Free Alternatives to the Orion App for Extending Your Main Display

orion alternatives

Are you looking for ways to turn your iPad, tablet, or spare laptop into a secondary display for your main computer? While apps like Orion offer a convenient solution, their limitations and costs can be a barrier for some users. In this blog post, we'll explore the world of free screen mirroring apps, their features, and how to set up the most of them.

The Need for Orion Alternatives

There are Several reasons that lead individuals to seek alternatives to the Orion app for extending or mirroring their main display to an iPad or other devices:

  1. Device Compatibility: Orion only works with modern iPads that have a USB-C port for connecting an HDMI adapter. Users with older iPads or other tablets need apps that support their specific devices.

    modern ipad vs old ipad in charging port
  2. Wireless Connectivity: While Orion requires a wired HDMI connection, some users prefer wireless solutions like Duet Display or Luna Display that can connect over Wi-Fi for more flexibility.

  3. Additional Features: Apps like Duet Display and Luna Display offer extra capabilities beyond just mirroring, such as touch support, pressure sensitivity for Apple Pencil, and better desktop integration on Mac and Windows.

  4. Cost: The free version of Orion has limited functionality. Paid alternatives like Duet Display ($9.99 one-time) or Luna Display ($59.99 one-time) may be preferable for users needing advanced features without recurring costs.

  5. Performance: Some users report lag or quality issues with Orion's video upscaling and may seek higher-performance alternatives, especially for professional use cases.
  6. Compatibility with Other Devices: Apps like iDisplay and Air Display support using tablets/phones as extended displays for a wider range of devices beyond just HDMI sources.

Limitations of Orion

While Orion is a convenient app for turning an iPad into an HDMI monitor, there are some limitations and potential issues to be aware of:

  • Orion requires a USB-C iPad and a USB-C HDMI capture card, which adds extra cost and complexity compared to built-in screen mirroring features.
  • Some users have reported audio issues like mono sound instead of stereo with Orion.
  • There can be frame rate stutters and performance issues depending on the capture card used.
  • Orion is only available on iOS, so Android users need to look for alternatives.

Top Free Screen Mirroring Apps of 2024

Here are some of the best free screen mirroring apps to consider as Orion alternatives:

Spacedesk

  • Lets you use your iPad as a wireless or wired second display for your Windows computer.
  • Supports high resolution, low latency, and touch input.
  • Free to use, with a paid business version available.
    Spacedesk

Duet Display

  • Allows you to use your iPad as a wired second display for your Mac or Windows computer.
  • Supports high resolution and low latency.
  • Paid app with a one-time purchase price.
    Duet Display

Luna Display

  • Turns your iPad into a wireless second display for your Mac.
  • Supports high resolution and low latency.
  • Requires a hardware dongle that plugs into your Mac's USB-C or Mini DisplayPort.
  • Paid app with a one-time purchase price.
    Luna Display

Air Display

  • Lets you use your iPad as a wireless second display for your Mac or Windows computer.
  • Supports high resolution and low latency.
  • Requires a wired connection via Lightning or USB-C cable for initial setup.
  • Paid app with a one-time purchase price.
    Air Display

Splashtop Wired XDisplay

  • Allows you to use your iPad as a wired second display for your Mac or Windows computer.
  • Supports high resolution and low latency.
  • Requires a wired connection via Lightning or USB-C cable.
  • Free to try, paid subscription for extended use.
    Splashtop Wired XDisplay

Deskreen

  • Open-source app that turns any device with a web browser into a second display.
  • Works with iPad, Android tablets, and other devices.
  • Supports wireless connection over WiFi or wired USB connection.
  • Free to use.
    Deskcreen

Camo

  • Turns your iPad into a high-quality webcam for your Mac or Windows computer.
  • Supports 1080p video and advanced features like virtual backgrounds.
  • Requires a wired connection via Lightning or USB-C cable.
  • Free to try, paid subscription for advanced features.
    Camo app

When choosing an app, consider factors like wired vs. wireless connection, compatibility, resolution, latency, pricing, and additional features. Many offer free trials, so you can test them out before purchasing.

Key Features to Look for in External Display Apps

Here are the key features to look for in apps that allow using an iPad as an external monitor:

Compatibility

  • Works with recent iPad models running the latest iPadOS version.
  • Supports connecting to various displays, including computer monitors, TVs, and Apple TV.
  • Offers both wired (USB-C) and wireless connection options.

Performance

  • Provides low-latency performance suitable for gaming, presentations, and video.
  • Allows opening multiple windows on the external display and resizing them.
  • Supports high resolutions up to 6K.

Ease of Use

  • Easy to set up with just a few steps.
  • Allows using the iPad's built-in apps on the external display.
  • Provides mouse and trackpad support for controlling the external display.

Display Quality

  • Supports mirroring the iPad's display or extending it as a second screen.
  • Provides options to adjust brightness and apply retro CRT emulation.
  • Includes AI-powered upscaling to sharpen low-resolution inputs.

Other Features

  • Allows taking screenshots of the external display.
  • Provides audio passthrough to connected headphones or speakers.
  • Collects no user data and has no ads or subscriptions.

The best apps for using an iPad as an external monitor are Sidecar (built into macOS), Shiftscreen, and Orion. They offer a combination of compatibility, performance, ease of use, and display quality to enhance productivity and entertainment on the iPad.

How to Set Up Spacedesk

To set up the Spacedesk app, follow these steps:

Primary Machine Setup

  1. Download and install the Spacedesk Driver software on your primary Windows PC from the Spacedesk website.
  2. Ensure the Spacedesk Driver is installed properly by checking if the Spacedesk system tray icon is visible and shows "Spacedesk status ON".
  3. Allow the SpacedeskService.exe through the Windows Firewall for private and public networks.

Secondary Machine Setup

  1. For a secondary Windows PC/laptop/tablet, download and install the Spacedesk Windows Viewer app from the Spacedesk website or Microsoft Store.
  2. For an Android/iOS device, download and install the Spacedesk Viewer app from the respective app store.

Connecting Primary and Secondary

  1. Ensure both the primary and secondary machines are connected to the same local area network (LAN) via Ethernet or WiFi.
  2. On the primary machine, check the IP address shown in the Spacedesk Driver Console.
  3. On the secondary machine app, either the primary machine will be listed automatically to connect, or manually enter the IP address of the primary machine.
  4. Once connected, the primary machine's desktop will be extended or duplicated on the secondary machine's display.

    The setup process establishes a direct network connection between the primary and secondary machines, without needing an internet connection. Wired Ethernet provides the best performance, while wireless connections may have lower performance.

    How to Set Up Duet Display

    Here is a concise guide on how to set up and use the Duet Display app to turn your iPad into an external monitor:

    1. Download the Duet Display app on your iPad and the companion app on your computer (Windows or Mac).
    2. Connect your iPad to your computer using a Lightning or USB-C cable. Duet Display uses a wired connection for low latency.
    3. Open the Duet Display app on your iPad and the companion app on your computer. It will automatically detect your iPad and extend your computer's display to it.
    4. Adjust the resolution and orientation of your iPad display in the Duet Display settings. It supports up to 4K resolution at 60fps.
    5. Use your iPad as a second screen for your computer. You can drag and drop windows, use touch gestures, and even use the Apple Pencil for drawing.

    Some key things to note:

    • Duet Display requires a paid subscription starting at $9.99/year for advanced features.
    • It works with iPads running iOS 7.0 or later and most Windows and Mac computers.
    • Duet Display has lower latency compared to wireless alternatives like Sidecar.

      So, in summary, Duet Display is a reliable and feature-rich app for turning your iPad into a high-quality external monitor for your computer. The wired connection ensures low latency, making it great for productivity and creative work.

      Real-World Applications of Using an iPad as an External Monitor

      Using an iPad as an external monitor can significantly enhance productivity and entertainment in various real-world scenarios:

      • Education and Remote Learning: Students and teachers use the iPad as a secondary display for notes, presentations, and interactive content during virtual classes.

      • Business Presentations and Meetings: Professionals and remote workers use the iPad for presenting slides, videos, and referencing materials during meetings.

      • Creative Work and Design: Artists and designers use the iPad as a graphics tablet for drawing and editing with precise tools like the Apple Pencil.

      • Gaming and Entertainment: Gamers and home theater enthusiasts use the iPad to display supplementary information and control media playback.

      • Multitasking and Productivity: Professionals, students, and travelers use the iPad to reference materials, monitor social media, and stay productive on the go.

      • Versatile Tool: Enhances workflow, presentations, entertainment, and multitasking capabilities, available wired or wirelessly.

      Also see: Arzopa S1 Table Portable Laptop Monitor

      Compatible with USB Type-C mobile phones, just one USB-C cable can realize mobile screen projection. lt expands your phone well and you can choose desktop or phone mode.

      Arzopa S1 Table Portable Laptop Monitor | 15.6'' FHD 1080P

      Arzopa S1 Table Portable Laptop Monitor | 15.6'' FHD 1080P
      • Work and perform multiple tasks,improve your work efficiency.
      • Designed with a 15.6-inch display, the screen features 1080P, FHD,IPS and anti-glare display.
      • One USB-C cable to set the portable monitor for its video signal and power to deliver a full HD resolution viewing.
      • Lightweight and portable,easy to carry screen anywhere.

      Conclusion

      In today's world of remote work and multitasking, having an external display can greatly enhance your productivity and entertainment experience. While popular apps like Orion offer a convenient solution, their limitations and costs may not suit everyone's needs.

      Fortunately, there are numerous free screen mirroring apps available that provide a seamless and cost-effective way to turn your iPad, tablet, or spare laptop into a secondary display for your main computer. By exploring these alternatives and their key features, you can find the perfect app that meets your specific requirements and unlocks new possibilities for your workflow or leisure activities. Don't hesitate to try out these free options and share your experiences in the comments below!

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