• Hookups: What do I need for iPad presentations?

    The iPad a really great presentation tool. It's smaller than a laptop, it's lighter, you can go wireless, and the apps available to create & deliver presentations are now very solid (Keynote, Perspective, Prezi & many more). However, one of the big barriers at the moment to going iPad-only is the hookup. There's nothing worse than arriving at a conference room, boardroom or classroom, and not being able to get your screen to play nice with their projector or TV.

    Do that enough times, and suddenly you're lugging your laptop in your bag (as well as the iPad) as your don't-look-like-a-dickhead-in-front-of-strangers Plan B. Nobody wants that.

    So, how exactly do I get my iPad screen to that TV or projector? Well you've got a few options, and they all have their pros and cons. Here's a toolkit that hopefully covers a wide variety of possible scenarios, so you can take your iPad to your next presentation with confidence.

    Option 1: The Apple VGA adapter

    I know, I know. Adapters suck. But like it or not, VGA is still the standard port that many, many places still use to hook up devices to a projector. Especially in the education space, where it's not uncommon to see a projector that sports HDMI, but is totally un-available because the room's cable runs & wall sockets do not.

    They're $35 from the Apple Store, they go from the 30-pin dock connector to a VGA socket, and they're practically essential if you seriously want to use your iPad as a presentation device.

    Requires: Any projector (or TV) with an available VGA port.

    Pro: Cheap. Easy to throw in a bag. Doesn't need separate power. Super-reliable, because most places have VGA, or an adapter that allows you to use VGA.

    Con: No wireless. Hope you like standing behind the lectern, because you're now tethered to that VGA cable. Also, you can't charge the device & present at the same time.

    Cost: $35

    Option 2: The Apple Digital AV Adapter

    More common if you're in a room with a TV instead of a projector, this adapter allows you to go from HDMI directly to the 30-pin dock connector. Niftily, it also packs a second 30-pin dock connector on the HDMI side that gives you the option to plug in a charger at the same time. Available in the Apple Store for $45.

    Requires: Any TV (or projector) with an available HDMI port.

    Pro: Cheap. Easy to throw in a bag. Reliable (as long as you know the place you're presenting at has an available HDMI port). Doesn't need separate power. Allows you to charge & present at the same time.

    Con: No wireless. HDMI ports still not as common as VGA.

    Cost: $45

    Option 3: AppleTV (& Kanex ATV Pro)

    AirPlay is great, and if you've got an iPad, you'll definitely prefer it for presentations. The advantage to presenting this way is pretty clear; you're able to be completely wireless while you present. That's a huge deal, especially if you'd like to have other people in the room interact with your device. There's nothing quite as powerful as opening an app, handing it over to an audience member and having them use it while you continue talking. It's very cool.

    So, to get AirPlay working, you'll want an AppleTV. The AppleTV for $109 is the best way to mirror an iOS device up onto a screen, but requires an HDMI port. However, if VGA is your only option, how do you get the AppleTV to talk to the projector?

    Well, I'm using the new Kanex ATV Pro adapter for $79.95. It's an adapter that converts from HDMI to VGA (as well as a 3.5mm stereo jack for sound), and the only adapter I could find that does it without a separate box & power supply.

    The main downside to a AirPlay setup is that your venue needs Wi-Fi that both your iPad & AppleTV can connect to. This can sometimes be a challenge unto itself, with locked-down, or terribly slow Wi-Fi networks a fairly common occurrence in presentation venues.

    Additionally, if you can indeed connect to the Wi-Fi you'll also need a few minutes to boot up the AppleTV & enter the Wi-Fi password (with the Apple Remote, yuck).

    Requires: Fast, reliable Wi-Fi that you can connect to solely with a Wi-Fi password (for example, conference venue Wi-Fi with a login page will probably not work). Projector (or TV) with an HDMI or VGA port.

    Pro: Wireless presentations! The future! Looks rad. Can charge & present at the same time. Works with either HDMI or VGA. Can also switch to other compatible AirPlay devices (for example, show off an iPad app, then switch to your iPhone to show off the iPhone version)

    Con: More expensive. Requires decent Wi-Fi you can connect to — don't bother if the Wi-Fi is slow. Needs a separate power socket for the AppleTV. Requires a few minutes to set up — definitely not ideal if you're presenting back-to-back with other people.

    Cost: $109 + $79.95 = $188.95

    Option 4: AppleTV, Kanex ATV Pro, AirPort Express.

    Now we're really going down the wormhole. This is another AirPlay set up, specifically to address the Wi-Fi issues of Option 3.

    It relies on using the AirPort Express for $119 to create your own Wi-Fi network, which you can then use to connect your devices to ahead of time. Then, when it comes time to present, you simply switch on the Airport Express, and your AppleTV & iPad should automatically connect to it. This bypasses the awkward steps in Option 3 with set up, and also the potential dodginess of the venue's Wi-Fi.

    The AppleTV & Airport Express look very similar these days, and both stack together quite nicely too. It's almost like they were designed this way or something...

    The major downside to this set up? It's a closed loop set up; there's no way to connect to the internet. Even if you've got a 3G iPad, you'll be routing traffic through the Airport Express, and you can't choose to route AirPlay through one Wi-Fi connection & data through a 3G connection; it's one or the other.

    However, this kind of set up will work great if the venue has an ethernet cable as the only available internet connection. You can route that cable into the AirPort Express & have it wirelessly extend the wired connection (I've used this many times in hotel rooms, for example). That may not be a sure thing though; it can depend on the network's configuration.

    Requires: A presentation that doesn't require internet OR a wired network connection you want to make wireless for internet. Projector (or TV) with an HDMI or VGA port.

    Pro: Wireless presentations! Can charge & present at the same time. Works with either HDMI or VGA. Can switch to other compatible AirPlay devices. Does not rely on a (potentially problematic) external Wi-Fi network. Can extend wired connections to wireless devices.

    Con: More expensive. This set up (might) not work if you require an internet connection to present. Requires 2 power sockets.

    Cost: $109 + $79.95 + $119 = $307.95

    Option 5: AppleTV, Kanex ATV Pro, iPhone in Personal Hotspot mode.

    Believe it or not, this works pretty damn well. Same as option 5, but substitute the Airport Express for an iPhone in Personal Hotspot mode.

    All you have to do is:

    1) Put your phone in Personal Hotspot mode
    2) Join the AppleTV & iPad to the new network created by the phone

    You can do this ahead of time, and your AppleTV should remember the Personal Hotspot Wi-Fi settings for later (as long as you don't change them). This method also has the advantage of being able to pull down data on your iPad —from the iPhone's 3G connection— for internet, whilst also being able to mirror the iPad's screen on the AppleTV. Weirdly enough, you can also mirror the iPhone's display on the AppleTV too!

    I thought this might suffer from poor speeds, but I tried games, streaming video & a variety of apps and I couldn't find anything other than a slight delay on graphically intensive games. Very impressive actually.

    Requires: An iPhone with a 3G data plan. Projector (or TV) with an HDMI or VGA port.

    Pro: Wireless presentations! Can charge & present at the same time. Works with either HDMI or VGA. Can switch to other compatible AirPlay devices. Does not rely on a (potentially problematic) external Wi-Fi network.

    Con: Uses your phone's data. Will thrash your phone's battery. Requires 1 power socket.

    Cost: $109 + $79.95 + your phone's data = $188.95+

    Option 6: AppleTV, Kanex ATV Pro, 3G/4G Pocket Wi-Fi.

    One final configuration which substitutes the Airport Express (or iPhone in hotspot mode) for a 3G Pocket Wi-Fi device.

    This comes with the advantage of being a separate device — one that can be organised (and billed) aside from your phone. This might be an attractive option for those working in a company, and also makes it easy to buy one and share it within a team.

    All of the major networks have 3G options (see Vodafone, Telstra & Optus) now, but for my money I'd be taking a long hard look at either the $79 3G Telstra Elite Pre-Paid or if you have the need for speed, the Telstra Pre-Paid 4G Wi-Fi option. Optus also has a 4G Pocket Wi-Fi device too, but their 4G coverage is still pretty limited (definitely not available in Brisbane yet for example), and it's also not available on Pre-Paid yet either.

    In this configuration, you can switch the Pocket Wi-Fi device on ahead of time, and then connect your AppleTV & iPad to the newly-created network. Then when it comes time to present, simply switch the network back on, and your devices should recognise it and reconnect.

    Requires: A Pocket Wi-Fi device with a 3G/4G data allowance. Projector (or TV) with an HDMI or VGA port.

    Pro: Wireless presentations! Can charge & present at the same time. Works with either HDMI or VGA. Can switch to other compatible AirPlay devices. Does not rely on a (potentially problematic) external Wi-Fi network.

    Con: More expensive. Will come with a data charge (to keep your pocket Wi-Fi data topped up). Connection speed will vary based on coverage. Requires 1 power socket.

    Cost: $109 + $79.95 + Pocket Wi-Fi (eg. $79) = $267.95 + data charges

    Wrap up:

    This begs the question; what am I using at the moment? Well, I've found that the combination of the wired VGA adapter, an AppleTV, a HDMI cable, the Kanex ATV Pro adapter & my iPhone is sufficient to suit pretty much any need I've encountered so far.

    This combination gives me both an instant wired option in the VGA adapter, or if I have a minute & a spare power socket, I'll hook up the AppleTV & put my iPhone in hotspot mode for a wireless presentation. The HDMI cable also gives me a direct AppleTV-to-HDMI option if that's available, and I'll use the Kanex ATV Pro for VGA if it's not.

    James Croft runs Go Make, a business helping education with technology in a post-PC world. He's on Twitter, Google+ & even LinkedIn from time to time.
    Comments 10 Comments
    1. icant's Avatar
      icant -
      Options 5 and beyond: Can you put the iPad in Personal Hotspot mode instead?
    1. James Croft's Avatar
      James Croft -
      Quote Originally Posted by icant View Post
      Options 5 and beyond: Can you put the iPad in Personal Hotspot mode instead?
      I don't have an iPad 3G to test it, but I've heard anecdotally you can! Put the iPad 3G in hotspot mode, and connect the AppleTV to the new ad-hoc network. Meant to work like a charm for AirPlay as well. Closest thing you can get to a direct wifi mode, actually.
    1. gabonzo's Avatar
      gabonzo -
      I use my iPad 2 with a VGA adapter when giving my university lectures. My only gripe would be that certain transitions available in the desktop version of Keynote aren't available on the iPad version.

      That aside the iPad/VGA combo behaves flawlessly, and the iPhone remote app makes everything simple to use.
    1. Chundermuffin's Avatar
      Chundermuffin -
      I don't think using your iPhone as a hotspot (as in option 5) uses data as long as you're not going online. I used this method to copy a couple of gigs' worth of files between my Mac mini and MBA and my 3G data usage was unchanged before and after.
    1. twursthorn's Avatar
      twursthorn -
      Hi James
      Great post summarising iPad display options. Quick question about your use of the Kanex atv adaptor. When you are using this with Apple TV are you able play back full screen video from your iPhone/iPad?
      I have been experimenting with a few hdmi-vga adaptor products with apple tvs and a collection of projectors at my school with mostly positive results. The one function that it lets me down is the full screen video play back from apps like YouTube, TED, iView (Australia's national broadcaster on demand service). When you attempt to use this feature the Apple TV attempts the play back with some perceived delay for buffering but then fails.

      What has been your experience?
      Tom Wursthorn
    1. jnxyz's Avatar
      jnxyz -
      Hi James - great article as usual - ta for laying out all the options and I'll be sharing this around my networks

      There is one other option also if its kickstarter gets up (I've backed it) which could bring the best of both worlds ie. the ease of just pluggin in the vga adapter with the benefits of wireless: AirBridge: Revolutionize the way you use iPhone/iPad by Artifex Touch — Kickstarter
    1. martinX's Avatar
      martinX -
      I run the auditorium. Bring a PPT on a FAT32-formatted stick. Really, that's all. Unless you want to spend 20 minutes hooking up your stuff just so you can look like the guy that wants to show people he owns an iPad, just bring the presentation on a stick. We have a Logitech presenter remote (best $70 we ever spent) that plugs into the house PC and wireless mics so there's no need to be tethered to anything.

      Exception: you have something that you suspect won't run on an in-house system. Answer: Bring something that connects with VGA. VGA will be around for years. Always bring your own adapter because I don't supply them.

      Make friends with the guy that runs the auditorium before the day's presentations start. Ask the organiser for the contact details of the guy who runs the room. Preferably the day or even week before. The important thing for the audience is you and what you are presenting, not the technology you use.
    1. James Croft's Avatar
      James Croft -
      I run the auditorium. Bring a PPT on a FAT32-formatted stick. Really, that's all.
      I understand your point of view & where you're coming from martinX, but as you said, if the most important thing is you & what you're presenting, what do you do when that doesn't fit into a Powerpoint slide-deck model?

      For example, Horace Dediu at Swipe Conference this year did his whole presentation on an iPad. This most important thing was the story he wove, but I don't think he could have told that story nearly as well if he was forced to condense it down to a series of static Powerpoint slides. His interactive graphs in Perspective made his content, (and by proxy himself) come alive.

      What if you're taking a subject on media studies & want to do a presentation on the impact of Twitter? Do you grab a couple of tweets and paste them into a slide, or do you open up a Twitter client and actually show the live feed of a hashtag unfolding? I know what I'd be more engaged with if I was in the audience.

      Of course presentations extend beyond the lecture theatre or auditorium too, but I thought this is an important point to raise. If you're doing a standard lecture, then there's no reason at all to re-make a Powerpoint slide deck on the iPad just for the sake of doing it. But there are educators looking beyond that. As people assisting educators with technology, we need to up our game too.
    1. martinX's Avatar
      martinX -
      Quote Originally Posted by James Croft View Post
      I understand your point of view & where you're coming from martinX, but as you said, if the most important thing is you & what you're presenting, what do you do when that doesn't fit into a Powerpoint model?
      I agree with you, however all of the presentations I see do fit into that model. For the exceptions to that, I said Exception: you have something that you suspect won't run on an in-house system. That would include files such as specialist video codecs like ProRes or DNXHD (I had some idiot/media studies lecturer turn up to a boardroom with a DVD ROM full of DNXHD MOVs to play on our bog standard PCs running XP {we are not a media facility, BTW}. I got called halfway through the meeting to 'fix it'. He started rambling about 'they're industry standard files'...) or some of the more obscure ones like Bink or MKV containers, PSD or AI files, PACS studies, 3d models and so on) and applications that wouldn't be on a straight-out-of-the-box, locked-down, corporate PC. Like Twitter.

      If you are demonstrating a computery thing, by all means bring along the appropriate device and talk to the av people
      beforehand. (You wouldnt even get a network connection for your device at my place so bring a 3G dongle.) If its just a presentation, work on your presentation and just give it. Technology won't save a shit presentation.

      In the AV part of my job, I see three kinds of Mac users: clueless idiots who wouldn't know a VGA port from their elbow (which is why I keep a display port and a mini display port to VGA adapters in my drawer), tech savvy Mac users who can hook things up and find their way around Displays control panel if necessary, and arrogant jerks who think I must be part of the MS hegemony trying to make their life a misery and their presentation suck because something in my system doesn't suit them.

      In the interests of balance, PC users fit into the same three categories, with the arrogant ones thinking I am somehow deliberately obstructing them because I can't reconfigure the house PC at a moments notice (that's the IT department, and they can't do anything because they are really really locked down).

      I just realized you are the article's author: my next installation which should be going in next month (and future ones) will all have hdmi jacks. No display ports alas. It's hard to find av equipment to deal with it - our supplier tends to use Kramer switchers. I keep looking at wireless solutions, but our whole network is bolted down real tight and the IT guys aren't very Mac-friendly (I support my own macs for video editing) and they are very risk-averse. Given that these installations cost upwards of $50k, are expected to last 5+ years and adding anything costs thousands (shoe-horning equipment in requires more programming of the control system), I can't plan for systems that don't exist today, and I don't plan for outlier cases. Every increase in functionality comes at an exponentially increased cost as well as greater complexity in the interface. The first bugs the money guys and the second annoys the simple folk who just want to give a PPT presentation without tripping over their own tongues.

      Good article, but my advice is KISS.

      Sorry about the typos but I'm doing this on an iPad and I couldn't be bothered futzing about with tiny errors.
    1. rrichmond's Avatar
      rrichmond -
      Thanks for your article. I wil be sure to try some of these ideas out!

      We utilise the Apple TVs at our College (http://ipad.redlands.qld.edu.au) . I utilise the third method you have mentioned with a twist.

      Our College has WPA2 Enterprise security, which has not been an option to connect to using the Apple TVs. We have hard wired the Apple TVs using the network port, ensuring the device is on the same VLAN as our iPads. Since doing this we have discovered that the iPads could not be seen over multiple VLAN's. So whilst our staff could see the Apple TVs, it was not shown as an option on our student iPads which are on a different VLAN.

      We found that our Wireless Solution provider, Aerohive, had a solution in place which corrected this for us. The only other problem I have been looking for a solution to, is the problem of having to wire the Apple TVs to the network. Whilst this works well, it is expensive as you have to pay for another network port times the number of Apple TVs you may have.

      This article: Apple TV: How to install a configuration profile , which has just been released with the Apple TV Software update 5.1, allows you to connect the Apple TV to the Apple configuration utility, and add a profile to it which will allow the device to use a certificate to permanently connect to WPA2 Enterprise network (I have yet to test this).
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