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iPad Q&A - Updated November 19, 2014

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How do you connect an iPad to a television or projector to display photos or video? What are the video out differences between iPad models? What formats and resolutions does it support?

There are a number of easy ways to directly connect an iPad to a television or projector to display photos or video or give a presentation. It's simply a matter of finding the correct adapter and being aware of the capabilities of your particular iPad.

iPad to TV or Projector Adapter Options

As noted on page 131 of the original iPad User's Guide, the original iPad models can be connected to any appropriately equipped television or projector to display photo slideshows or video by using "the Apple Composite AV Cable, the Apple Component AV Cable, or the iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter."

The iPad 2 and iPad 3rd Gen models support the earlier adapters as well as the VGA-equipped "30-pin to VGA Adapter" and HDMI-equipped "Apple Digital AV Adapter" for connecting the devices to any television or projector with a VGA or HDMI port, respectively. The original iPad models support the 30-pin to VGA Adapter and Apple Digital AV Adapter, too.

On the other hand, subsequently released iPad models -- the iPad 4th Gen, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad mini, iPad mini 2, and iPad mini 3 -- all have a Lightning port instead of the earlier 30-pin Dock Connector and are not compatible with any of the earlier adapters. Instead, they require the "Lightning to VGA Adapter" or the "Lightning to Digital AV Adapter" to connect to a VGA or HDMI-equipped television or projector, respectively. Televisions and projectors with connectivity older than VGA or HDMI are not supported.

If you are not sure which iPad you have, see EveryiPad.com's iPad Identification section.

iPad Video Out Resolution Support

Different iPad models support different maximum resolutions on an external display, television, or projector depending both on the capabilities of the device itself as well as the adapter used.

Consequently, the video out resolution support is best visualized as a chart:

 

Adapter Used

Max Video Out

Original iPad

Composite

480i & 576i

 

Component

480p & 576p

 

VGA & Digital AV (HDMI)

720p

iPad 2

Composite

480i & 576i

 

Component

480p & 576p

 

VGA & Digital AV (HDMI)

1080p

iPad 3rd Gen

Composite

480i & 576i

 

Component

480p & 576p

 

VGA & Digital AV (HDMI)

1080p

iPad 4th Gen

Lightning to VGA/Digital AV (HDMI)

1080p*

iPad Air

Lightning to VGA/Digital AV (HDMI)

1080p

iPad Air 2

Lightning to VGA/Digital AV (HDMI)

1080p†

iPad mini

Lightning to VGA/Digital AV (HDMI)

1080p*

iPad mini 2

Lightning to VGA/Digital AV (HDMI)

1080p

iPad mini 3

Lightning to VGA/Digital AV (HDMI)

1080p

* Originally, Apple reported that the iPad 4th Gen and iPad mini models had video mirroring and video out support "up to 720p through Lightning Digital AV Adapter and Lightning to VGA Adapter" and "video playback [is] up to 1080p." However, the company quietly changed this information later to "video mirroring and video out support up to 1080p through [the same adapters]."

† As first reported by Cult of Mac, the iPad Air 2 unofficially is capable of 4K video playback and might be able to support 4K video out via AirPlay to an Apple TV at some time in the future.

Again, if you do not know which iPad you have, see EveryiPad.com's iPad Identification section.

iPad Video Output Differences

All iPad models are capable of mirroring the internal display via VGA or HDMI although the capability of the original iPad is more limited compared to its successors.

The User Guide for the original iPad models states:

When the cable is connected to a TV or projector, an application that supports playing video to an external display will automatically use it when playing video. Of the built-in applications, Videos, Photos, and YouTube support external video display.

All subsequent iPad models, by contrast, support video mirroring of all applications and the operating system (just like on a Mac), which makes it much versatile for presentations.

This video, from the always excellent Insanely Great Mac, demonstrates the differences between video out on the original iPad and the iPad 2 (all subsequently released iPads behave just like the iPad 2) in real-world use:


iPad Photo & Video Formats

Every iPad model supports all photo formats that can be synchronized from iTunes -- JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, PSD (Mac only), and PNG. The iPad models also support the following video standards:

  • H.264 video up to 720p [1080p for the iPad 3rd Gen and 4th Gen], 30 frames per second, Main Profile level 3.1 [High Profile 4.1 for the iPad 3rd Gen and 4th Gen] with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats.
  • MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats.
  • Motion JPEG (M-JPEG) up to 35 Mbps, 1280 by 720 pixels, 30 frames per second, audio in ulaw, PCM stereo audio in .avi file format.

It is hoped that this answer makes it easy for you to understand the options to connect your iPad directly to a television or projector and the capabilities of each.


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