Turn Your iPad Into an External Monitor with Mini Display

Don’t you sometimes wish you had some additional screen space when working on your computer? The easy solution to this would be getting an extra monitor, but these are bulky and costly. Mini Display can easily solve your problem by transforming your iPad into an external display. This way, you can use your iPad as a second screen to display additional content.

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Getting Started

Before you can use your iPad as an external monitor, you will need to install the Mini Display application on both your iPad and your Mac — yes, the application only works with Macs, so you’re out of luck if you have a PC. The Mac connect app is free to download and can be grabbed on Edovia’s site.

What’s great with Mini Display is that it uses native OS X features to channel screen-sharing and remote controlling. These are automatically activated during installation, so you don’t have to worry about having to do it yourself. If, for any reason, these services are deactivated after the installation, the application will automatically detect it and warn you, so they can be reactivated properly.

After you’ve installed the Mac client on your computer, you’re ready to go and can start using Mini Display on your iPad. The app will automatically detect all compatible computers on the network so you can pick which one you’d like to connect to — yes, you do need to be on the same network in order for the app to work.

The Connection Screen shows the various computers on the network that can use Mini Display

The Connection Screen shows the various computers on the network that can use Mini Display

Settings and Features

Mini Display offers additional features in addition to serving as an external monitor. The most useful is definitely remote controlling, which allows you to interact with content using your iPad’s screen. Mini Display supports multitouch gestures, such as two fingers to scroll through content or make a contextual click. However, pinching with two fingers is used to disconnect the iPad from your Mac and not to zoom.

It wouldn’t be true remote controlling if Mini Display didn’t let you type straight from your iPad, right? No worries, the app has you covered and a simple gesture allows you to bring up a virtual keyboard on your iPad so you can enter text without having to reach out for your actual keyboard. If you have a wireless keyboard linked to your Mac, you can also use it with Mini Display, as the application remains an external display solution.

OSX recognizes your iPad as a native display. It can also detect its screen orientation

OSX recognizes your iPad as a native display. It can also detect its screen orientation

In fact, Mini Display integrates natively with OS X, which enables iOS to recognize your iPad as an external monitor. The device will therefore appear in your Mac’s display settings, allowing you to tell your computer which side the iPad is on, so you can switch screens easily. Thanks to the iPad’s built-in accelerometer, the application can detect your screen’s orientation and automatically communicate it back to your Mac. This way, you can pick between portrait or lanscape format, depending on your content.

If you have a Retina iPad then you can benefit from its high resolution screen even if you don’t have a Retina Mac. Indeed, Mini Display can automatically detect your iPad’s screen and display content using the screen’s full resolution. Nevertheless, enabling this feature will impact performance and can therefore be disabled.

Lastly, for those wondering about security, Mini Display won’t work without prompting you for your Mac’s password. This ensures you are an authorized user to use the computer and avoids other people taking control of your Mac.

Some Settings can be defined separately for each computer

Some Settings can be defined separately for each computer

Various Uses

There are endless possibilities of how you can benefit from using this application. Here are some interesting ones:

  • Hand your iPad to a client during a presentation and control it from your Mac or vice versa.
  • Use your iPad to display Photoshop or Pixelmator tools and layers so you can keep the actual work on the main screen.
  • Remotely control media playback from your bed or couch.
  • Display secondary apps, such as your Spotify playlist or your Twitter feed.
  • Show your To Do tasks and tick items off as you work you way through the list.
  • Chat with people on a separate screen while working on the main one.
  • Display an original source document you’re using to produce a new document, report or presentation.
You can use your Mini Display to display your Pixelmator Tools and Layers on the side

You can use your Mini Display to display your Pixelmator Tools and Layers on the side

Performance

Because Mini Display uses a wireless network to connect to your computer, it’s interesting to look at how it performs. Surprisingly, the application instantly detects computers on the network and connects in just a few seconds. The screen resolution and image quality are flawless, making it very enjoyable to display content on your iPad. It’s also very interesting the application doesn’t slow down your computer, although it does require some computing power to remotely share your screen to an external device.

The main performance issue I encountered is the slow refresh rate. Watching videos or animated content is virtually impossible and even typing a simple paragraph is irritating, as the text takes a moment to appear on the screen. Mini Display is appropriate to display static content, but becomes very annoying when it comes to dynamic and animated content.

Caveats

Even though Mini Display has a handful of great features, its slow refresh rate can quickly become a blocking point and remains the application’s most important annoyance. The fact that it only works with Mac computers makes it useless for Windows and Linux users, therefore preventing these people from buying the application. Mini Display’s price doesn’t really help making the purchasing decision as it’s relatively high, especially when compared to similar solutions available on the market.

Lastly, relying exclusively on WiFi connectivity restricts usage in certain environments. For instance, it is forbidden to use wireless connections in airplanes — OK, it’s definitely not the most appropriate place to use an external monitor, but you get the point. Also, some people pointed out that public networks, such as university or corporate networks, aren’t so good at handling these connections, which make it complicated for people to use the app in such conditions. An option to use the iPad’s USB cable in addition to WiFi would have been a useful workaround.

Final Thoughts

Mini Display is a great application and it’s obvious the developers put in a tremendous amount of work to integrate its many features. The application does have some shortcomings, such as a slow refresh rate, incompatibility with Windows and Linux and a significantly high price tag. The latter points become relevant when compared to other apps on the App Store that do support other platforms and are cheaper.

Nevertheless, Mini Display remains a useful app that offers interesting features. It also looks great to the eye and is extremely easy to use. In short, the application is worth it if you’re looking for simplicity, have a Mac and won’t mind the slow refresh rate.


Summary

Mini Display turns your iPad into an extra monitor wirelessly so you can benefit from an added screen without having to bear its cost or bulk

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  • Endem

    Is there a similar app that does a better job with the refresh rate thay you would suggest?

    • http://palobo.tumblr.com Pedro Lobo

      Hi Endem. I’d advise you take a look at iDisplay (http://bit.ly/10iuLNk).

      It has versions for Mac and Windows as well as iOS and Android.

      • [email protected]

        Thanks for the advice. I bought one of this apps a year ago or so, and was able to get a refund from Apple because the app didn’t work on Mountain Lion without any notice in the iOS store. That’s why I’m cautious.

  • http://palobo.tumblr.com Pedro Lobo

    Hi Hagop.

    Nice writeup. As you know I’ve been waiting for this review ;)

    I think I’ll stick with iDisplay for now though and keep my eye on Mini Display (never know what may change down the line)

    The Way I see it is:

    * iDisplay is way cheaper and a universal app;
    * iDisplay has version for Mac/windows and iSO/Android;
    * Refresh rate is pretty good (check video);
    * You can zoom in/out of the screen (check screenshot)

    Minor drawback is that when doing something graphic intensive it can be a little taxing on the CPU, but for normal day-to-day stuff I don’t really notice it much.

    Video: http://bit.ly/10GtLlS
    Screenshot: http://cl.ly/image/3G26211P0F0L

    Small disclaimer. Running iDisplay + Reflector recording + a couple of other apps for work really had my little Macbook Air strained so some of the lag may be due to that. As with everything else, you mileage may vary

  • Joel
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