Apple Digital AV Adapter
The iPad does HDMI at last
Review It’s not often that a mere cable merits a review of its own, but the Digital AV Adapter that Apple recently launched along with the new iPad 2 is worth a closer look.
HDMI ready: Apple's Digital AV Adapter
The cable plugs into the dock connector on the base of the iPad 2, and is also compatible with the original iPad, the iPhone 4 and the current fourth-generation iPod Touch. The other end of the cable provides a full-sized HDMI interface so that you can connect it to an HD TV, along with a pass-through dock connector so that you can still charge up the iPad at the same time.
There are two options when using the Digital AV Adapter with an iPad 2. If a specific app – such as Apple’s own Videos app on the iPad – has been designed to provide its own external video output then you can view the app’s output in full-screen on your HD TV.
The cable itself supports full 1080p output, and there are games on the way that will support 1080p as well, so you’ve got the potential for a pretty handy games console there.
However, the iPad itself currently only supports 720p output for video content, so that’s the resolution you’ll get when watching any HD films and TV programmes that you’ve downloaded onto the iPad.
In addition, the iPad 2 can also provide video mirroring, so that you actually see the full iPad screen on your HD TV as well. This allows you to view apps that don’t have their own video output capabilities – such as Angry Birds or the Safari web browser – on your TV as well. However, using mirroring means that the 1024x768 resolution and 4:3 aspect ratio of the iPad screen will be pillarboxed when displayed on a widescreen HD TV.
iTunes browsing - the iPad TV image is pillarboxed; showing black bars to the sides of the display
The original iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch don’t support video mirroring, so they can only use the Digital AV Adapter to display the output from apps that do have their own video output capabilities. Gaming apps such as Firemint's RealRacing 2 are in development that will allow control functions to appear on the iPad or iPhone while the main screen action appears on the TV.
While you might have to wait a while for that level of functionality, I was still pretty impressed that I was able to carry around some HD episodes of Misfits and Glee on my iPhone and play them on a nice big HD TV when I wanted to – it was the Joss Whedon episode of Glee, which makes it OK, right?
For the most part, the Digital AV Adapter worked as advertised. The video output is automatic, with no settings to adjust on the iOS device, and I had no complaints about the quality of its video output.
The only minor glitch I encountered was that occasionally when starting to play a video I’d get a message on the screen of the iPad or iPhone telling me that “this display is not authorized to play protected content”. I suspect this was Apple’s DRM software getting a bit carried away with itself rather than being a fault with the cable itself, but it only happened very occasionally and the error message could be dismissed by quickly unplugging the cable and plugging it back in again.
Yes, it is just an HDMI adapter and a pricey one at that too
You could argue that an expensive gadget like the iPad should have HDMI as standard – but it doesn’t and that’s that. However, the Apple Digital AV Adapter works well and definitely transforms the iPad and iPhone into a handy option for carrying around games and videos that you can then play either on the move or on a large-screen TV, or even for showing off and doing some fancy iPad presentations at work. ®
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