The iPad is a remarkable little device, capable of so many things after only a few months on the open market. Still, there are questions to be asked about it, and one in particular that keeps coming back is compatibility with other electronics. We know you can hook up an iPad to your Mac computer to download data, movies and such, but what about a television? Seeing as how other handheld devices can hook up to a TV (such as Verizon's 4G phone or Sony's PlayStation Portable game system), it made us a little curious to see if the iPad could do the same thing. So, we decided to investigate.
A few answers indicate hooking up the iPad through unofficial manner, such as "jailbreaking " your device to unlock video programs that Apple would frown upon. However, most of these efforts are amateur hour at best, with lower-than-usual video quality and the possibility of damaging your electronic components. Fortunately, there are legal devices that enable you to access a smooth connection.
The first is Apple's component AV cable set, which goes for $49.99 in both retail locations and online through the Apple store . While that's a pretty steep price for a set of cables (compared to the low cost usual component cables go for), they feature a pretty sleek design, and make connecting your iPad to a television a snap. You simply plug in the cables (and the necessary power adapter), set your channel on the coordinating video feed (usually something along the lines of an AV or COMP channel, depending on the model of TV) and get to it.
While this sounds like an ideal accessory, there are limitations. First off, you'll need component jacks on your television to use the cables, as they won't work with straightforward A/V hook-ups. Secondly, the cable only works with a handful of video programs. While you can use Hulu Plus, Netflix and purchased programs through iTunes (including both videos and songs), that's about the extent of what you can do. So if you were hoping to play Angry Birds on a giant screen, it simply won't register.
Finally, there's the questionable video quality. Some users who have purchased the cable have reported less than stellar presentation, with a video feed along the lines of 567i...well below the usual 720p standard. While it certainly beats nothing (and will suit travelers or those without access to video programs) it's still not the ultimate way to display your iPad programs. Maybe someday, Apple will release a new cable that not only displays better video detail, but also allows for the broadcasting of certain games, so folks won't have to lean over your shoulder to see what you're playing. Don't hold your breath, though.
The other option is the iPad VGA connector cable, which sells for $29.99; $20 cheaper than the component cables. Now, being a VGA adapter you can't expect high-quality video with this option either. In addition, it doesn't work with certain video formats such as high-definition iTunes movies (we tried The Expendables with it and it didn't even come up) or Netflix.
However, if you're looking for a device that lets you display slideshows for a work presentation (or vacation pictures for the whole family to see), it's a viable option. You just need to make sure the computer monitor or television has the proper VGA connection. Not every model comes with one.
Aside from that, there aren't really any other options for iPad connection. There are those trying to bring broadcast services to the iPad, such as Filmon (located at www.filmon.com), a less-than-legal channel offering a handful of channels to watch with a simple connection. It'd be great to see Apple come out with more options in the future, including the possibility of TV projector connections (that would make Angry Birds interesting, broadcasting your play onto a wall) and high-definition compatibility. Hopefully, we'll see something along those lines surface in January at CES.