I love my Apple TV, but hate that it’s HDMI-only. Although the television industry has switched to HDMI, most projectors are still VGA or analog. And many of us have older VGA monitors we could press into service if only we could attach a playback device to them. That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about the Kanex ATV PRO, a self-contained HDMI-to-VGA converter that does it all, connecting any modern HDMI video source to VGA!
The Curse of VGA
Although I love my amazing Viewsonic PJD7383i projector, I am disappointed that it doesn’t support HDMI, DVI, or DisplayPort. After all, I’m a Mac user, and Apple abandoned VGA years ago. Sure, there are inexpensive VGA adapters (I carry Apple’s Mini DisplayPort adapter) but wouldn’t it be cool if you could plug right in?
Today, most projectors, and many monitors, don’t support DVI or HDMI. Even though the tide is turning, there are many older devices still out there. And those that do might not support HDCP, meaning you can’t watch protected video on them! This can be a big surprise, since some content will play fine and other will not.
Then there’s the world of television-oriented devices like the Apple TV and Roku media players. These output in HDMI format only, since most televisions have an HDMI or DVI port. But you can’t mix them with the vast world of computer monitors and projectors.
What a mess! This is especially problematic in business and education, where VGA-only projectors are common yet everyone wants to use their Apple TV for AirPlay Mirroring!
The Kanex ATV Pro is a Simple Solution
I stumbled upon the solution at Fry’s of all places. Searching for a USB 3.0 cable, I walked past a display of Apple TV accessories. And there it was, a little box promising to connect my Apple TV to my VGA projector. At just $59, what did I have to lose? I even bought a new Apple TV for my office while I was at it!
The ATV Pro has a lot going for it. First, it works. I plugged it into my Apple TV and a cheap VGA monitor and I was up and running in no time. The notoriously-finicky Apple TV detected the Kanex and started displaying video on my LCD. I plugged the mini-jack into a shelf stereo system and now I have a perfectly serviceable TV in my office!
Second, the Kanex ATV Pro is self-powered. This is very handy for use with projectors, many of which are attached to ceilings and short on outlets. The captive HDMI “pigtail” is short, but a longer VGA cable can be attached for a bit of flexibility. But since the Apple TV works great over 802.11n WiFi, there’s no need to place it “on the ground”. Just stick it up in the rafters next to the projector and be done with it!
Third, the ATV Pro is fully HDCP 1.2 compliant, meaning you can play anything over it. Hollywood forces much HD content to be “protected” with HDCP to keep people from pirating it, but this also locks out many computer-oriented displays like projectors and LCD monitors since they lack an HDCP engine. The Kanex takes care of HDCP, so some folks might find it works even better than the built-in DVI or HDMI port on their display!
I have had some issues with the Kanex ATV Pro, however. I couldn’t get my office LCD to display video from my Retina MacBook Pro (even though it was detected correctly) or my “Digital AV Adapter”-equipped iPad. But this might have been the fault of the cheap Acer monitor I was testing on, since it’s sometimes refused to display perfectly-good VGA signals from computers.
One more gripe is the size of the ATV Pro. Although it’s very light and blessedly does not require a power brick, it is a bit chunky compared to other A/V adapters. It’s big enough that I won’t be carrying it with me everywhere, though certainly small and cheap enough to stick in the Pelican case containing my projector. I can’t blame Kanex, though, since it’s performing Pure Freaking Magic doing what it does!
Anyone with an Apple TV and an older display (a projector or LCD monitor) ought to run out and buy the Kanex ATV PRO. It works, and it’s cheap enough to use only occasionally. And Kanex promises that it works with most laptops and other HDMI devices, too!
- The Kanex ATV Pro is pure magic for HDMI/HDCP sources like the Apple TV
- Extend the useful life of your projector or LCD monitor
- Priced at $59, it’s cheap enough for occasional use
- No power brick!
- Didn’t work with my monitor and certain HDMI sources
- Small but not tiny
- Captive HDMI pigtail means it must be placed next to the HDMI source