Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mirroring Android and Chrome Devices with Reflector 2

If you are not familiar with Reflector, it is a software solution created by Squirrels that originally allowed you to wirelessly mirror iOS devices to a PC or Mac instead of needing an Apple TV.  With the release of Reflector 2 last week, it now also supports Google Cast.  So any compatible Android device, or Chrome device with the Google Cast extension installed, can now wirelessly mirror to Reflector 2 like they could with a Chromecast.


Features


Reflector 2 provides a few unique features that are not available with a Chromecast.  Some of those features include:

- The ability to mirror multiple devices to Reflector 2 at the same time.  It can be a mix of Android, Chrome or iOS devices.  This could be nice feature for students to mirror their screen while the teacher continues to mirror their own.


- You can record what you are mirroring with voice over from your PC or Mac's microphone.  You can also record multiple devices at the same time and in the same recording.  It is not available yet, but soon you will be able to add your webcam to the recordings and stream directly to YouTube.

- Reflector 2 has the ability to show a device frame around what you are mirroring.  For Android devices, it is only limited to a basic black and white Galaxy tablet or Nexus phone frame.  You can also choose to have this frame displayed while recording if you wish.


- With "Prompt to Approve" enabled in the general settings of Reflector 2, you can control when other people can mirror their device to the software.  You will not have to worry about students automatically mirroring their devices to Reflector 2 while you are.



Technical Specs and Installation

The technical specs for Reflector 2 can be found here.  These specs are pretty vague, so I highly recommend taking full advantage of the 7-day free trial first.  Take that time to make sure it will work adequately on all of the PC or Mac devices you want it installed on before purchasing licenses for your school district.  Instructions on how to install and use Reflector 2 can be found here

My Experiences with Reflector 2

Before I began testing out Reflector 2 with various devices, I mirrored them to a Chromecast or Apple TV that was on the same network first.  All of the devices mirrored to the Chromecast or Apple TV worked great on this network with no delays or other mirroring issues.

I decided to quickly try an iOS device before diving into the Android and Chrome devices.  Using an iPad Mini 2 with Reflector 2 was pretty flawless.  I did not notice any delays or issues with mirroring.  I am not surprised since Squirrels has had AirPlay mirroring nailed down from past versions of Reflector.

I tested the following Android and Chrome devices with Reflector 2:
  • Asus Transformer Pad 10 GPFE Tablet (TF103CE)
  • Moto X (2014)
  • Galaxy Note 8.0
  • New Dell Chromebook 11
  • Nexus 7 (2013)
  • Nexus 9
  • Nexus 10

When mirroring the New Dell Chromebook 11 to Reflector 2, it went very well.  I did not notice a delay with it as I went to different web sites and navigated through them.  Even when going to web sites that had audio and video, there was no delay in the mirroring of that content.  The picture quality stayed steady during the whole time I mirrored the Chromebook.



I had a different experience when using the Android devices though.  That is actually why I tried a variety of different ones.  Every Android device I tested had a slight delay of about 1 to 2 seconds from what I was actually doing on the device itself.  It did not matter if I was just navigating through the Android device or using apps such as Chrome, Explain Everything and Papyrus.  When watching a video, it had the same delays, but anyone watching the mirrored display would not notice it.  I also had the same results regardless of using the Mac or PC version of Reflector 2.  That delay may not be a big issue for some people, but it could be distracting to a teacher in the classroom that is teaching a lesson from their Android device.  Everything else seemed to work well with mirroring the Android devices.

Conclusion

I am really excited about Reflector 2.  Knowing the track record of Reflector, I am sure Squirrels will get the delays I encountered with the Android devices worked out in a future update as they have in the past with the iOS devices.  If you want to mirror what you are doing on an Android or iOS device during a live web session, like a Google Hangout, then Reflector 2 is definitely worth the purchase right now.  It can also be handy if you do a lot of presentations and trainings at conferences or other venues.  Until we see some updates in regards to Android device mirroring, you may still want to stick with a Chromecast for daily classroom use.

Reflector is available for the PC and Mac starting at $15 per version.  Discount pricing is available on bulk purchases or if you are upgrading from a previous version of Reflector.  Information on discounted pricing can be found here.