AirPlay Mirroring: Tips for improving Performance

Although AirPlay Mirroring is easy to setup, you can run into performance problems while using it. Especially harder use cases like watching videos can cause performance problems like:

  • Video stutters
  • Video freezes
  • Dropped frames or dropped connection

Here are some tips that could help you improve the overall performance of AirPlay Mirroring.

Display settings

The first thing you should try is to adjust the display settings. It could happen that just a little bit of tweaking will solve all your problems. With my Macbook Pro Retina some settings are „not watchable” (video stutters and freezes), others work perfect.

Change Desktop size when mirroring your built-in screen

Normally, AirPlay Mirroring mirrors your built-in screen (see screenshot: „Use AirPlay Display To: Mirror Built-In Retina Display”). Try to modify this mode by changing the option „Match desktop size To” to the resolution of the Apple TV (not the built-in display).


Extend Desktop

Instead of mirroring your built-in display, you can try to extend your desktop and use the Apple TV as a second screen. In my experience (Macbook Pro Retina), this helps a lot and gives me the best results.


Furthermore, you can adjust the display resolution of your second screen in „System preferences > Displays” (left part of the screenshot) and try if one setting works better than the other.

Network problems

Use ethernet connections

If possible, try to connect your Mac as well as your Apple TV using an ethernet connection. By doing that you can figure out whether Wi-Fi connection is responsible for the problems or not. A slow or interfered Wi-Fi connection can result in dropped frames or video freezes.

Wi-Fi Connection

  • Check for wireless network interferences. It’s likely that your router can show you how crowded your location is (see screenshot of my Fritz!Box). Try to change the channel of the connection.
  • Make sure to use the fast 802.11n mode (not b/g).
  • Switch to 5 GHz Wi-Fi if your router offers this option. A good router can establish a second Wi-Fi using the 5 GHz range which should be faster and less crowded. A second Wi-Fi is a good idea because otherwise all of your hardware has to support 5 GHz range. There’s also another drawback: It could happen that in rooms that are far away from your router the connection isn’t as good as with 2,4 GHz (because of the higher frequencies)
  • Try to minimize the distance between the Router and Apple TV (place them as close as possible)
  • Turn off bluetooth (just to make sure that there aren’t any interferences)


Playing files from a network drive (NAS)

It could also happen that loading the video from your source is too slow. So if you have them stored on a NAS, USB Stick or whatever, copy them on your Desktop (which is a very fast SSD in modern MacBooks in order to eliminate your NAS as origin of the problem).

Video Player

Try different player software

This isn’t always possible because of the supported files formats (video, audio, subtitles), but try playing your files with another video player. In my experience, this can make a difference in terms of performance.

You can extend the QuickTime Player with some more codecs by installing Perian.

Of course, VLC is also worth a try. By pressing Cmd+i you get some statistics details about „lost frames” which indicates performance issues.

Hardware & software in general

The hardest thing to try: different hardware. This could be everything: Your Mac is too slow, your router has a problem, etc.

Concerning software you can make sure that everything is up-to-date (latest OS versions, firmware updates, etc.).

Any other ideas or experiences

I would appreciate if you leave a comment about some more tips or experiences you’ve made.

Link: Troubleshooting AirPlay and AirPlay Mirroring (Apple)


  1. I use nplayer and the streaming for playing movies from my NAS to Apple TV through my iPhone 5s and it works with very high quality either video either audio.

  2. When using airplay to stream the fox news live App. The video is good on my iphone but comes out sideways on the TV. How can I fix this?

  3. Some help please for a layman. Have purchased a new Time Capsule (set up as a bridge, hence providing a local 5GHz network), ATV3 and MacBook Pro in order to”send” movies to my television. The movies are stored on a HDD connected to Time Capsule and play fine via VLC on the laptop – connected wirelessly to my network. But when I try to send to the television via ATV3 the sound and video stutter slightly. Any bright ideas would be much appreciated thanks.

    1. @Robin: Seems like the chain “HDD>Time Capsule>Macbook” works fine (just to be sure: try it with a video file from local hard disk of your mac book).

      Does “normal” AirPlay work? (for instance from iTunes)
      Have you tried the hints provided in this article?

  4. I tried all the Airplay dropdown menu options, but am still getting dropped frames. (Interestingly, using Apple TV as a second screen was the worst option for me.) I get a little lost when you get to explaining the Wifi Connection stuff. I’m assuming changes like 802.11n mode and 5GHz are options I would find in System Preferences under Wifi-Connection. But I can’t find those options there, nor anything resembling your FritzBoz screenshot. Am I missing something? Cheers, thanks for your help so far.

    1. You want Airport Utility, quick to find with Cmd space and search “airport utility”. It’s like system preferences but out of sight. Sadly, even knowing this, and trying all the other tips above, including switching both my macbook retina and my brand new Apple TV to 5GHz didn’t work for me. Hm.

  5. AirPlay to the ATV is something I woulda never thought of for a MKV workaround, good stuff!! Just one question: when using the ATV as a second screen does the audio output from the ATV or from the MacBook?

  6. Hello! I use Time Capsule as a router to stream video via airplay from an Imac to appletv. The result is disappointing concerning frame rate. Local apple store changed my appletv for a new one. I tested it again: The same. The only way I have found a viable solution is through a third party program called apple beamer. I have purchased it and I can watch all my stored movies from external hd drives without transfer rate problems wirelessly. Still, I think apple should come by itself to a solution to this problem. It’s funny to propose on its support page site to use an ethernet cable if you experience trouble. Apple should more homework regarding the quality of the net sharing capabilities of its systems. Sometimes design is not enough!

  7. Thank you – your advice on Display settings and using 5G combined to do the trick.
    Many thanks!

  8. Awesome and clear ideas. Did most of the small tweaks and really mad a difference.

    My problem was I wanted to AirPlay my sky go from my Mac to the Apple TV in my bedroom. I was getting a lot of lag on the stream. I extended the desktop first and and it had a huge impact on the quality. I then had a play are with the display settings and again my steam improved.
    Thanks again for all the tips

  9. You won’t believe it! I spent sh*t loads of money to get the latest and most respected 1300Mbps+ router on the market – the netgear D6300 – and still lagged! Airplay kept lagging! I nearly threw my tv, apple tv and router away – pieces of shit. You won’t believe what fixed the lag! – TURNING OFF THE FREAKING BLUETOOTH!!!! There was a lag every 1/2 seconds whenever I tried to extend my screen on 5Ghz network!!! with a Macbook pro 15 late 2013 i7 with 16GB of RAM! stopping the fucking bluetooth made all the difference! Thank god I am not using any wireless keyboards for this piece of shit stupid ATV3!

  10. My husband logs into his account on our iMac and the airplay streams to apple tv with no problems at all, but in my account it freezes. The settings are the same, so why is this happening?

  11. The best option for video is to use Beamer. It streams the raw video file to ATV rather than trying to capture and encode the display frame buffer in real time. This means no dropped frames and low CPU usage so you don’t have fans whirring away during your movie.

    It will transcode the video codec on the fly if needed but normally it is just the container that needs to be transcoded (i.e. AVI/MKV to MP4) and not the actual video encoding.

  12. Anybody have any appreciations about performance of the AirPlay hd playback movies from the new MacBook 2015? It’s the only feature I need besides browsing, I need to stream hd 720p+ movies (mkv,MP4) without lag, any ideas if it’s possible? Thanks a lot for your help.

  13. Hi, I have just updated my iphone to IOS 9.0.2 and airplay to 6.0.1 and now the mirroered display ios oversized, ie it doesn’t fit into the frame on my screen??
    Any ideas???

  14. Excellent post thank you. What worked best for me is turning off all Bluetooth devices in the room. Connecting the Apple TV using an Ethernet cable to ensure that the Apple TV has a good connection. Changing the display settings as mentioned (mirror screens worked best for me). Making sure the laptop is always on a power supply. And finally, plugging in my router (Fritzbox), so that I could change the channel that my router was set on. Amazingly almost all routers in my building were set on channel 1, there were more than 15 routers on this channel, so I moved over the channel to 3.

    All in all I think Bluetooth and connecting the Apple TV via Ethernet made the most impact. The display settings of course help, but interference must play a massive part.


    Just check your internet speed and get an Ethernet cable. Oh yeah, and turn off Bluetooth.

  15. I just got the latest Apple TV, and was frustrated by the AirPlay clipping, bad quality, etc…especially since I have a decently fast Internet connection (avg 90MB-125MBps)
    Not having the Amazon Video app yet is just stupid. But until then, my Amazon Prime account is my only option for watching the past seasons of USA’s Suits without paying extra.
    Anyway, since using an Ethernet cable isn’t an option as my router’s on a different floor, these 2 tips fixed the problem instantly:
    1. Connecting to the 5G option on my Netgear router (remember to change the network setting on both the ATV AND your device….in this case a 6 yo MBP)
    2. Turning off Bluetooth (as many others have discovered!)

    So I just wanted to say thanks for these tips, I can now use my devices how they’re meant to work!
    Cheers, -Rach

  16. Hi

    Mybe you can help me. I have tried this but none if it helps!!

    Have combed the internet for the right answer but nothing helpfull so far – have swallowed the ego and decided to ask for help.

    My problem is as follows: I stream alot of movies and videos on my Mac, but as soon as i mirror my screen to airplay the video cuts and starts buffering (indefinitely almost). No stop start just buffering.

    I want to airplay to my TV to watch Supersport (South African sporting channel) which i can stream from my Mac. I must be doing something wrong as surly this is possible – have also tested my internet speed and its working fine – 10mbs.

    Any ideas would be helpfull at this point – am about to use my ATV as a paperweight.

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