountain Lion’s AirPlay Mirroring won’t look much better.) You can fiddle with AirParrot’s settings to try to improve the image and performance, if you like. I’d suggest taking advantage of the AirParrot demo, which allows you to run the application for 20 minutes before it automatically quits. That will give you an idea of whether its image quality is up to snuff.



2 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Larry Hermann says:

    Agreed Air Parrot works well. I’m running it on mid 2007 iMac with lion. It seems to undermine reports that older macs can’t perform mirroring on mountain lion because their graphics processors can’t handle it. It does suggest apple is not being entirely honest here, otherwise how else do you explain mirroring working on older macs via Airparrot but not possible via mountain lions native mirroring

  2. JMozz says:

    I think you need to clarify in your article the true reason for “airplay being conspicuously absent.” Think analogously to a router speed…If it doesn’t have a “N” chip on board it can’t do N. Period. If you notice, the generations of supported Macs are all “Sandy Bridge” generation CPU/GPU. This is not a hardware restriction in the sense most people are discussing. Yes your computer has plenty of graphics and processing guts to accomplish the task at hand, which is why AirParrot works. The problem lies within a generational change in the GPU hardware and firmware. The “newer” (read Sandy Bridge) GPU’s have a different kind of native encoding that allows them to perform the airplay mirroring function as its code is written. Without that specific on-board chip capability airplay mirroring wont work. AirParrot is designed as a work around, enabling remote screen mirroring but through software acceleration, hence the debated quality of the image results. It does not rely on this specific encoding acceleration that the newer GPUs have built in to work. This is also why it is much more system intensive than airplay, as it is running a heavy program in the background.

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