There are plenty of cheap smart TVs to buy, but if your TV is older or simply doesn’t offer access to the app you want to use – Neflix, Amazon or another service – then you can use your iPad to get the video and beam it to your TV.
How to get film on an iPad to play on your TV: HDMI cable
Unlike some Android tablets, the iPad doesn’t have an HDMI output as everything goes through Apple’s proprietary connector – Lightning or the older 30-pin port.
The easiest way to add an HDMI port is to buy Apple’s Digital AV Adapter which gives you a full-size HDMI output and a pass-through port for charging your iPad at the same time.
The adapter is available 30-pin and Lightning versions. The Lightning one costs £40 from Apple , and the 30-pin version is still expensive at £35 . You’ll also need a standard HDMI cable to connect between the adapter and your TV.
Step 1. Connect the adapter to your iPad’s Lightning or dock connector.
Step 2. Connect an HDMI cable between the TV and the Digital AV adapter. (Note that you can also connect the HDMI cable to a suitably-equipped AV receiver or soundbar rather than directly to your TV. You can then benefit from the better sound quality from the speakers attached to the receiver.)
Step 3. Using your TV’s remote control, select the correct HDMI input (sometimes they are numbered and the side input is usually identified as such). If you’ve connected an AV receiver or soundbar, be sure to select the correct input. Many have a front-mounted HDMI input labelled AUX.
Step 4. Turn on your iPad, unlock it and launch app you want to use. Most of Apple’s apps support HDMI output, but some catch-up TV and video streaming services don’t.
Step 5. If necessary, you might need to adjust your TV’s settings so the image displays correctly. Commonly the automatic zoom setting tries to avoid any black borders and distorts the image or zooms in and crops the top and bottom edges.
How to get film on an iPad to play on your TV: AirPlay
Most TVs made in the last 10 years have an HDMI input, but if yours doesn’t, there’s a second way to hook up your iPad, which is via Apple’s TV.
Until the recent launch of the 4th-gen Apple TV, you were stuck with the apps available on it. And since these didn’t include any UK catch-up TV or Amazon Instant Video, you could get around this by streaming video from those apps on your iPad (or iPhone).
Most of those apps still aren’t available for the new Apple TV anyway, so using AirPlay is still a good workaround. AirPlay uses your home Wi-Fi network to stream video and audio directly from supported apps on your iPad.
Step 1. Turn on your TV and Apple TV and go to Settings. Scroll down to AirPlay and turn it on if it isn’t already. (This assumes that you have already set up your Apple TV on your home network and have a wireless router to which your iPad is also connected.)
Step 2. Turn on your iPad and launch Videos, Photos or Safari. You should see an AirPlay icon; if you’re trying to watch a video, start it playing first. Tap the icon and choose your Apple TV from the list of devices. Here, we’re playing Top Gear from the BBC iPlayer app – note that the iPad’s screen shows the video poster image and doesn’t mirror the video.
Step 3. If your app doesn’t support external displays, you might be able to use AirPlay Mirroring. To activate this, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to bring up Control Cente. Tap the AirPlay icon (it will only appear if there’s an AirPlay device in range).
You will see the AirPlay Mirroring slider – simply turn it on. If you have any problems, make sure your iPad or iPhone is using the latest iOS software (certainly iOS 7 or later).
Some apps don’t support video output, but will still send audio from the app to your Apple TV, so you’ll hear sound from your TV or whichever speakers are connected to your Apple TV.
How to get film on an iPad to play on your TV: Limitations
It’s important to bear in mind that there are limitations with both the wired and wireless methods. For example, the Sky Go app will not allow you to use the HDMI output or AirPlay to watch shows on the big screen. Other apps have similar restrictions, so check if the apps you want to use allow this before investing in a Digital AV adapter or Apple TV.
Obviously, the Apple TV method is more expensive unless you already own one, but the first-gen model doesn’t support AirPlay, so you can only mirror your iPad’s screen if you buy one of the newer models.
Even if an app doesn’t support AirPlay directly, you can use Mirroring mode (accessible from the AirPlay icon on the iPad’s Control Centre) which will replicate whatever is on your iPad’s screen on the TV.
And when using an HDMI cable, the TV can act as a sort of extended desktop so you see different images on your iPad and TV. Some games put this to good use. Real Racing, for example, shows the circuit and other information on the iPad’s screen while displaying the racing view on your TV.
You’ll need an iPad 2 or iPhone 4S – or a newer model - to use all the features the Digital AV adapter supports. Connect an iPhone 4, for example, and you won’t be able to use AirPlay Mirroring.