One of the many features that set Twitter ablaze with the announcement of iOS 5 back at WWDC was AirPlay mirroring. AirPlay had already been around for a while, and in its initial form allowed iOS devices to steam video to an Apple TV or audio to an Airport Express. Mirroring, as the name implies, mirrors the current display of your device on whatever video display you've got your Apple TV plugged into. Crafty developers have even figured out how to output a different image than the one that's being displayed on your iOS device, which is really cool in action.

Initially, AirPlay mirroring required an iPad 2 and when it was first unveiled it was never very clear if or when other iOS would have the same capabilities-- Especially since Apple has made it abundantly clear that they still consider the Apple TV a "hobby" of theirs. Well, with the release of the iPhone 4S, which also comes packed with AirPlay mirroring support, it seems reasonable to assume that all future iOS devices will have the capability.

Unfortunately, without some killer software utilizing the functionality, it sort of seems like a gimmick-- At least, so far. The selection of games that embrace the mirroring functionality in interesting ways are remarkably sparse. So far the best of the bunch seems to be Chopper 2 [99¢]:

As cool as AirPlay is, its main drawback for gaming seems to be a ever-so-slight but totally perceptible lag. Piloting the helicopter in the Chopper games seems to be almost intentionally floaty (it is a helicopter, after all). This seems to mask the lag very well, and using the iOS device screen for input is done well.

Comparatively, Real Racing 2 [$4.99 / HD] does much more with the actual iOS device screen, but the previously mentioned slight lag in controls makes just playing the game normally without the Apple TV seem much more fun. The multiplayer mode does feel like the future though:

Aside from the small bit of lag, it works really well, almost surprisingly so. I downloaded the game on my iPad 2, flipped on AirPlay mirroring, and hosted a local game. Seeing the same video output on my iPhone being routed through the iPad 2 and rendered on my TV wirelessly seemed like magic, especially as more iOS devices joined the race.

I'm so incredibly torn on this functionality right now. The potential it has is just incredible, especially in future devices and/or developer optimization of these games reduces the lag between the iOS device and the Apple TV. Once this delay goes from barely noticeable but always there to non-existent, I think it'll be totally easy to get onboard, and an Apple TV might even be required hardware for the dedicated iOS gamer to own. Right now though, I wouldn't encourage anyone to rush out and buy an Apple TV specifically to try out this new Real Racing 2 mode.

That being said, the Apple TV is a really cool device that is well worth the $100 if you've got an HDMI port on your TV and don't already have an Xbox 360, PS3, or even something like a Roku Streaming Player hooked up to it. If you've got an A5-powered iOS device, being able to do some neat things with an incredibly small (right now, anyway) library of games is just icing on the cake. Sure, you can duplicate all this mirroring functionality with the Apple Digital AV Adapter as well, but it's incredibly clunky hanging off the side of your device, and at $40, you might as well just spend another $60 and get all the added functionality of the Apple TV.

  • x999x

    Although this lag is present, it's still rather tiny, and not enough to affect the gameplay engine of the games in question. Having spent quite a bit of time with both titles over Airplay, its quite easy to get lost in the gameplay and actually forget about the lag once you're dialed in. On the contrary, you can also play HDMI/Video Out enabled games like The Incident, which looks great over Airplay mirroring, however the perceptible lag in this case actually detracts from the gameplay engine. Games that require jumping, shooting, or just knee-jerk reaction timing will suffer the most over Airplay until the lag gets sorted.

    • The Edis Bros.

      Very true - how lag affects the gameplay with airplay mirroring really depends a lot on the game design. Here's a video we made of our game Diversion HD on iPad 2 using WiFi so you can see for yourself that lag isn't a problem:

  • Aaron Sullivan

    How about board games? Secret cards in hand (iPhone, iPad), public part on screen. Battlestar Galactica The Board Game, please. 🙂

  • Jake Garment

    I bought an Apple TV the other day, forgetting that my router is a fairly cheap wireless g one from Sky...needless to say, the lag is unbearable.
    Looks like i'm gonna be needin' me some wireless n...

    • x999x

      I've got an old "g" capable Linksys, I believe "n" offers the best experience, however last night's appletv update seems to have cleared most, if not all, of the frame dropping I would experience during high traffic times on my router.

  • Anonymous

    Apple tv with jailbreak and xbmc is a very good element in a home cinema. Airplay to listen to your music, xbmc to watch movies.

  • Anonymous

    This really isn't the future. It feels more like the past to me. I mean, Nintendo did something very similar almost 10 years ago. Remeber FF: Crystal Chronicles or LoZ: Four Swords Adventures? Basically the same concept. Nintendo is even doing something similar with the Wii U. Still, it is a really under-used idea, so I guess it COULD be the future (due to how little it is used, but then that'd mean Nintendo was ahead of its time).

    • Jordan T

      I'm going to have to agree with you sir. Plus the fact that they require you use apple TV sort of sucks. Android phones right out of the box support any TV that has WiFi. 

  • Michael Matzat

    I wonder why apples "hobby" Apple TV is required. I´ed love to use my iMac screen aswell.
    In germany there realy is no point to owning an Apple TV. All the stuff they tried with 99 cent TV shows n stuff dossent realy matter when we get it in germany only, 6 month to years (if ever) later for three times the price... and even wen they try something like providing shows from the us it still takes half a day or up to a week longer than illegal sources you can just throw on your TV via HDMI and chinch out.

    Paying 120€ just to play a handfull of iPad 2 games on my TV? No thank you, maybe in a few years, but by than i bet there will be a new Apple TV aswell.

    • x999x

      Atv, for me, is an easy way to get my content from my iDevices to my TV. The ease of use, and utility have continued to increase with each update to airplay's capabilities.

      • Michael Matzat

        Question is what you got on your iDevice. I got an iPad 2 and thats no my device to store movies or music on. My music gets to my stero via cable aswellso realy the only use would be streaming some pictures every once in a million years... well, if i had an iPhone wich i don´t.
        Besides, easy... you still need an HDMI cable for ATV, if you don´t own an iMac thats even it. (since only with mac you need an extra audio cable for some reason) can use a long hdmi cable without loosing qualety (digital signal), use your apple remote that came with your computer, download apple remote on your iDevice, download a "mouse" for your idevice to take full controll of your computer, download stuff like VLC remote... it´s simple as hell plug and play and costs 100€ less than a ATV.

      • x999x

        mine is an ipad2 as well, its only 32gig so I don't store much media on it at a time, more like rotating what I've watched and whats new. Watching that content is a breeze with airplay, and conversely the ipad acts as a remote which allows me to scrub through video a lot more easily than with an appleremote. I only have macbooks that I use for work, so my ipad is pretty much my media center. When i had my imac, I used it very much like you are, in fact, it replaced my TV in the bedroom, hah.

        Now with airplay mirroring, the utility of my atv has basically doubled. Any app that supports native video out either via composite or hdmi, also works with airplay at it's native resolution. Apps that don't have native video out still work nicely via mirroring, like the NBC app. Enable mirroring, browse to your video, set it to full screen, and you can relax watching it on your tv instead. Its really convenient for me in that sense.

        An Apple branded HDMI cable is only $19.99. I don't know why people think they need to buy $60 cables, I can see why it detracts people from buying it. Most people don't even know about Apple's cable, they're usually all gone or not in the right section.

    • Tobias Steinke

      For me the best part is the the output of any web video on the big screen. Normally I sit on the couch and surf on the Internet with my iPad. If there is a web page with an embedded video I can just beam it on the big TV in front of me. That's great and well worth the price for Apple TV.

  • Sebastian

    So you basically said that Airplay is unusable for real time games but kudos for spinning it into "you hardly notice it". Ridiculous.

    Anyone who has ever played a shooter or a racing game or a jump'n'run will regard this as a pile of garbage.
    Airplay is perfect for watching videos or putting up your device's screen on a larger one. It's awesome for boardgames and things that don't require instant user-interaction.

    To sugar-coat it like this is a joke. Either you notice it or you don't. And when you notice it, it means it's unusable for real time things. Nobody testing a Guitar Hero type game would let the maker of that game get away with noticeable lag. I guess you have to come to toucharcade to find someone who manages to talk away this significant problem.

    The RIGHT way to spin this would have been to focus on games you CAN play without a hitch instead of downplaying this problem. You fail at PR.

    • Eli Hodapp


    • Andrei T

      Huh? For you to dig that deep and write long multi paragraph rant about it means your life is a huge FAIL! Now log off and get a girlfriend or at least a puppy loser.

      • - Sebastian P

        For you to reply on a 4 month old comment I guess your puppy had to be sick and your girlfriend out of air...

  • ChrisD

    Touch Bmx works's going to be a great feature if devs embrace it

  • Rodrigo C

    whorth mentioning that using the cable is "clunky" but lag-less

  • Joao Ferrand

    StringZ HD ... is my new favorite...

  • Joe Kralicky

    I would like to see Modern Combat 3 on airplay. That would be awesome!

    • Matt Hutchison

      It already is AirPlay enabled ay I tried it out the other day through my iPad 2 and man is it amazing it lags a bit but like real racing 2 you dnt really notice it terribly much on the campaign but does lag slightly more when playing multi player which is a bummer but yeah they've even integrated it so the picture is only on the tv and all the icons and controls are striped of this and placed just on ure iPad and iPhone highly recommend it ay it's amazing!!