One of the coolest features available to iPhones and iPads has been the ability to mirror your devices display to your television using an Apple TV. AirPlay has been around even longer, which let you direct a video or audio stream to your Apple TV or (in the case of audio) to an AirPort Express with attached speakers. However, in Mountain Lion, Apple went a step further and allowed supported Macs to also be able to mirror their displays to the Apple TV. Unfortunately, in what many consider to be an incredible oversight, Apple never went the opposite direction and allowed iOS devices and Macs to mirror their displays to other Macs. Some might consider this overkill, but it’s an excellent way to capture gameplay video from an iOS device and it’s also helpful in a classroom or work environment when Apple TVs aren’t readily available.
Enter AirServer and Reflector. Both apps have a very similar feature set, with the edge going to Reflector, which allows you to record video directly from within the app. This is an excellent tool for developers wanting to show off how their app works. However, for those that don’t need that specific feature and simply want to stream video to their display (or, those that prefer to use QuickTime Player or another tool for capturing video onscreen), AirServer feels simpler and easier to use. Plus, AirServer has a number of excellent pricing alternatives for students, teachers, and those that need a volume license.
One major advantage to AirServer is its ability to present a higher quality video stream out of the box. Reflector defaults to 720p video only, while AirServer takes into account the specific device connecting, allowing 3rd and 4th generation iPads to display 1080p video with no configuration. Reflector appears capable of doing the same, however it gives a warning that iOS devices only support 720p video, which is no longer true. Both devices allow multiple inbound video and audio streams at a time, which is also pretty cool if you want to display more than one device at a time. In an education or corporate environment, that can be handy for allowing different pieces of a presentation to be offloaded to multiple devices so that presenters don’t have to switch between apps on the fly. Or, if you just like showing off technology, it can allow you to play multiple games on your TV at once.
Another great benefit to AirServer over Reflector is the ability to treat inbound streams as individual windows, complete with close and minimize buttons and a full-screen toggle. You can also hover your mouse over the video to access music controls, allowing you to play, pause, and skip music playing from your iDevice’s library through your computer speakers.
If I had to choose only one app to use, I’d currently go with AirServer due to the greater pricing flexibility and the fact that it’s a smoother experience out of the box. However, if you want more control over capturing video, Reflector has a definite advantage.
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