If you want to stream content from your macOS or iOS device to a television, second monitor, or speaker, you need an AirPlay receiver. Apple’s own solution is the Apple TV box—but they’re expensive. You don’t need to spend that much.
Here are the best Apple AirPlay receivers as alternatives to an Apple TV box.
The Ksera 4K HDMI Wireless Display Dongle is a multi-purpose product. Not only is the device an AirPlay receiver for video, but it also works with the Miracast and DNLA protocols. Both Windows and Android devices support Miracast, so if you buy the Ksera device, you’ll have a one-size-fits-all solution.
The Ksera dongle has a dual-core chip. This extra power boost means you shouldn’t experience freezes or dropped connections. Keep in mind that the dongle needs a power supply to function. To help, there is a USB power cable in the box.
The setup process is straightforward. Once you’ve worked through the initial steps using the Ksera app, the dongle becomes plug-and-play. You can move it between different devices in your home without needing to repeat the steps.
2. ACEMAX M5
Whereas the Ksera 4K HDMI Wireless Display Dongle is an AirPlay receiver for videos, the ACEMAX M5 is an AirPlay receiver for listening to music and other audio. It connects directly to your speakers using a 3.5mm AUX cable.
In addition to AirPlay, the dongle works with several other streaming formats and devices, including DLNA, UPnP, NAS drives, and local streaming. You can group up to eight dongles together for multi-room playback and stream different audio on each dongle through the same app. The ACEMAX M5 also boasts other useful features such as alarms and sleep timers.
If you want to use the ACEMAX M5 for non-AirPlay playback, you will need to use the accompanying app. The app works with most mainstream music providers—including TuneIn, Spotify, Pandora, and iHeartRadio—and even offers a library of free music for you to dig into.
The VCAST Wireless Display Dongle is an alternative to the Ksera model. It lets you cast video from your macOS and iOS devices to a TV using the AirPlay protocol. The dongle has 1080p output but does not have 4K support.
Interestingly, the VCAST device does not require you to connect it to your local Wi-Fi network. It creates its own network thanks to a separate Wi-Fi receiver. The receiver connects to the dongle via a mini USB plug. As such, if you want a cheap AirPlay receiver that’s easy to use when you’re on the road (for example in hotels and other areas with public Wi-Fi), it’s a great option to consider.
4. SONOS One SL
SONOS makes some of the best wireless speakers on the market. However, many people are not aware that the SONOS Beam, Amp, One, Playbase, Play:5, SYMFONISK, Move, One SL, and Port can all act as AirPlay receivers for Mac computers and iOS devices.
Of course, you probably wouldn’t want to buy an entire SONOS system just to listen to AirPlay audio. But if you already own some SONOS equipment that’s not AirPlay-enabled (such as the entry-level Play:1 speakers), you could consider picking up a SONOS One SL to add the functionality to your existing setup. This will set you back less than if you opted for the 64GB version of Apple TV.
If you want a 4K AirPlay receiver for your Mac or iOS device, check out the Toneseas Wireless HDMI Display Adapter. Like some of the other models we’ve looked at, the device also doubles as a Miracast and DLNA receiver.
Toneseas’ dongle uses the same approach as the VCAST model—it has a separate Wi-Fi receiver that means you do not need to connect the dongle to an existing Wi-Fi network in order to use it. It requires a power supply to work, but a USB cable is provided in the box.
The Google Chromecast does not natively support AirPlay. However, there are a few apps that can enable the functionality.
Chromecasts are available in a couple of different models. For the best experience, we recommend the Chromecast Ultra. It is the only version that supports 4K video.
AirParrot 2 lets you cast both your macOS desktop and single apps to a Chromecast dongle.
The software costs $5 for the Chrome browser extension, $13 for a single desktop license, or $60 if you want to use the app on up to five different machines. A seven-day free trial is available on all versions.
Download: AirParrot 2 ($13, free trial available)
5KPlayer allows you to send your Mac’s screen to a Chromecast dongle. However, the app can also turn your Windows and Android devices into AirPlay receivers. It can even act as an AirPlay receiver for Mac.
The software also works with DNLA streams. It supports MP4, MOV, M4V, MP3, and AAC files. The app is free to download.
Download: 5KPlayer (Free)
One common use case for a Raspberry Pi is to build a media center. You can the ever-popular Kodi on Raspberry Pi, enable the AirPlay receiver setting, and call it a day.
There’s one downside, though. If you’re using iOS 9 or later, you can only stream audio using AirPlay. This is because there’s no support for video or screen mirroring.
Once your Kodi setup is up and running on your Raspberry Pi (or any computer), go to Settings > Service Settings > General > Zeroconf and enable the Announce Services to other Systems option. Finally, go to the AirPlay tab and select Enable AirPlay Support.
Which Is the Best AirPlay Receiver?
We’ve presented you with seven different AirPlay receivers. They all work as a solid alternative to an Apple TV box.
To summarize, the Ksera, VCAST, and Toneseas models are AirPlay receivers for video, while the ACEMAX and SONOS devices work for audio. A Chromecast can work with both, but the setup is not straightforward. DIY-lovers might consider using a Raspberry Pi for a fun weekend project.
Once you’ve chosen your new AirPlay receiver, you’ll want to get it up and running. To get started, you should check out our beginners guide to using AirPlay on Mac and iOS.