Why you’ll need a new Mac to use AirPlay Mirroring in Mountain Lion

by Jason on July 27, 2012

Airplay Mirroring in Mountain Lion

Apple’s new operating system OS X Mountain Lion is now on the scene, giving us Mac fans yet another reasons to profess our undying love for our favorite devices. Probably the most anticipated new feature is that Mountain Lion gives users the ability to take advantage of AirPlay Mirroring, which allows for wireless video and audio streaming from your computer right to your Apple TV. But not all Apple owners will be so lucky.

You’re going to need an iMac, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro or Mac Mini from 2011 or later to make it work, even with Mountain Lion installed. So what’s the deal? Some conspiracists believe it’s Apple forcing people to upgrade to newer machines. Others think that the Intel chips are to blame, as the DRM technology required for Mirroring to work wasn’t available in these computers until last year.

But according to the good folks at Cult of Mac, the truth is much simpler. The graphics in Mac computers prior to 2011 just aren’t up to the challenge. In order for AirPlay Mirroring to work, the computer must be able to compress video on the graphics chip without using the CPU. Since the hardware can’t handle it alone, the CPU would be forced to work overtime, and the performance would degrade to the point of uselessness.

And Macs aren’t alone in this obsolescence. On the mobile side, you’ve got to have an iPad 2 or later, or an iPhone 4S to use AirPlay Mirroring. With those devices, it still comes down to the encoding issue. AirPlay Mirroring is much more complicated than you would think. There’s encoding, scaling, and color conversion, translating the audio and video from your wee monitor to the HDTV hanging on the wall.

It’s not impossible for the dedicated programmer, however. AirParrot has an app that allows Mirroring even with old Macs. But the image is compromised, and we all know how Apple feels about settling for less than perfection. It will work more often than not, but you’re still pushing your older device further than is comfortable, resulting in high fan usage and more than a little bit of heat.

And the issues aren’t hardware-based alone. The network you’re working over is also an important consideration. You’re going to need a high-end internet network and rock star wireless router for smooth Mirroring, especially if you’re streaming a web-based video player. And you’ll have to let your device focus on that one task. If you’re trying to surf the internet or BitTorrent at the same time, you’re going to be one unhappy camper.

  • JiriKolarik

    I had AirPlay on my iMac 2010 in DP3 🙁 but in final version was removed 🙁

  • Scottbarnhart

    AirPlay works fine with iPhone 4.

  • CrazedLeper

    Wasn’t happy to not find out that I wouldn’t get this feature until after I paid for it.  This explanation seems satisfactory but it doesn’t get me Airplay. I’m not about to pay 1/2 the price of the upgrade to, separately, purchase the feature.

  • Tom_dillon1979

    I’m sure they can do it.  How do you explain being able to play movies on iTunes to your Apple TV?.. And of course Airparrot… Sounds like a bunch of horse doo doo to me…

  • I was about to DL the new OS for that feature alone. I am running an MBP
    2009 unibody aluminum case. If the OS is upgradable so should all the
    features. So now I am not interested in upgrading my OS. Kind of a
    bummer, since I have 2 MBP, 2 iphone, ipad and an Apple TV. Just
    completely unforgivable.

  • TechGuy5489

    So you’d rather not get ANYTHING as opposed to getting some things. Right… that makes tons of sense. If the problem is really an issue of hardware the way the article says but Apple had enabled it for older hardware anyway you’d probably be in the camp complaining about Apple releasing a “half-baked” feature that’s “unusable”. There’s no pleasing people like you.

    Apple did what was right. Disable it on hardware that won’t support it, make that information public, and let customers make their own decisions.

  • Just wait for a OS X hack to enable airplay on older devices. It’s probably an internal setting just like AirDrop. That also didn’t work on older macs or over wifi only.

  • Just wait for a OS X hack to enable airplay on older devices. It’s probably an internal setting just like AirDrop. That also didn’t work on older macs or over wifi only.

  • PerdTheWord

     no thats retarded. you are wrong. apple is making a conscious decision NOT to allow airplay on these devices. its not that these devices cant handle airplay, its that they cant handle the DRM method.

    if apple wanted to do whats right, either use a different method of DRM, or how about get rid of DRM completely? they dont wrap their itunes music in DRM anymore, and guess what? iTunes still sells more music then any other company in the world….

    you techguy5489 are an apple drone, just taking it up the ‘ the way apple gives it.

  • TechGuy5489

    No, I’m actually not an “apple drone” I’m a software developer that gets annoyed with the attitude of entitlement that’s present in so many consumers like yourself and the poster I replied to. 

    At what point did Apple, Google, Microsoft or literally any other company promise some feature would be supported on the device you bought years ago? Oh that’s right, never. So what gives you the right to expect it? To be pissed off when you don’t get it? Oh that’s right, nothing. The reason you don’t get the functionality doesn’t matter. Who cares if it’s DRM or hardware limitations? The fact is they have no obligation to deliver it to you.

    Grow up. You’re just being the spoiled little kid that didn’t get what he wanted for Christmas and wants to make a fuss about it. Stop buying stuff from companies that “wrong” you like that if you don’t like it.

  • PerdTheWord

    software dev or not, your still a drone. apple time and time again purposely phases out old but still good hardware. look at the ipad1, 3g, and 3gs. i cant tell you how many times someone asked me to fix their iphone because when they wanted to load their contacts or send a message they experienced extreme lag. or on the ipad1, safari consistently crashes. there is no legitimate reason these devices are having these problems… other then the fact that apple wants you to drop more money. this seems to be the case with airplay. a $2,500 3 year old imac cant mirror a display when a second gen ipad 2 can? utter nonsense.

    and it does matter if it is DRM or hardware limitations, it makes all the difference. if it was a hardware limitation then apple could of said, sorry, we tried. it doesnt work. but a DRM limitation is a big middle finger.

    quit drinking the cool-aid kid’

  • Achipl

    Airplay works in iTunes. You can stream video to atv but mirroring id disabled. I wish to see airplay at you tube

  • Gijs

    Stop crying and stop buying product from Apple if you hate them because they make decisions that you dislike! Go back to Microsoft with al there great products….

  • Brandon

    Mid 2010 MBP 2.4 C2D 8GB Ram NVIDIA 320M. Thanks to all the reviews I will be holding off on the upgrade from OSX Lion to Mountain Lion. I wanted the features of Airplay but I do not care for the other features. Maybe later on they will sell “Airplay”, “iMessages”, “Notes”,etc as an add on like what they did with FaceTime. So until then I guess I will be using my mini display port to HDMI adapter since sound works through the adapter. It just better not be a software issue. Like what Apple did with Airport Extreme and how I had to pay .99cents to unlock a feature on my older Macbook.

  • SP’s Take

    AirParrot quality is crap once you compare it to AirPlay.

  • Graham

    I’m just downloading the upgrade while I’m at work, I’m not sure I fully understand. I have been using Air Parrot for airplay mirroring on my 2008 MBP and its been working great, rock solid. Compression isnt as good as from the ipad but it allows me to watch iplayer or control plex using my phone its great. I’m upgrading because I imagined the compression in mountain lion will be a lot cleaner as its handled by apple but why is something that was working fine now “not possible?”

  • graham

      you want airparrot. All the airplay functionality for older gen macs. you dont even need to upgrade your os

  • Bakhokcorp


  • Bakhokcorp

    No, you’re an obnoxious twat!

  • Bakhokcorp

    What I really can’t stand about forums is the way everyone has the be the “Be all and end all” of the subject. Why can’t you grow up, you know who you are, and add some constructive advice for people seeking useful info. All I get from forums is what a bunch of prats people are. 

  • Matarneh

     Yesterday I switched on my ATV2 and all the sudden Hulu Plus icon is sitting there beside Netflex. my ATV2 is not jailbroken, I didn’t do any recent updates or any modification.

    is this official, are there new services coming to ATV??

  • I don’t buy this argument. I would buy it if your computer was doing a lot of other things while you were watching your video, but it’s probably not. You’re probably just watching video. If AirVideo can transcode using VLC over the network (while my computer is also doing several other things), there’s no reason Apple couldn’t make this work in software if it cared to do so. No, they want to sell new computers. Very frustrating.

  • WTF? Someone can’t express an issue with an Apple product without having insane fanboys rant at them and telling them to go to Microsoft? What the hell?

  • It makes no sense that Apple can’t get it to work in software. AirVideo transcodes video on the fly using VLC and streams it to iOS. There’s no reason they couldn’t do this other than they didn’t want to.

  • Chrischhahn

    they could at least allow to send the system sound via airplay…
    i would like to hear my youtube videos and so on on my stereo, like i do with itunes…

  • Chrischhahn

    Ha! Found out, that when you click on the speaker on the top right while holding “alt” you can choose the apple tv for all system sounds!
    Thats great! But why is it so hidden?
    At least i have the sound now 🙂

  • bananeman

    AirPlay audio and video streaming works fine on my iPad 1. I can’t see why it would not be available on my 2009 MacBook Pro running Mountain Lion..

  • Airplay really cool.

  • webweave

    All I wanted the AppleTV to do was remote desktop (“AirPlay Mirroring” in marketing) but is seems Apple has placed artificial restrictions on it for likely dubious reasons. I’ve ordered a $25 RaspberryPI (http://www.raspberrypi.org/faqs ) which will give me this functionality and without all the imposed artificial limitations.

    Apple is not the cool company you think it is, that was many years ago. If you want freedom move to Linux, you don’t have to agree to a 57 page contract to run Ubuntu. Read the contract before criticizing me, I read it and so should you.

  • Raa5007

    Found an alternative to AirPlay, that plays nice with the older Mac models. It’s called AirParrot and is only $9.99. They offer a 20 minute trial if you want to see how easy it is to use.

  • Christin&Stig Larsen

    My experience would seem to be substantiating the conspiracy theories nicely, and void the rational explanations that have variously been put forward;
    The iMac is “late 2009” and is powered by a measly Intel Core 2 Duo. When I first installed OS X 10.8.2 on it, I was immediately able to make connection with the AppleTV box, and stream video to the TV. !!! yes sir !!! The AirPlay menu showed up and there were no issues with performance, that I noticed. Lately the menu is nowhere to be found and I cannot for the life of me figure out what might have (been) changed.
    Installing AirParrot, the capability to stream video is back, again seemingly without performance problems. So AirParrot is just a kind of work-around. Clearly the decision to not want this to work is just Apple being patronising.
    Very annoyed

  • manolica1

    I have air parrot, but my mac get very hot and the quality in not excellent on I am watching movies…for pictures in good only…

  • I just installed iTunes 11 on my early 2008 iMacs. Guess what? It streams to Apple TV from within iTunes. But still there’s no option at the OS level. It’s got nothing to do with performance.

  • Guest

    Totally agreed! Never mention the “latency” (time-shift) between audio and video. Good for pictures only, crap for video, in my opinion.

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