AirParrot: AirPlay for the Rest of Us

AirParrot Menu

I was chagrined to learn that my MacBook (late 2008 aluminum) was too old to make use of the AirPlay Mirroring feature in Mac OS X 10.8 and higher. I recent bought an Apple TV and, while I’ve been a devoted Roku user for a number of years, I hoped the Apple TV would enable me to further empower my life as a cord-cutter.

With the Roku connected to our HDTV, we could watch movies and TV using Amazon Video on Demand, Netflix and Hulu Plus; the Apple TV really only adds support for iTunes-based video, plus YouTube on the big screen—which isn’t enough reason to buy it. Yes, there’s sometimes a better deal for a show or movie on Apple, but if Apple TV doesn’t offer more than that, it’s tough to justify the $99.

My reason for adding an Apple TV to the mix, then, hinged on AirPlay — particularly the ability to display HBO via Apple TV (we pay for HBO even though we don’t get it on our TV from the cable company and Comcast, inexplicable, doesn’t support HBO GO) and to play many (unfortunately not all) of the ESPN broadcasts I want to see on my HDTV.

With HBO, fortunately, I can do AirPlay Mirroring from my iPhone via the XFinity app; for ESPN broadcasts, though, along with a variety of other items (Daily Show clips, various Flash and other browser-based videos), AirPlay Mirroring on my old MacBook would be ideal. It’s just not supported.

Enter AirParrot. For $10, it adds the ability to stream from your earlier Mac to your Apple TV (or other AirPlay-enabled device). It has its limits — motion can be a little jittery (I’m talking college football), but it does work — video and audio stream to your Apple TV, whether you’re mirroring your entire screen or just mirroring a particular application to the Apple TV.

AirParrot can also be used to extend your display onto the TV, effectively giving you a considerable amount of additional real estate for working on visual projects or sharing information with a crowd of folks. Oh… and it works for 10.6.8, so you don’t have to upgrade to 10.7.x or 10.8.x to use it.

Truth be told, AirParrot is probably best suited for wireless presentations and group situations where you’re displaying your Mac’s (relatively static) display for others to see. It’s great for letting older Macs — and even Windows machines — connect to an Apple TV for the purpose of giving a presentation. (Side note: Apple TV just blew up a whole industry of wireless presentation equipment that was coming on the market for education and corporate collaboration. Apple TV makes wireless screen-sharing dead simple.)

For home entertainment, there’s a reason Apple requires newer hardware — the Intel video chipset is specifically designed to stream video wirelessly, an Apple doesn’t want people complaining about choppy playback. Plus, AirParrot does seem to be paying attention to some Apple DRM shenanigans—it wouldn’t let me play a James Bond DVD on the big screen, even as it played on my laptop.

But if you’re willing to deal with the limitations of your hardware and the occasional bump in the road, AirParrot is a thrilling hack for those of us using older Macs with AirPlay—and it’s a bargain if you need it for presentations or other paying work.

Rating: Recommended

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