How to Use AirPlay Without an Apple TV

A tv sitting on a tv stand in the dark. The netflix logo is displayed on the screen and the tv is backlit with a red light.

When iPads and MacBooks started to work their way into classrooms, so did the Apple TV. Why? It was an easy way for teachers to project their device wirelessly to a projector using AirPlay. The Apple TV could sit, unnoticed, on top of an LCD projector and remain idle until it was needed. The only problem, was the cost. At $149 for an Apple TV HD, it was not an insignificant outlay, particularly if you were buying 50 or more for all the classrooms in your school. However, an Apple TV isn’t the only way to use AirPlay in your classroom. You can use a Roku instead.

Using AirPlay With Roku Streaming Devices

If you have the right model, and your Apple device is running the right software, a Roku streaming device can be used in place of an Apple TV. That’s because many of these devices now support Apple’s AirPlay 2 technology. You can plug a Roku into an LCD projector, or a TV, and use it to mirror the screen from an iPhone, iPad or Mac, just like you would with an Apple TV. It’s quick and easy. In fact, the only thing you need to be concerned about is is how to get your Apple devices to talk to your Roku devices. Here’s how that works.

man browsing an ipad while watching tv in the background

Does My Roku Work With AirPlay?

Let’s deal with your Apple devices first. Roku uses AirPlay 2 in order to mirror your screen, so in order for that to work, you need an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch capable of running iOS 12.3 or later. If you are using a Mac, it needs to have macOS Mojave 10.14.5 or later.

Most new Roku devices support AirPlay, but not all do, so here is a list of the ones that Roku says are set up and good to go. They are listed by price, (cheapest first).

The most economical option is the Roku Premiere. It usually sells for between $25-35. It’s a pretty basic streaming device and it only works with 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi, but if you are looking for a cheap way to add AirPlay compatibility, this will get the job done. If you want a few more bells and whistles, try the Streaming Stick Plus. It adds a voice-controlled remote and 5Ghz Wi-Fi for a dual band wireless setup. The Streaming Stick Plus sells for around $50, which is a lot less than the $149 you would typically spend on an Apple TV.

How to Connect an Apple Device to a Roku with AirPlay

Connecting your iPhone, iPad or Mac to your Roku works in almost exactly the same way that it does with an Apple TV. Here’s what you need to know.

  1. Make sure that your Roku and your Apple device are on the same Wi-Fi network
  2. Open Control Center on your Apple device
  3. Tap Screen Mirroring, and choose your Roku from the list of devices

If you want more options, you can dive into the Settings menu on your Roku. As with the Apple TV, you will find a number of connection options like a one-time code or a password. You can see these in the video below.

To stop mirroring your Apple device to your Roku, simply open Control Center, tap Screen Mirroring, and then tap the Stop Mirroring button to remove your device from the screen.

Use AirPlay to Connect an Apple Device with Your TV

Apple’s AirPlay is also built-in to a number of HDTVs. Samsung, LG, Vizio and Sony all sell TVs that have AirPlay functionality included. You can also buy Roku TVs that work the same way. TVs are not as expensive as they used to be so many schools and businesses have thought about switching from projectors to HDTVs. Why? A TV is generally brighter, turns on quicker, and you don’t have the cost of replacing lamps like you do with a projector. It’s not an option for everyone, but it could be something to consider for the future if you haven’t already done so.

Use Mirroring Software to Connect an Apple Device to a Projector

The other solution that has been around for a long time is mirroring software like AirServer or Reflector. Once you install an app like this on your Mac or PC, it essentially turns it into an AirPlay receiver. That means when you open the Control Center on an iOS device, you see your Mac or PC listed among the selection of devices that you can mirror your device to. If your Mac or PC is connected to a projector, you can quickly switch from showing your laptop to showing an iOS device.

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