What’s AirPlay, And How To Use It In Mac OS X Mountain Lion

Simon Slangen 27-08-2012

mac airplay mountain lionImagine you want to play your favorite album in Spotify. Naturally, you’ll be hooking your computer up to a better sound station. But what if you’re lying in bed, or sitting on the couch? Ideally, you’d just stream the music to your speakers.


You’re showing off your vacation pictures to family and friends. Everyone’s having a laugh — well, everyone able to look at your tiny laptop screen. Ideally, you’d just stream the pictures to your Apple TV, as you would with your iPad.

Streaming your content locally, between devices, is where AirPlay comes in. With Apple’s latest operating system release — Mountain Lion — it’s easier than ever.

What’s AirPlay?

AirPlay is a system designed by Apple to stream content between enabled devices. This means you can stream audio from your laptop or desktop computer to AirPlay-enabled sound systems and regular sound systems that are complemented with an AirPlay-enabled AirPort. Previously, you were already able to stream music from within iTunes using AirPlay. With the release of Mountain Lion, all system audio is fair game. This means you can now stream Spotify or YouTube audio to your AirPlay-enabled audio systems, without having to purchase third-party software.

mac airplay mountain lion

Mountain Lion also comes with a nifty feature called AirPlay Mirroring. If you have an Apple TV hooked up to the big screen, you can now stream video to it, or just mirror your entire Mac OS X desktop. It’s important to note, however, that your computer needs to be packing a little punch before you’re able to use AirPlay mirroring. More precisely, you’ll need a GPU chipset with on-board H.264 encoding, which boils down to MacBook Pro’s from early 2011, and iMac’s or MacBook Air’s from mid-2011.


Mirror Your Screen

If you’re connected to the same network as your Apple TV, the AirPlay icon should automatically show up in the menu bar at the top of your screen. Start mirroring your screen by selecting your Apple TV from the drop-down menu.

Alternatively, you can also configure AirPlay Mirroring via System Preferences -> Display Preferences.

mac airplay

When you’re mirroring your screen, you can choose between two desktop sizes in the AirPlay Mirroring drop-down menu. Either have your Apple TV mirror the screen resolution of your Mac, or let it choose its own.


Stream Your System Audio

To stream your Spotify or web browser audio, go to System Preferences -> Sound and select the Output tab. This panel lists all the available sound output devices. If you have an AirPlay-enabled sound system, it should automatically show up, listing AirPlay as one type.

Alternatively, you can click on the sound icon in your Mac OS X menu bar while holding the option (alt) key, and select the AirPlay device from the drop-drown menu.

mac airplay mountain lion

After selecting the correct device, your computer will immediately start re-routing the system audio. Note that because of the way AirPlay buffers the audio, you will experience approximately a two-second delay on your audio.


Have you tried using Apple’s AirPlay functionality yet? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below this article!

Related topics: Apple Airplay, Online Video, OS X Mountain Lion.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Christopher Webb-Orenstein
    September 15, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    It would be cool if they could set up an Air app for XBox

  2. Bjørn van Raaij
    September 11, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    We just launched an app called AirVLC ( that launches VLC with the right delay setting and selecting the right AirPlay device. Works great with Youtube and local video files.

  3. Ahmed Khalil
    September 7, 2012 at 6:39 am

    i think Airplay technology will be a part of the future of sky computing

  4. Ruben Marrero
    September 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I keep using only my appleTV until I get a new mac... no anytime soon..

  5. venkatp16
    August 28, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    i didn't understand, Does this need special speakers that are air-play compatiable?

    can someone clear this....

    • muotechguy
      August 28, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      It requires an Airplay compatible *receiver* , yes. Typically you would use an airport express for this purpose, then any old speakers can be plugged into that.

      • venkatp16
        August 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm

        Oh.. thnx. i think this is not available in india.. :)

  6. Michael
    August 28, 2012 at 12:13 am

    The 2 seconds delay are really annoying. Don't even try to watch YouTube or a movie on the MacBook while air playing your system sound. But on the iPad and iPhone it works with YouTube and the other apps.

    • Simon Slangen
      August 28, 2012 at 9:58 am

      That's because, on iOS, the video has been delayed two seconds as well.

      You can shift the audio on VLC using the G and F keys. AirFoil's Airfoil Video Player also allows you to watch YouTube (and other sites) this way, but the application isn't free.

    • Ahmed Khalil
      August 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      this even for MBP 2012?

      • Simon Slangen
        August 28, 2012 at 12:26 pm

        Audio streaming (almost) always comes with a delay. Because the wireless signal is never perfect, the audio has to be buffered.

  7. Tom
    August 27, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    You can NOT mirror a video from a Mid-2010 MBP to your TV. It produces a checkerboard only. You CAN send the audio fine.

    • Simon Slangen
      August 28, 2012 at 10:03 am

      Hi Tom. Unfortunately, that's correct. According to the specs Apple released, MBP's are only supported starting early 2011.