Reflector 2 - AirPlay and Google Cast

Squirrels just released Reflector 2 with a significant addition. It can now support multiple Google Cast clients in addition to multiple AirPlay clients.

Last year, AirServer released AirServer Universal for the PC. The new version introduced support for the Miracast standard allowing virtually all devices to mirror to AirServer. I successfully mirrored a Windows laptop, a variety of Android devices, and of course AirPlay support was included. However, there were some special requirements and limitations.

First, AirServer Universal is not available for Mac, so the universal receiver is a Windows-only option. Second, the universal receiver must have a supported network chip/driver. I had to purchase a USB wireless adapter and disable the integrated wireless chip in my two-year old laptop to get Miracast support working. Next, only one Miracast device can connect at a time, although multiple AirPlay devices can connect simultaneously. Finally, and this is more of a Miracast protocol issue than one with AirServer, devices mirrored in portrait mode versus landscape could end up appearing very small if an AirPlay device was connected at the same time.

Despite these issues, AirServer Universal was the only option for supporting a device-agnostic screen-sharing classroom.

With the release of Reflector 2, you can now have multiple device screens shared on your Mac or PC, and those screens can be any combination of AirPlay or Google Cast devices. Many newer Android devices can mirror their screens with Google Cast, and devices running Chrome, including Macs, PCs, and Chromebooks can cast a tab from within the Chrome browser. After installing Reflector 2, I gathered up a variety of devices to test things out.

The collection of screens above consist of a Chromebook, Nexus 7 tablet, iPad, Nexus 5 phone, and MacBook Air. I was not able to connect the Tegra Note 7 Android tablet as it did not specifically have the Google Cast option; it only has Miracast. Although Squirrels suggests playing games on a big screen using Reflector, the lag on every device was roughly a half-second. That is far too long for any type of action game, but I suppose puzzle games would work OK. The mirrored screens were mostly smooth (the Chromebook was choppy), and I was able to watch YouTube videos from the MacBook without issue.

I also decided to purchase the new Reflector 2 companion iOS app, Reflector Director. This app gives you control over the devices that are sharing their screens. You can choose to show or hide each screen, whether a screen should show a device frame, and also select a screen to magnify. Devices are listed by name in Reflector Director, but unfortunately all Google Cast devices simply show up as Cast Device. AirPlay devices will show their actual device name (eg: Kyle's iPad).

There were a few bugs, but they were relatively minor. First, when hiding the frame on mirrored Android devices, the mirrored screen would shrink and split apart. This did not happen when removing the frame from the Chromebook. When I tried removing the frame from the MacBook Air using Reflector Director, the frame did not disappear. Also, after toggling screens on and off while testing Director, the MacBook screen ended up getting "stuck" on the screen and I had to quit Reflector completely to clear it.

Reflector 2 is $14.99 (or $9.99 to upgrade from a previous version). This is just slightly more than AirServer Universal ($11.99 for education). At these prices I would recommend getting both if you're using a PC.

Reflector 2 is the ideal receiver for Mac users wanting to share device screens. It may be the best choice for PC users as well, but it depends on your specific scenario. AirServer Universal's support of Miracast allows for mirroring of Windows devices (such as Surface tablets) and a wider range of Android devices, but you can only mirror a single Miracast device at a time. On the other hand, I was able to use the WiFi chip integrated in my laptop PC with Reflector 2; no special WiFi adapter or driver was required as it was with AirServer Universal.