Air Display 2: Up to 4 external monitors for $9.99

Air Display 2: Up to 4 external monitors for $9.99

Summary: The Air Display 2 app can turn up to four iPads into additional monitors for MacBooks and Windows PCs.

Air Display 2 monitors
iPad Air, MacBook Air, iPad mini (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Some people can't live without at least two monitors on their work systems, and others find them only useful for particular tasks. Air Display 2 for the iPad can turn the tablet into an additional display for Macs and Windows PCs, and lets you add three more for maximum screen real estate.

Air Display 2 menu
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Air Display has been around for years, and the second generation app Air Display 2 takes it even further. In its simplest use case, you install Air Display 2 ($9.99) on the iPad, download and install the host app on the Mac or PC, then select the iPad on the host system. This connects the iPad to the host via wi-fi (both must be on the same network), and sets it as an external monitor for the host.

The iPad can be arranged on the host just like any external monitor. In the case of an iPad with Retina Display, true resolution can be toggled on instead of the normal resolution handling that most users will find useful. The iPad can be set to connect to the host automatically when detected. The iPad can be used to either mirror or extend the host's desktop. There is also a presentation mode to disable the onscreen keyboard and touch control of the iPad.

Air Display 2 can be used with four iPads as additional monitors, although I've only used it with one or two. The setup works fine using the MacBook Air with an iPad Air and iPad mini (non Retina display). Performance is good with only occasional lags when the network is slow.

The iPads work the same as any external monitor, and app windows can be dragged to them at will. A nice feature is that the iPad's touch screen works as expected, effectively adding touch control to OS X.

Using the iPad as a second monitor is not practical all the time, but it comes in handy on occasion. A common use for me is when using OS X apps on the MacBook Air that have palette menus. With Air Display 2 I can drag the menus to the iPad while keeping the main window free on the MacBook. I also sometimes use it to keep my email open on the iPad and always visible while working on the laptop.

Air Display 2 is supposed to work with both OS X and Windows 7/8, but I've not been able to get it working on my ThinkPad Tablet 2 with Windows 8.1. It doesn't handle the iPad's resolution very well and regularly crashes my system. I suspect Air Display 2 needs to be updated to handle Windows 8.1, as I've used the first generation version with Windows 7 in the past without issues.

The developer claims Air Display 2 works on the iPhone, but I haven't tried it, and frankly I'm not sure how practical that might be. The app is $9.99 in the app store.

See related: 

Topics: Mobility, iPad, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • Windows

    I've been looking for something like this on Windows.

    Use the monitor of a Windows PC or tablet to another Windows PC, wireless, without additional hardware. Any Windows version.

    Does anything like that exist?
    • Extend

      I mean to extend the screen, not only mirror it. Just like plugging in a second monitor.
      • Like James stated, Air Display 2 used to work for Win 8 - 8.1 machines but

        something seems to have been broken when going from Air Display version 1 (or simply Air Display) to the updated Air Display 2 version of this app. Then again, maybe Win 8.1 is the culprit but whatever the root cause, this app does not work reliably in a Win 8.1 environment.

        For example, I used to be able to use my iPad as a secondary monitor to my Surface Pro but can't anymore since switching to Win 8.1 and Air Display 2. (I suspect a memory leak because the app crashes after a few minutes.)

        However, the OS X / iOS combo has proven rather robust in use for me. I've even used my iPhone 5 as a secondary extended display monitor. (but only to see if it could work. It does but with since the iPhone 5 has such a small display area - why do it?)

        BTW, when Air Display did work on Win 8 machines, only classic desktop applications could take advantage of such a dual monitor setup. The Modern UI could be displayed and the live tile features did work but when I tried to access a modern UI application, the app would not launch and the system would almost instantaneously kick me back into the Modern UI start screen. Like I stated, Air Display only worked, when it did, with classic desktop apps in the classic desktop work area.
        • PS .. Air Display did allow extended display mode for Win 8

          just as it allows extended display mode on OS X host machines. Yes, I'm disappointed that Air Display doesn't reliably work on Win 8.1 machines. I had high hopes.
          • Windows host update coming soon

            Hi. Sorry about the issues you've been running into … the Air Display host works fine on Windows 8.1 but we had a flaw in our updater, meaning that for a fraction of Windows users, updating to the Air Display 2 host didn't successfully remove the old drivers and settings so it could replace them with the new ones. We are just wrapping up an update that will address.

            Again, sorry about the inconvenience. We're on it!
            Dave t Avatron
    • Yes!

      Hi. On our web site, you can download an Air Display for Windows client for one of your PCs, and the Windows host for the other machine. Unlike our iOS and Android apps, the Windows app isn't coming through an app store so we let you try it out for a while before you decide whether to buy.


      Hope you like it!

      Dave at Avatron
      • Thx

        Thanks. I didn't realise there was a Windows client AND host available, thought that the only possible slave was an iPad. I'll give it a try.
        • :(

          Tried it. It works, and even touch, mouse, and keyboard events work. Surprisingly high bandwidth requirements (unusable if limited to 2MByte/s) and the inability to display all content (no WinRT) force me to give it a pass.
  • I soooooo

    I soooo want one of these for Windows RT.

    I'm about to head to Best Buy to trade my Surface RT for a Surface Pro 2 (Best buy will give me $150.00 for it). But I'd just keep the unit and pay full price for the Surface Pro if I could use my Surface RT as a second monitor for the Pro.
    • Air Display never worked on any Win RT tablets because

      The Air Display drivers are not supported in the Win RT environment. Like you, I had a Surface RT tablet (to augment my Surface Pro) but knew that I could not use Air Display on my Surface RT tablet. Pity.
  • Hmmm

    The words "very expensive chocolate coffee pot come to mind"
    Alan Smithie