Why You Shouldn't Buy Apple's Digital AV Adapter

Another Apple feature does a better job

Apple's Digital AV Adapter is one of the easiest ways to connect your iPhone or iPad to your HDTV. The adapter plugs into the Lightning connector, which is the port normally used to charge the tablet, and an HDMI cable can be plugged into the other side, allowing you to hook it up to your TV. The Digital AV Adapter also has a second Lightning adapter port, so you can continue charging your iPad while it's connected to your TV.

Apple's digital AV adapter

The adapter goes hand in hand with the iPad's display mirroring feature. Although many streaming apps such as Netflix and Hulu Plus support 1080p video output through the Digital AV Adapter, the iPad's display mirroring allows anything on the display to be mirrored on the television. This means you can use it with apps that don't support video output. But, is the Digital AV Adapter the best option?

Why Shouldn't You Buy the Digital AV Adapter?

Illustration explaining why you shouldn't buy Apple's digital AV adapter

There are two ways to sling your iPad's picture to your HDTV's screen. The first is Apple's Digital AV Adapter, and it does a good job of it. The second is AirPlay, and it does a better job.

AirPlay uses your WiFi network to send video to your television. This makes it a great wireless solution. You don't even need to be in the same room as your television. So long as you have a connection to your WiFi network, you can use AirPlay. This means no worrying about cables. It also means no getting off your couch if you want to switch shows or play the next episode of what you are watching.

Apple AirPlay
AirPlay is one of the coolest features of the iPad, but it can be frustrating when things go wrong.

Because there are no wires, you can still easily control the iPad. This is great if you are playing a game and want to see it on your big-screen TV.

But How Much Does AirPlay Cost?

The Digital AV Adapter is pretty affordable and is available from Apple's website or other retailers. To use AirPlay to connect your iPad to your TV, you also need Apple TV and HDMI cables, so that's adds to the cost, but the extra expense doesn't just buy you a wireless connection: It buys you Apple TV.

Apple TV comes with tons of apps, and some are the same ones you might want to stream from your iPad, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Crackle. So, in many cases, you won't even need to hook your iPad into your television, which frees it for other uses. Apple TV also gives you access to buying or renting movies and television through iTunes.

Apple TV with TvOS Onscreen Interface - 2015 Release
Apple TV with TvOS Onscreen Interface - 2015 Release. Image provided by Apple, Inc

Apple TV also works with music and photos. There are actually a few different ways you can get it to stream your music. You can use AirPlay to stream it from your iPad or iPhone, or if you subscribe to iTunes Match, your music collection should stream from the internet. As an alternative to iTunes Match, you can also set up and use Home Sharing to stream your music collection from your PC.

Your shared iCloud Photo Library will also be available on Apple TV. So it can work as a really cool screen saver.

And if you really like the idea of Apple TV, you can skip the cheaper version and buy the newest generation Apple TV. It's definitely more expensive, but it also has the same basic processing power as an iPad Air and access to a full-featured App Store.

When the Digital AV Adapter Is the Best Solution

In most cases, you get more bang for your buck going for the Apple TV solution over the Digital AV Adapter solution. But there's one key area where the Digital AV Adapter is definitely the superior solution: portability. Not only is it much smaller than Apple TV, it's also a lot easier to hook up to a television.

Both devices must be on the same WiFi network. At home, this isn't an issue, but if you need a solution for work, such as hooking your iPad up to display a presentation, it can be a burden.

If you need a very mobile solution, the Digital AV Adapter is still the way to go. It's also the most foolproof solution. It doesn't take any extra software detection to get working, so it will work 100% of the time.

What If My TV Doesn't Have an HDMI Port?

There are a few options for older TVs. First, you can buy a composite AV cable from Apple, but this cable uses the old 30-pin connector for the iPad. If you have a newer iPad with a Lightning port, you will need the 30-pin to the Lightning adapter as well.

Apple's Composite AV Cables
Apple's Composite AV Cables. Apple

That's obviously not the most eloquent solution. A better route is to go with a breakout box or cable adapter that converts the HDMI signal into component (the blue, red and green cables for video) or composite (the single yellow cable for video). You can find some options by searching Amazon for "HDMI composite" or "HDMI component." The upside to going with an adapter is that it can be used for more than just hooking the iPad to your TV. You could use it for anything that has HDMI out, such as a game console.

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