Air Display for iPad and Android: Great cheap 2nd monitor (review)

Air Display for iPad and Android: Great cheap 2nd monitor (review)

Summary: Turn your iPad or Android tablet into a wireless second monitor for any laptop for just ten bucks.


Air Display Android setup

Having enough screen real estate while working on laptops can be challenging, especially for those used to multiple monitor setups back in the office. Having a second monitor can be especially beneficial when working on laptops on the go. Owners of iPads and Android tablets have a cheap method at hand to turn those slates into wireless monitors for both Mac and Windows laptops.

The Air Display app is available for the iPad for $9.99, and the Android version costs the same. Both apps turn the appropriate tablet into a second monitor for Mac and Windows that connects to the laptop via Wi-Fi. Once the app is installed on the tablet, it directs you to the appropriate web site to download either the Mac or Windows app for the laptop.

After only a couple of minutes, the Air Display local service can be toggled on which initiates a search on the local Wi-Fi network for tablets running Air Display. The tablet running Air Display is selected from the search window and Air Display connects the laptop to the tablet.

The iPad or Android tablet is treated by either OS X or Windows 7 as an external monitor, with full OS control over the display. This allows user control over the location of the tablet in relation to the laptop. The tablet display can either mirror the laptop screen, or extend it to provide additional display space.

There is a slight lag due to the Wi-Fi connection, but it is so small to not be a factor. You probably won't be streaming video to the tablet due to this latency, but everything else works very well.

Displaying Sparrow (Mac) on the iPad

Air Display turns the tablet and laptop into a two monitor setup without compromise. It provides a second monitor for ten bucks, and that is an outstanding value. The benefits are fully realized when working in a hotel room at night as productively as back at the office with the two monitor configuration.

I use both the iPad and the Android versions of Air Display regularly, and have experienced no problems with either. The iPad with the Retina Display is especially impressive used as a second monitor with Air Display. Using this next to the MacBook or Windows PC shows without a doubt how superior the new iPad display is compared to that of the laptop.

Air Display permits rotating the iPad or Android tablet at will, and reconfigures the display on the fly. I find it particularly useful to put a document on the tablet in portrait for easy reference while working on the laptop.

TweetDeck Mac (Transformer Prime) and MacBook

I have tested Air Display for Android on both the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Transformer Prime without problems. Other Android tablets may not work as well according to the people behind Air Display.

Related: Top productivity apps for the iPad 3 (gallery) | Apple’s next-gen iPad: New battlefields emerge |Microsoft’s business pitch for Windows 8 depends on tablets | Apple’s New iPad In The Enterprise: Laptop Replacement Gets Closer | The new iPad’s great but what’s wrong with a good, inexpensive Android tablet? | CNET: New iPad hands on | CNET: All CNET iPad coverage (roundup) | iPad HD will surpass laptops on key features

Topics: iPad, Android, Enterprise Software, Google, Hardware, Mobility

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  • At last...

    a real use for a tablet. :-P
    • Haha!

      I was only just saying the exact same thing to a friend :)
  • And why would I need to do this?

    What is the purpose of the 2nd smaller screen?
    to look at a doc?
    Not trying to be stupid but still trying to see why!
    • Dual display configuration

      If you've never worked with a dual-display configuration, the benefits may not be obvious.

      But if you ever do serious creative work in a coffee shop or hotel, you know that a laptop screen is just not big enough to handle all of the auxiliary windows, tool palettes, your actual work, and your chat and twitter windows.

      Air Display gives you that, on the go. Or it extends your desktop on your office computer so that you can drag a window onto an iPad, walk down the hall, and show the second screen to a colleague's. Or it lets you plug your iPhone into a projector and mirror your laptop screen wirelessly from the other end of a conference room. Or it lets you use a stylus to paint directly onto a Photoshop document. And so on.
  • Air Display not working on all MacBook hardware

    Beware that Air Display does not work at all on several models of MacBook Pro systems, and the manufacturer, Avatron, does not intend to fix it. Carefully read the significant limitations found in the support section of Avatron's website, which conveniently isn't listed on their App Store promotional text...
    • Not just Air Display, all third-party video adapters

      Just to clarify this, there is indeed a Mac OS X drag-and-drop issue with the 2008-2009 15" and 17" MacBook Pro models (only the ones with the 9400M/9600M dual video). Apple introduced this bug on Lion. It has since fixed the bug on many machines but not these MBP models. But it's absolutely not specific to Air Display. On these specific Mac models, if ANY third-party video driver is installed (including Air Display's but also several others), drag-drop does not work in any app.

      And this limitation IS listed in Air Display's App Store app description. You just have to actually read it. ;-)

      There is a workaround but it's not ideal. You can sleep and wake after every reboot. Then the problem goes away. But we don't recommend that 2008-2009 15" and 17" MBP users buy Air Display. On the other hand, that workaround DOES work.

      Dave at Avatron
      • I appreciate that you guys are active in the forums.


        It's neat to see you guys out here talking about your product. Keep it up! Just persuaded me to buy your product.

        On another note, for this person specifically, I recommend they use the $5 and put it towards buying a new computer. :-)
  • Fool me twice!

    Another useless app for the tech toy market.
  • Another useful app for $9.99 is...

    iteleport. Works great on my iPad 2.

    p.s. I'll wait for AirPlay Mirroring with Mountain Lion.
    Arm A. Geddon
    • What does AirPlay Mirroring have to do with iPad?

      Just asking... it's for TV's (with Apple TV) or so I thought.
      • Re: AirPlay Mirroring

        Yes, you need the AppleTV but having your desktop on your TV screen will give you a lot of real estate to work with. And yes, it has nothing to do with the iPad. Sorry got sidetracked.
        Arm A. Geddon
  • Touchpad with ICS?

    Any chance anyone knows if this would work on an Hp Touchpad with cyanogenmod9? (ICS)?

    Would be useful while on the road as I have dual screens everywhere i work and am used to the convenience! :)
    • You are correct. Lightweight mobile dual monitor systems are useful.

      I hope your Android tablet can take advantage of this app.
  • AirDisplay on Vaio PC running 64 bit Vista Business - failed

    I really value a second screen. I have two extra for the laptop in my office so, for the benefit of the person who asked why bother, for instance I can have a PDF, a spreadsheet and a Word document open all at once and manually or electronically take material into my new document while keeping it all in view. It saves a lot of brain power otherwise devoted to remembering what is on the hidden windows.

    I had two problems with the App.

    (1) It forced both the iPad display and the PC into the old hard edged Windows format, which I could live with but didn't like.

    (2) When I switched it off to return to normal my PC screen went black and I had to boot in safe mode and do a system restore to the previous day to get it back. I tried it three times and it was always the same. That I can't live with. I contacted the manufacturers but they claimed they had never heard of it and showed no inclination to become involved. Anything that can screw my operating system that badly isn't worth the risk.
    • Sad and interesting experience. Perhaps AirDisplay works best

      in an Apple ecosystem.

      My experience with AirDisplay is different from yours. For the most part, everything worked as advertised.

      I used as a host PC my mid 2009 Apple MacBook (Model Identifier MacBook5,2) It's 1280 X 800 native 13 inch display uses the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M GPU chipset.

      Because I wished to check out the HiDPI mode (a new feature for this app) that allows a Mac Desktop app to be displayed in 2048 X 1536 resolution on the iPad screen, I used my new retina iPad for the secondary display monitor.

      To make a long story short, it worked. The HiDPI mode is optional but invoking it reduces the fluidity of any open app windows shown on the iPad screen. That is to say, moving the app window around on the iPad screen is a bit "herky jerky". However, once stationary, any video displayed inside that window is smooth.

      It's interesting to see how a MacBook desktop might appear under a retina display environment. Everything is small but crystal clear.

      One way around this display reality when using Safari is to increase the scaling of the web browsers fonts and display images. It's sort of neat to see and compare an app displayed on the iPad and then compare it's lower resolution image on the native MacBook screen. (When retina class displays come to laptops - probably Apple will be first to market those products, users will be very delighted with the results.

      I used this dual monitor setup to display MacBook graphic images from iPhoto and Aperature in HiDef resolution on the iPad while leaving the MacBook native screen for other activities.

      Again, having a working dual monitor mobile setup is a great asset for any person needing a mobile workstation. Providing such a system works for any given person. As grey stated above, his system could not take advantage of this app capability. Pity.
  • Ten dollar dual display?

    Does your review consider the possibility that a user may not already own a tablet and the added expense of it in your enthusiasm for this product?
    • Seriously?

      You could make the same argument about every app in the iPad App Store. You could say that every $0.99 app really costs $399.99 because you have to buy a $399 iPad to run it. But that argument would sound a little silly. :-)
  • how does it work under the hood?

    Hi everyone,

    How does this app work under the hood? What protocol does it use in order to send video data over the network?

    just curious...

  • Does not work with windows 8

    This app does not work with win 8, I have a preview system and no amount of setting (compatibility and admin) makes this app run, and if I cannot make this run our users certainly wont be able to, too bad this seemed like a nice app and would have helped us in reducing office clutter, second monitors are a great productivity tool and everyone seems to appreciate the lightness and portability of an ipad.
  • LAG

    it's pretty awesome to be able to take advantage of the retina display for a second screen, but a word of warning: in my experience, the lag is too drastic to use the second display for anything other than reading material.