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Appletell reviews iDisplay for iPhone and iPad (Updated)

Sections: Cinema Displays and Monitors, iDevice Apps, iPad, iPhone, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, iPod touch, Macintosh/Apple Hardware, Peripherals, Reviews

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iDisplay iconCategory: Utilities
Seller: SHAPE Services
Requirements: iPhone OS 3.1.2 or later
Compatibility: iPhone
File Size: 4.5MB
Version Reviewed: 1.3
Price: $4.99
Age Rating: 4+

iDisplay is exactly the type of app I’ve been waiting for since the initial release of the iPhone. It’s an app that turns your iDevice into a mini monitor suitable for small apps like Twitter, buddy lists or tool palettes. It’s a perfect idea, but less than desirable in terms of performance.

Installing iDisplay is not difficult, but it is not painless. First, you download the file and double click the installer. After that’s done, you have to restart your computer since what you’ve essentially done is trick your Mac into thinking there’s a virtual monitor constantly attached. This already presents some problems that manifest themselves immediately when your Mac restarts. Symptoms include mirroring of displays, loss of resolution, general discomfort and loss of interest. If symptoms worsen, call your genius.

Actually, these initial problems are what might cause you to lose faith in this product right away. All of these things are fixable, but they don’t always seem to stay that way. You can revert all of your settings in System Preferences. Go to Display and change your resolution back, and make sure to turn off mirroring of displays. Now you can place your extra virtual monitor anywhere you like, and set its resolution and orientation based on your iDevice.

iDisplay with iPad

To actually use the app, you have to launch the app on your Mac (I would have much preferred a System Preference pane as opposed to a full app taking up space in my dock) and on your iDevice. Both devices need to be on the same WiFi network, though not necessarily connected to the Internet, so you can set up an Ad Hoc WiFi network if necessary. That’s it. Everything should work flawlessly now.

Sadly, it doesn’t. The frame rate is so painfully slow that you’ll instantly find yourself not using this app. I’d say it’s around a frame every three seconds, give or take. You won’t be able to drag anything, or even keep track of your mouse. So, I suppose it’s a good thing that the app supports touch input on your iDevice. This app still could still be useful for keeping up to date with a slow moving Twitter feed or something of that nature. But ultimately, it’s just not ready for prime time.

iDisplay will need to see some significant improvements before I’d recommend it to anyone. The concept is great, but the frame rate of this app kills its usability. I’m hoping they update soon to make it useful so I can bump the rating below up to a 3 or 4. Until then, they should really drop the price for those who believe in the concept and are willing to “fund” future improvements. For now, I think I’m going to have to read the uninstall instructions included with the install file.

Update: Since this review, iDisplay has been updated. The frame rate and lag issues have been addressed. It’s still not going to react like a wired display, but it is actually usable now. When using a mouse with iDisplay, you don’t have to hold still for 3 or 4 seconds anymore, you can actually follow the mouse on screen visually. That’s a huge improvement. But it’s not perfect. You still can’t scroll things smoothly, and it’s not the same as using a wired monitor. But for only $5, I can finally recommend this product since it’s actually usable. I’m hoping to see further improvements in the coming months to make this app even better.

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