Mountain Lion has been available for about a week and a half - just enough time for us early adopters to begin working on the problems we encounter with the nascent operating system. One potentially game-changing feature was the inclusion of AirPlay functionality such that a user could stream their desktop to an Apple TV. Such a feature would allow the display of sites like Hulu on a television without the added subscription cost. Unfortunately, the AirPlay requirements are pretty stringent, and my 2009 MacBook Pro did not make the compatibility list. Time to break down and upgrade? Not yet!
AirParrot ($9.99) has been around for a while, and it basically allows gives your Mac AirPlay functionality (even if you are running a pre-Mountain Lion OS). The app is pretty basic, and does not automatically adjust your resolution for the AppleTV; rather, AirParrot scales your display as best it can. The downside to this is that if your Mac’s resolution is not set to a 16:9 ratio, there is going to be unused space on your TV. Even if you can change the resolution on your Mac, you probably will not have the option to configure the resolution to a 16:9 ratio. This is where SwitchResX comes in.
As an upfront confession, there might be better, cheaper alternatives than SwitchResX. All I can tell you is that it does indeed work. With SwitchResX ($15.00), you can add different screen resolution options for your Mac, in this situation, I created a 1280 x 720 resolution that would fit my Apple TV specifications. Again, there might be quicker ways of accomplishing this, but here are the steps I took to get everything working.
1. Download and install AirParrot and SwitchResX.
2. Open SwitchResX from System Preferences.
3. Click on your active monitor in the left-hand menu (“Color LCD” in my case).
4. Select “Custom Resolutions” in the dialogue bar.
5. Click the “+” button in the lower-left corner of the screen.
6. Select “Scaled Resolution” and then enter your desired resolution (1280 x 720 for 720P).
7. Click “OK” and then “Apply now.”
8. Close out of SwitchResX and go your Displays preference pane in System Preferences. Your new screen resolution should now be visible. Select your new resolution and close out of System Preferences.
9. Open AirParrot. Select your device and enable audio. Your screen should now be mirrored on your Apple TV-equipped television. Most likely, there will be a black box around your mirrored screen on your television.
10. Next, within the AirParrot drop-down menu, select “Preferences.” Adjust the “Underscan” slider until the black box disappears.
There you have it - a decent implementation of AirPlay for unsupported computers. Note that while the quality is good, it is not perfect, and I have definitely notice dropped frames such that video quality is less than perfect. However, it is better than nothing and cheaper than a new Mac!
As always, I receive no compensation for mentioning any products or services in this blog.