iDisplay: Use your iPad as a second display for your Mac or PC [Review]

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A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an app called iDisplay. It caught my eye as this app was designed as an affordable way to add a second display to your Mac using your iPad. At first, I was a bit skeptical on how well it would work, and therefore had relatively low expectations. To much surprise, I have found myself using the app on an almost daily basis. Setup could not be easier, and I haven’t had any major issues or app crashes since I began using it.

Setup

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Upon downloading the app from the App Store, you must also install the iDisplay Desktop application on your Mac from the iDisplay website. Once installed, the app will live in your menu bar, giving you quick access to the main Preferences panel, multiple viewing modes, and more. In order to use the app, all you need to do is ensure your Mac and iPad are both connected to the same WiFi network and make sure the app is running on your Mac. Opening the iDisplay app on your iPad will greet you with a list of available computers to connect to. Simply tapping the desired computer was enough for the app to connect within seconds for me. The app also allows manual entry of your IP address and Port information in the event that automatic connecting becomes troublesome.

Once connected, your iPad will be available immediately as a second display. Conveniently, displays connected via iDisplay can be arranged and modified from within the main display settings in the Mac System Preferences app. This allows you to easily click and drag the display to the correct location for optimal use. iDisplay will work in either landscape or portrait orientation, allowing for even more flexibility on the placement of your iPad.

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Launching the iDisplay preferences on your Mac (via the iDisplay menu bar icon) gives you even more control over how you use the app. You can choose to launch iDisplay upon startup and set the maximum number of displays (up to 35 displays) that can connect to iDisplay at a single time under the General tab, and fine tune performance settings under the Devices tab. iDisplay is automatically configured to drop frames to avoid refresh lags and has preset the frames per second to 12. For those interested, you can adjust the frames per second, choose to not drop frames, and/ or adjust the compression rate. Doing so will likely cause a substantial amount of lag on your iPad’s display. I found it best to leave the app set to automatically configure.

Usability

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iDisplay has a few limitations when it comes to how useful it can be. Graphic heavy applications/ windows will not appear properly using iDisplay. For example, viewing video content of any kind is highly unpractical through the iDisplay app due to the low frame rate. You will also notice frames dropping constantly (black squares will appear where your content should be) when performing graphic heavy tasks via iDisplay. However, iDisplay can be extremely useful for some (if not most) people. I have been using iDisplay to display windows such as the iTunes mini player, the Messages application, and Finder windows. It has also worked well for viewing my current downloads within apps, eliminating the need to switch between apps to check if the downloads have completed. I also find it useful when viewing video content on my main display, as it allows me to access other apps such as the Messages app while viewing the video full screen. iDisplay would also be ideal for displaying editing tools in apps such as Photoshop, giving you more screen real estate for what you’re working on.

iDisplay also allows touch control of what’s on the display. It works as you would expect, allowing you to click, drag, and scroll (using scrollbars). It also has support for the iPad keyboard for typing in text fields. These features can essentially allow you to take your iPad to another location or room and continue to use your Mac.

Compatibility

iDisplay is compatible with any Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later, and any iOS device (including iPad mini, iPhone, and iPod Touch) running iOS 5.1 or later. While it does support iPhone and iPod touch, I found this impractical due to the small screen size, but I was able to get it to work. iDisplay also lists compatibility for select Windows XP, Vista, and 7 PCs, as well as Android tablets and phones. I was able to connect a Nexus 7 tablet to my Mac and use it as a second display via USB, but I had to manually enter the IP address and Port information to get it working correctly. For more information on compatibility, visit the iDisplay website.

Conclusion

Wether or not iDisplay is right for you depends on a few factors. While it certainly can’t replace or compete with a true secondary display/ monitor, it can be very useful for those looking to add a bit more screen real estate while saving quite a bit of money. If you’re looking to do things such as editing, media consumption, or gaming on the second display, you would be better off purchasing another monitor. However, if you just need a bit more space for apps that don’t have much going on (visually speaking) or are looking for just a bit more room for your editing controls to your favorite app, iDisplay may be worth looking into.

If interested, you can purchase iDisplay for $9.99 on the App Store and install the Mac or PC application and get more information from the iDisplay website. If you’re looking to use your iPhone or iPod touch and don’t need the iPad support, you can purchase iDisplay Mini for $0.99 from the App Store.

What do you think of iDisplay? Let me know in the comments down below or on Twitter @DarrenLinkNPark.

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