Apple’s AirPlay allows you to stream audio or audio and video to other devices on your local network. It could be a video embedded on a webpage in Safari on an iPhone that you stream to your Apple TV, or an album from the Music app on a Mac that plays audio on multiple devices simultaneously.
Apple has added AirPlay mirroring and desktop extension support to the latest version of macOS, allowing Apple devices (at least iOS 14, iPadOS 14, or macOS Monterey) to stream to released Mac models in 2018 and performing Monterey. (Some features work at lower resolutions on older devices; see Apple’s support note.)
That’s a lot of reservations. To clear Apple’s requirements and improve compatibility beyond the Cupertino giant’s ecosystem, turn to Squirrels’ Reflector 4. Under development in four versions since 2012, the latest version has an updated interface. The developer, Squirrels, has reworked the app to offer native support for Apple’s M1 series. It works with macOS 10.15 Catalina or later and doesn’t require any special iOS, iPadOS, or macOS support, just built-in AirPlay streaming capability.
After launching Reflector, the app appears as an AirPlay destination on all supported devices. To differentiate from native macOS AirPlay support, “(RF4)” is appended to the name, but you can use Reflector > Preferences > General to set a custom broadcast name.
Select the reflector’s name as the destination and you’ll be prompted to enter an AirPlay confirmation code; the code appears on your Mac. You can change this behavior so that no code is required, a password you set is used, a recurring code appears (the Code on screen option, the default), or a new code is generated each time. Consider the risks in your environment before making your choice. In most cases, you won’t need a code at all.
When Reflector starts displaying the received display, it appears by default in a floating window that hovers over all other windows. You can opt for full screen mode or disable the above options for all apps. In a nod to skeuomorphism – a style of digital design that mimics real materials and textures – the display appears in an identical frame to the transmitting device. You can disable this.
In contrast, Apple’s built-in Monterey AirPlay receiver always goes full screen. There are no options to turn it into a window. On a Mac with multiple displays, you can choose which Monterey shows the AirPlay stream. But that’s about all.
There is also a lot more in the app. Reflector can receive AirPlay streams from multiple devices at once. And it’s not limited to AirPlay: it’s compatible with streaming via Google Cast and the widely supported Miracast. Squirrels also offers AirParrot, a kind of add-on product to Reflector, which can stream from macOS or Windows to a range of audio-video and computer receivers, regardless of their reception protocol.
You can click a button to take a screenshot of what appears on the receiver or record the video feed. Reflector can allow you to create a video control center on your computer for a variety of devices to gather recordings for demonstrations or run live demonstrations for a crowd in person or via live streaming to services in line.
A system menu provides a control panel to switch between received displays, save and access settings with one click. Where Monterey doesn’t allow altering what it thinks is the correct orientation received, Reflector is both better at making the right choice and allows you to force a rotation if needed.
Reflector also works with Reflector Director ($6.99 on the App Store) to enable iOS/iPadOS control, letting you use your Mac as a multi-input source device. It can be useful in education. Squirrels also provides free Reflector Student for iOS/iPadOS to allow students to share their screens with an instructor running Reflector while viewing the shared devices from the instructor’s screen.
Reflector 4 costs $19.99 for a macOS or Windows license, $21.99 for a universal license for either platform, and $33.99 bundled with the AirParrot add-on. (AirParrot separately costs $17.99 for macOS or Windows or $21.99 for a Mac/Windows Universal License.)
This is the first Reflector review in Macworld.
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