The rise of the iPad in offices and schools has encouraged the use of tablet computers for all kinds of things that were once the domain of laptops. When it comes to meetings and presentations, iPad projectors make it to the top of the list. If today’s professional iPads can be used for nearly anything that a laptop can do, why not projectors and digital presentations?
The good news is that yes, an iPad projector can be used to make and project presentations, much like a laptop. The bad news is that iPads just don’t have the same number and variety of ports that most laptops use. If you want to bring a tablet into your next meeting, you will need to learn how to connect that slim machine to the latest projects, or find a similar option to get your slides on the wall or screen. Here are the options you have.
Wired iPad Projectors
Stationary Adapters – VGA:
Hey, sometimes you don’t have control over what type of iPad projector system you have to use. Conference rooms, board rooms and especially classrooms rarely leave you with a particular choice for presentation hardware, so you may get stuck with something truly old-fashioned (but inexpensive), like a stationary VGA-based projector that is mounted and immovable.
If confronted with this challenge, you may feel at a loss even with a modern laptop, let alone an iPad. Fortunately, the solution is admirably simple for an iPad. Find a VGA adapter that connects to your iPad’s primary port on one side and to a VGA port on the other side.
You can use this setup for an old-fashioned TV, too, but this may be a little more awkward, because the cord is short and you will have to hover beside the TV to move your slides along.
Stationary Adapters – HDMI:
Newer projectors have replaced older ports for advanced HDMI ports that offer better quality and sound. For iPad users, the song remains the same — iPads do not come with ready-made HDMI connections, so you will need to purchase an HDMI adapter to get the job done.
This can get a little more tricky that VGA connections. Digital AV adapters are your best bet, but they require HDMI and iPad connector cables that are sold separately, and may not work with all applications. The best bet is to test your wired connection before you actually start the presentation. Fortunately, if your screen or projector has HDMI capabilities, there is also a good chance that they support wireless connection capabilities, which are discussed in the next section.
Wireless iPad Projectors
Airplay and Apple TV: Wireless options allow you to operate the presentation through a network connection, giving you the ability to walk around and pick your position while holding your iPad — a freeing experience, indeed. If you are in an Apple-friendly environment, your easiest option is using a combination of AirPlay and Apple TV. AirPlay is software that gives you the ability to stream information through a wireless from an Apple device. Any iPad from the iPad 2 on up has this capability already present and ready for action. Apple TV is a little Apple streaming device designed to handle all sorts of video data. It can be connected to a projector or a TV through an HDMI port, then connected to the local wireless network so you can use AirPlay to connect with it.
There are two downsides to this approach. The first is that you cannot count on Apple TV always being present (it’s pretty rare in professional circles) unless you bring your own and connect it to the local network every time you use it. Second, this method is very dependent on strong Internet signals and will not work in the presence of weak signals. However, since everything involved is Apple, there are rarely any compatibility problems.
AirServer, Reflector and Similar Options: AirServer, Reflector, X-Mirage, Panasonic’s Wireless Projector app — these apps are all alternatives to the Apple TV setup. They work in three steps: Take an ordinary laptop or computer and connect it to the projector/TV. Download AirServer, etc. Use your iPad’s AirPlay connection to mirror what is on your iPad to the computer/laptop. Your iPad image will end up on the projector, it just has to jump through a few hoops first.
These apps are a flexible solution, but they suffer from compatibility issues. Everything has to be on the same network, which doesn’t always happen, and AirPlay or the laptop you are using may be finicky about what type of connection it is willing to use. However, if there is already a dedicated computer or laptop used to manage presentations, one of these apps may be your best bet. They cost between $5 and $15 to purchase.
Portable Projectors: What happens if nothing works? What if you need to give a presentation, but the projector or screen just isn’t cooperating for anyone? In these cases it may be best to pack along a pocket iPad projector made for off-the-cuff work.
Several of these exist:Some attach directly to the iPad and tilt up to project on the wall, while others have a separate projector device at the end of the cord. They all tend to be pretty expensive, between $200 and $300, so you may want to see if this can count as a business expense well before you buy.