Review: AirPlay on AppleTV

Review: AirPlay on AppleTV

Apple released the iOS update to version 4.2.1 this week, which adds several desirable features to the iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad. I upgraded our iPad and AppleTV to the latest version and gave it a quick test. But first, an explanation of features.

Added features with 4.2

  • Multitasking on iPad The iPhone and iPod touch has had multi tasking since early this year. With the 4.2 upgrade, the iPad now has multitasking ability. This is the most requested feature for the iPad.
  • Folders on iPad Folders allows simple drag-and-drop functionality to organize apps and files.
  • AirPrint This is one feature I was looking forward to. The print feature is available in the apps, but it won’t find the printer, and there is no printer setup screen anywhere. I’ve looked up a few sources to find out how to get it to work, and it seems Apple hasn’t released an accompanying AirPrint application for Mac or PC. We’ll have to wait on this.
  • AirPlay Probably the most exciting upgrade, AirPlay allows content on the iPad, iPhone or iPod touch to stream to a local AppleTV wirelessly. I’ve used the feature and find it compelling. More on this later


  • Find My iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch Helps track down and secure lost devices and private data. This is a feature many new “smart” portable devices are adding.
  • Game Center Game Center appeared on the home screen automatically after the update. I haven’t used it much, but it seems like a great gateway to find new games.
  • iTunes TV show rentals TV show rentals are available. I checked it out on iTunes, but I’m still not sure why anyone would spend the money to do this if they already had cable or satellite. On the other hand, I cancelled my cable service and probably wouldn’t mind spending the $15.99 for the season pass to AMC’s The Walking Dead.
  • Unified mail box All email accounts go into a unified inbox.
  • Find text on web pages Exactly as it sounds. Helps find relevant information.
  • Reply to calendar invitations RSVP to invitations directly from the calendar app. Works with Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft Exchange.
  • Enhanced enterprise support Stronger security features and device management.

Testing AirPlay

How does AirPlay work? Simple. When viewing photos or video, or listening to audio, you just select the AirPlay button, and then chose where you want the content to go. I tried it out with AppleTV. See the video below.

[vimeo 17160353]

With AirPlay, I would recommend the AppleTV to any iPad owner. It’s one of the cheapest accessories you can get for the thing, and it’s just so cool. It’s true that you can stream this content from your computer to an AppleTV or similar device (Roku, Boxee, etc), but if you have an iPad, you might be downloading stuff on the fly and want to watch it as soon as you get home.

Or even with the iPhone or iPod touch, AirPlay is compelling. Imagine this scenario: you’ve got music playing on ear buds, and when you get home, you simply hit the AirPlay button and transfer it immediately to your home speakers without having to fidget through a separate device.

With this new iOS update, iTunes has also been upgraded to also include AirPlay. I tried this out as well, and it works great. The only issue is there isn’t a conflict resolution, so whichever device selects an end point last gets immediate access regardless of whatever else was being shared. An example was streaming audio from the local PC to the AppleTV, and then using the iPad content. The iPad immediately streamed to the AppleTV. iTunes on the PC didn’t recognize this change.

Also coming to the market are audio/video receivers, speakers, iPod docks, and more with AirPlay. So from the portable device or from iTunes, you can stream audio to whichever device you chose. This seems like it has great potential.

There were a few other bugs with AirPlay, but I don’t imagine how an app developer wouldn’t include this in the future. It’s just too convenient.

About Steven Kippel

Steven Kippel has worked as a systems designer for a leading high-end audio/video custom integrator in Southern California since 2003. He is responsible for researching new technologies and integrating them into existing systems and new construction projects. He has designed several high-profile systems for discriminating clients on the cutting-edge of technology. When he is not hard at work, Steven is spending time with his wife, playing with his band or promoting concerts and bands in the Inland Empire. His favorite bands include The Cure, U2, Eisley, Living Sacrifice and DragonForce.

View all posts by Steven Kippel →

3 Comments on “Review: AirPlay on AppleTV”

  1. I tested AirPlay last night and loved the convenience. One minor complication I observed, however, is that Apple’s “Soundcheck” feature carries over to the sound streamed to the Apple TV. In theory, Soundcheck equalizes volume levels among songs from different sources, but in actual practice, I find it just makes everything softer. I was wondering why the music I was streaming from my iPad was playing at half the volume as the other content sources I have connected to my home entertainment system — until I realized I had Soundcheck on.

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