An alternative for AirPlay Mirroring

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Reader Michael Anders is thinking about a Mountain Lion update but is concerned that he may not be able to use one of its more attractive features. He writes:

I have a 2.66 GHz Intel Core i7 15” MacBook Pro, which was made in 2010. I’ve heard that some MacBook Pro models, although capable of running Mountain Lion, won’t support AirPlay Mirroring. Is that true? And, if so, is there an alternative for sharing my Mac’s screen via my third-generation Apple TV?

You have heard correctly. Take a look at the Feature-Specific Requirements section of Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion Tech Specs page and you’ll find this listed under AirPlay Mirroring:

  • iMac (Mid 2011 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Mid 2011 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Mid 2011 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Early 2011 or newer)

As you can see, your MacBook doesn’t make the cut. Powerful though it may have been at the time, install Mountain Lion on this laptop and AirPort Mirroring will be conspicuous in its absence.

AirParrot serves when AirPlay Mirroring won't

As for your second question, there is indeed an alternative. When I tweeted about this issue recently, follower @joshfofer provided the answer: Squirrels’ $10 AirParrot. This is an application, compatible with Mac OS X 10.6.8 or higher (or Windows XP or higher), that allows you to mirror your computer’s video and audio to a second- or third-generation Apple TV. It can mirror your complete desktop up to 1080p on a 3G Apple TV, mirror just a specific application (without background desktop cutter), as well as extend your desktop between your Mac and your TV (this is a feature that works only with OS X).

I’ve tried AirParrot with the HDTV in my office and it looks reasonably good, though no one would mistake that TV for a monitor plugged directly into my Mac. (I suspect Mountain Lion’s AirPlay Mirroring won’t look much better.) You can fiddle with AirParrot’s settings to try to improve the image and performance, if you like. I’d suggest taking advantage of the AirParrot demo, which allows you to run the application for 20 minutes before it automatically quits. That will give you an idea of whether its image quality is up to snuff.

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