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Use An iPad As A Second Display

We look at four iPad apps that let you use the iPad as a second display.

Research and anecdotal evidence indicates that two or more displays are better than one. Early studies indicate between 9% and 50% increased productivity by moving from one to two displays. But setting up two displays can be challenging if you have limited desk space or are frequently on the move. One solution is to use an iPad as a second display for a Mac or Windows PC. Let's look at four iPad apps that let you do that with minimal additional cost and travel weight.

The four iPad apps in this roundup range in price from free to $9.99. All require installation of free display extension Windows-side software. Three of the four apps also can be used with Macs. One app even lets you use an iPhone or iPod touch as a second display.

Air Display DisplayLink MaxiVista Splashtop XDisplay
Price $9.99 Free $9.99 $4.99
Works with
Microsoft Windows
Works with
Apple OS X
iPhone version Y N N N
Requires Apple Bonjour Y N N N
Able to
shut driver off
Password challenge N Y N Y
Display speed Good Acceptable Fast Slow

Avatron Software Air Display

Avatron Software's Air Display, $9.99, tries to simplify the process of turning an iPad into a second display for a Windows PC. Part of this requires installing Apple's Bonjour zero-configuration networking software. If Bonjour is not already installed on your PC, Avatron's Windows-side software installs it for you.

Avatron's Windows software uses Bonjour to detect iPad devices that have Air Display installed. You can then select which iPad on the local network to use as your second display. The only downside to this approach is that if there's more than one iPad in the vicinity with Air Display installed, it might be hard to tell which one to pair up with.

Air Display is the only app in our roundup that can also use an iPhone or iPod touch as a second display. Of course, the much smaller screens on these devices limit their usefulness as a second display. Single-purpose gadget apps such as calculators or social-network status software might fit fine on an iPhone screen, but Microsoft Word is obviously not a good fit (see screenshot below).

DisplayLink Corp. DisplayLink

DisplayLink, the only free app in our roundup, is made by DisplayLink Corp., which is better known for physical multi-monitor products.

DisplayLink's Windows software is easy enough to set up. Once you set up the required password, the iPad app displays a list of PCs on the network running the Windows-side software. Selecting a PC from this list on the iPad prompts you for the password the first time the iPad and PC are used together. However, unlike the other apps in this roundup, DisplayLink's Windows-side software can't be closed--it has to run for the app to work. It is also the only app that does not work with Macs.

As with the other apps here, configuring the iPad as an external display is the same as configuring a second physical monitor using Windows' Control Panel. You can see in the screenshot below that the iPad can be configured for use in either landscape or portrait orientations.

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