Everybody likes plenty of screens when working or browsing the Internet. It seems to be a geek’s rite of passage to brag about how many monitor screens they have (“you only have two?!”).
But now those of you who own an iPad can use a simple app to expand your collection of screens, turning your $500 tablet into a small, portable monitor. It’s called Duet.
How Does It Work?
Duet is a cross-platform app that enables you to add another screen to your laptop or desktop, simply by connecting an iPad to either a Windows or a Mac OS X computer. It was made by former Apple engineers, and it is so damn good that it blows away most other similar solutions, particularly those that relied on a network connection.
It’s not only multiple screen addicts who will find this useful. Screen real-estate is always at a premium, with open browsers and apps all competing for space. Wouldn’t it be nice to just stretch out a bit and enjoy some space?
The desktop software is free for the Mac and the PC but you have to pay $15.99 for the iOS companion app. Once you’ve bought that, head to Duet’s website and install the app on your Mac or PC, and on your iOS device. Then you’re ready to rock and roll.
All you need to connect your iPad as a second screen is the Lightning cable that came with your device — the same one you use to charge your iPad and iPhone. You can be forgiven for getting the cable mixed up with a Thunderbolt cable (I almost bought one) but no extra purchases are required. Use the cable to connect either your iPhone or iPad to either the PC or Mac OS X computer and start Duet on both. You will then see your main desktop mirrored on your iOS device.
You can even use your iPad’s touchscreen to move your mouse around, select text and right-click.
On Mac OS X:
On a Windows PC:
There’s just a couple of things you need to tweak. The first is to decide what resolution, frame rate and image quality you want to use. I suggest just leaving it at the defaults, but you’ll be forgiven for bumping it up to Retina quality. Duet suggests 60 frames per second (FPS) for the optimal experience, but you could drop it to 30 frames per second when using battery power.
Note: If you have an older Mac, or you’re using a machine with relatively low specifications, you might find that dropping the quality, resolution and frame rate takes the stress off your system and results in better performance.
You will also need to go into your Mac/Windows settings and decide where you want your new monitor to be – left, right, above or below your main screen. This will determine which direction you move the mouse in order to see the cursor arrow on the iOS screen.
On Windows, head to Control Panel > Display > Screen Resolution and drag the small display to wherever you want it:
On a Mac, you can head to System Preferences > Displays to do the same, and choose whether to mirror your screen or use it as an additional independent space:
After using Duet it in my daily workflow for some time now, I have to say that I am seriously impressed. It has already become an essential part of my daily productivity, and it’s nice to be able to put Netflix on the iPad and watch it while I focus on my work on the main screen.
There is absolutely no lag whatsoever. The movements are extremely smooth, which puts this app firmly in the “wow!” category.
What Is It Good For?
There are many practical uses you could assign to Duet. I previously mentioned watching Netflix, and you could expand that to BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO Go, and any other streaming service. But with a dual display, you could also use Duet on your iOS device for :
- a separate screen for Twitter, Facebook, or your other favorite social media site.
- a separate screen to keep an eye on your email inbox.
- keeping a watch on your Google Analytics and web trends.
- keeping a news website or sports page open on auto-refresh.
- running a photo slideshow (or spanning a huge wallpaper across all monitors)
- referencing information from a browser window while using MS Word (or an equivalent program)
- chatting on Skype video chat, while using the main computer to reference essential information, or perform work of some kind.
CPU usage is pretty low, although obviously this will all vary on what purpose you are using Duet for. Watching a streaming show for example will consume a much larger amount of CPU than say a static website.
Removing Duet Display
There seems to be no problem with removing Duet from your devices, if you ever decide to. However, this page claims that the Duet preference files for OS X are not all in the same place. You will need to use Finder to find everything related to Duet and delete them.
So What Are The Alternatives To Duet, The Wannabe Pretenders?
It would be a bit one-sided if we only presented Duet as a possibility to expand your screen real-estate. There are other options, which we will briefly cover below:
This gives you the opportunity to turn your laptop into an extension of your main computer. You can use the mouse of your main computer to drag windows and apps over to the laptop screen. However, compared to Duet, it is very pricey.
Air Display (around $15)
Air Display is probably the one that comes closest to nipping at Duet’s heels. It does the same as Duet – provides the ability to turn your other devices into other screens for your primary monitor. And like Duet, Air Display is free for the primary monitor, but you must pay for the device which is going to connect as the second screen.
The only thing which holds it back is the price. It is generally a little more expensive than Duet and price varies depending on what device you are using.
This is another interesting alternative. The one big selling point of iDisplay is that it can allow several iOS devices to be connected to the main computer. You can also apparently move around with the second monitor (be it an iPad or whatever) and it requires no cables.
You will need to stay within the Wi-Fi to keep the connection, and as we’ve seen in the past the wireless solutions don’t provide a truly lag-free experience. The iPad version is $9.99 while the Android version is only $3.99. Bit of a weird price disparity there.
This is one for Mac OS X and iOS only (sorry Windows users). With DisplayPad, you can use touch functions to move things around. Tap your iPad once to click. A two finger tap to right click. And a two finger drag to scroll, just like on a laptop trackpad.
The big selling point of DisplayPad is the price – $3! However, you get what you pay for in life, so cheap isn’t necessarily better. Use the trial version periods to thoroughly test each one before opening your wallet and knocking the dust off.
In case you’re still wondering: Duet is great and well-worth the money. If you need an extra screen, you can’t go wrong. Granted, the smaller screen space on an iPad and an iPhone will feel extremely limiting to a lot of people. But if you only need it to watch your Twitter feed, or catch up on your Netflix queue, then it will be fine.
So how many screens do you have? Does quantity matter, or is it what you do with them that counts?