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I've found plenty of (old) blogs and articles stating that it is/will be possible to mirror the content of a Mac or PC in an Apple TV, but I was unable to find out the current state of this feature.

Official Apple TV 2 store page states that you can "stream from your Mac or PC to the big screen. Enjoy your photos, home videos, and music collection on your HDTV from your Mac or PC over Wi-Fi", but it doesn't say if it's via iTunes, and it seems that it's not talking about Airplay either.

So, for this to be clear, I have some questions:

  1. Is it possible to mirror the content of your screen in an Apple TV?
  2. Is this Airplay?
  3. Does it have limitations of the type of media that you are playing? For example, heavy games in full screen, downloaded videos with subtitles (not from iTunes!), high resolution videos, etc.
  4. Is the quality exactly the same of connecting the MacBook to the TV via HDMI?
  5. Do I need a router for this or will it create a wi-fi network between the notebook and the Apple TV?
  6. What are the minimum requirements for:
    • the Apple TV (probably ATV2 only);
    • MacBook (which versions are capable of doing this);
    • PC (are there any requirements for PC?);
    • Mac OS (version);
    • Network.

Please note that I do not wish any information about what a jailbroken device can do.

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1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You can mirror your Mac's screen, Apple calls it AirPlay Mirroring. The section on the Apple TV page you mention actually refers to streaming your "photos, home videos, and music collection", which you can do via iTunes on a Mac or PC.

Requirements

Per Apple's support article on AirPlay Mirroring, to use it you need:

  • An Apple TV (2nd or 3rd generation) with software update v5.0 or later
  • And one of these Macs, running OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion):
    • iMac (Mid 2011 or newer)
    • Mac mini (Mid 2011 or newer)
    • MacBook Air (Mid 2011 or newer)
    • MacBook Pro (Early 2011 or newer)

Apple doesn't provide a means for Windows PCs to do AirPlay mirroring, but you might be able to find a third-party solution.

Networking

The Apple TV and the Mac need to be on the same network, one will not be automatically created, but you should be able to create a Wi-Fi network from your Mac and have the Apple TV join it if you don't have a network already set up.

Quality & Performance

The quality is not the same as if you just plugged your Mac in via HDMI, it transcodes your desktop to a video format the Apple TV can read (H.264), since sending uncompressed video would require more bandwidth than any home network could provide. Quality and performance can depend on your Mac and network speed. I haven't tested it thoroughly, but I suspect it wouldn't be appropriate for gaming, as there would be latency issues.

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1  
We've tried it for gaming. BIG screen is very cool. Performance is very unsatisfactory, although that was over wireless, perhaps wired would have been better. –  jimtut Nov 6 '12 at 5:20
    
Thank you robmathers and jimtut. I'm very concerned with image quality. Please tell me, if I watch a movie via iTunes + Airplay, will it be video streaming (i.e., with quality loss) or will it stream the file and decode in the Apple TV (without quality loss)? I have an Asus media player that is awful, but it transfers the file and hence there is no quality loss, but when the network is not good the movie pauses. –  Roberto Nov 6 '12 at 12:56
    
By the way, assuming that we could buffer part of the file before starting to display the video, a HD video of 4GB and 100 minutes would require a 5.4Mbps transfer rate (4GB*8bits/(100minutes * 60seconds) = 0.0054Gb/s), so any current wi-fi router should be able to handle this (10.8Mbps, since it's 5.4 from MacBook to the router and 5.4 from router to the ATV). Isn't that right? –  Roberto Nov 6 '12 at 14:14
    
About my last comment, I'm trying to imply that at least with iTunes there shouldn't have quality loss, since I could have a delay to buffer the video. –  Roberto Nov 6 '12 at 14:21
1  
Yes, with standard AirPlay (not mirroring), your Mac just streams the video file to the Apple TV, so there's no loss from any transcoding. 802.11n should handle it fine, and 802.11g should be okay, but it will depend on your signal strength. –  robmathers Nov 6 '12 at 16:03

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