The lack of an HDMI port on the original iPad was largely considered one of its biggest missing features. And while next generation iPads do not have an HDMI port on the device itself, Apple released the Digital AV Adapter alongside the iPad 2, giving all iOS products (iPad, iPhone 4 and iPod Touch 4G) the ability to be connected to your HDTV.
Apple Digital AV Adapter Features
- Capable of 1080p playback on the iPad 2
- Supports 720p playback on the iPad, iPhone 4 and iPod Touch 4G
- Mirroring mode on the iPad 2
- Allows charging while in use
The iPad in HD
The Apple Digital AV Adapter attaches to the 30-pin connector at the bottom of the iPad and includes both an HDMI port and another 30-pin connector, so you can charge your iPad while playing video on your HDTV. This is great if you are watching The Good, The Bad and The Ugly or trying to get through the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Playback is excellent. The Digital AV Adapter outputs 720p HD video and Dolby Digital surround sound, so its great for watching movies. The iPad 2 and beyond also support 1080p video, but this is not currently supported by the video player app, and even when it is supported, movies will still max out at 720p. So it won't quite replace your Blu-Ray player, but it's a great option for streaming video from iTunes via Home Sharing.
The iPad in Display Mirroring Mode
Video playback is only one piece of the puzzle for iPad owners. The Digital AV Adapter can put the iPad in display mirroring mode when connected to an HDTV, which means even if the app doesn't support video playback, you'll still get to see it on the big screen.
Mirroring mode won't use up the entire screen of your HDTV, so you'll have black bars on either side of the display, but it does give every app HDTV support. And if your HDTV supports a zoom feature, you can even maximize the display.
It'll be interesting to see how the app world supports this new feature. Combined with Bluetooth, it would be possible to use an iPad in mirroring mode and an iPhone or iPod Touch as a controller. This means you could play a game on your HDTV while sitting on your couch, or simply browse through a video selection on your phone and send your selection to the big screen.
Apple TV can also supports display mirroring through AirPlay. Read the full Apple TV review.
The Only Downside Is the Price
The Apple Digital AV Adapter makes my "must have" list for iPad accessories, but if it has a downside, it is the price. Currently going for $39.00, it isn't the cheapest adapter, and when you combine it with the price of an HDMI cable, it can get a little expensive.
But once you've hooked your iPad up to your HDTV, you can quickly see the void it fills. From watching Netflix and Crackle videos to simply browsing YouTube, the Digital AV Adapter takes iPad video to the next level.
Note: After the iPad 2's release, Hulu hijacked the display mirroring feature in its Hulu Plus app to disable the feature. Hulu Plus movies cannot be watched until Hulu enables this feature or supports true video out.