Kanex has just released the US$59 ATV Pro HDMI to VGA adapter. This little video adapter may well be a hit with teachers and presenters who want to mirror their iPad screens to VGA projectors -- without tethering the iPad to a clunky VGA cable.
Up until now, if you intended to display your iPhone or iPad screen on a projector without HDMI inputs, your choices were few. First, you could use an Apple or third-party Dock connector to VGA cable. That, of course, limits your mobility to the length of the cable you're using to connect to the projector; the Apple VGA dongle is also prone to falling out if you're wandering around.
Putting an Apple TV into the mix (and an accessible local WiFi network) lets you can leverage Apple's AirPlay mirroring, making it simple to send iPhone or iPad screens to a big screen with no cable clutter. Unfortunately, a lot of legacy projectors out in the field aren't equipped with HDMI inputs -- and it's a bad moment when you show up at your meeting without the right connections. If you have your Mac and a copy of either Reflection or AirServer, you can mirror your iOS device to your laptop... but that's a lot of gear to lug around if all you want to do is present and/or demo from your iPad.
[In theory, if you wanted to show a Keynote presentation from your iPad and control it while walking about, you could connect the iPad to the VGA projector using one of the aforementioned cables and then use Apple's Keynote Remote app on a handy iPhone or iPod touch to run Keynote remotely. That doesn't solve the mirroring issue, though.]
Now Kanex makes it possible to grab a $99 Apple TV, attach it to the ATV Pro and then to a VGA projector, and pump anything on an iPad or iPhone out of that projector. [Note that Monoprice sells a similar HDMI to VGA adapter for slightly less, but it's much larger and clunkier. –Ed.]
Unlike the Apple TV, the ATV Pro doesn't require a nearby power outlet, so you don't need to worry about having more than two plugs available -- one for the Apple TV and one for the projector. There's also a 3.5mm audio connector that splits out the HDMI audio signal so you can play it over your analog speakers.
So, how does it work in reality? Very well, thank you. I taught a class last night at a nearby community college using an Apple TV and ATV Pro, and I zapped all of my content from an iPad to the big screen as I walked around the room.
Setup was drop-dead simple; the classroom has a VGA cable that I normally connect to the Mini DisplayPort on my MacBook Air using an Apple adapter. Instead, I plugged the VGA cable into the VGA port on the ATV Pro, plugged the ATV Pro's HDMI cable into the HDMI port of the Apple TV, and just plugged the Apple TV into the wall. A little bit of simple configuration of the Apple TV to join the college's network, and I was ready to go.
[Be aware that some enterprise or educational wireless networks use captive portal authentication, which does not play nicely with the Apple TV's connection setup; others may block mDNS or ZeroConf/Bonjour peer-to-peer communications, required for AirPlay's magic. Be sure to test in advance of any critical presentations. –Ed.]
Until projectors start arriving on the market with the ability to accept AirPlay input directly from iOS devices, the Kanex ATV Pro is definitely the way to go. It's a well-made and reasonably-priced product, and the setup is a no-brainer. The ATV Pro is currently on pre-order from Kanex, and should be available starting next Monday (May 14, 2012).