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AirPlay 2 provides Apple device owners more ways to stream favorite music, movies, TV shows, and home videos around the house. But for anyone without a HomePod, Apple TV, or other compatible hardware, the experience is actually pretty limited.
JustStream is a macOS menu bar app for wirelessly streaming from a Mac to compatible AirPlay or Chromecast devices, including LG, Roku, Samsung, and Sony televisions. This is done two different ways: Mirroring, which essentially livestreams your desktop; or streaming, where one or more media files can be queued up for playback.
Running entirely from the menu bar, JustStream automatically detects compatible devices on your local network capable of receiving via AirPlay or Chromecast. Select a target device from the pulldown menu at the bottom of the window—a button that’s hard to see with if you have dark mode enabled—and then click Start Streaming. After a few moments of buffering, your desktop appears on the selected screen.
By default, sound is disabled while mirroring, but can be enabled by installing an audio driver and restarting your Mac. Performance isn’t nearly as fluid as direct AirPlay—there was a lag of about five seconds using a mid-2015 iMac Retina 5K—but JustStream has the advantage of mirroring the desktop at your current screen resolution rather than simply adapting to the target display.
Unlike AirPlay, there are a few mirroring options available. The cursor and mouse clicks can be disabled, while output resolution can be manually adjusted to 1080p or 720p HD.
A more compelling JustStream feature is the ability to wirelessly stream video files to another display. This is great for folks like me who have a home office at one end of the house and a big, beautiful 75-inch television in the living room, making wired connectivity less practical.
With JustStream, delivering video and audio to any screen in the house is a snap, even with files in non-native formats like AVI or MKV. That’s because the app does all the heavy lifting by transcoding in real time when needed, complete with optional subtitles where available in your chosen font, color, and size. You can also import subtitles, as well as play embedded or external audio tracks in sync with the video.
Naturally, real-time transcoding tends to be quite processor intensive. While QuickTime-compatible videos (including MP4) start playing immediately with little CPU impact, non-native formats require buffering (referred to as “presegmenting media for deployment”), which is entirely dependent upon file size, resolution, and your Mac. A 90-minute, standard-definition AVI movie began streaming in under 20 seconds, while a 4K MKV of similar length required several minutes of preparation before playback commenced, including extra time to process embedded subtitles, which can be bypassed when not needed.
To be fair, JustStream has a maximum output resolution of 1080p HD, so anything higher is redundant anyway. Finally, while the app is free to download, you’ll be interrupted every 40 minutes unless you decide to purchase a license code.
Mirroring offers few advantages over built-in AirPlay, but JustStream redeems itself when it comes to streaming video files to any screen in the house.
JustStream is a lightweight, easy to use menu bar app for wirelessly mirroring a Mac or streaming a wide variety of video files to a television, Chromecast, or Apple TV without conversion, additional hardware, or complicated setup.
- Stream any video file to AirPlay or Chromecast-compatible devices
- Queue up multiple videos, even those in non-native formats
- Mirror Mac desktop without adapting to target display
- Video lags several seconds behind when mirroring
- High CPU while transcoding some non-native video
- No 4K or surround sound output
- Free version interrupts playback every 40 minutes