Hands on: Duet Display for iPad brings Touch Bar, Apple Pencil to your extended Mac desktop

Posted:
in iPad edited December 2016
Accelerated multiple-monitor tool Duet Display now brings the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar to an extended screen using an iPad, and optional full Apple Pencil support in macOS. AppleInsider shows you what's been updated in the new version.




Apple's drive for light and portable sometimes means you have to work on a smaller screen than you want. If you've got an iPad, there's a solution in Duet Display. Made by ex-Apple engineers, Duet Display has been a way to do that by making an iPad an extension of an Mac's screen, and its been updated recently.

Duet Display's wired connection has always been quick but this new version 1.3.7 is preposterously fast in regular use.

It will take you less time to setup Duet Display than it will to accept that it isn't really part of your computer's default operating system. Once plugged in via a Lightning cable, your iPad with Duet Display can sit next to your computer precisely as if it is a second monitor.

Position it to either side, as you need, or even underneath the screen, move it around with the Monitors control panel, just like a Mini DisplayPort monitor.




You need a companion Mac app which has also now been updated to version 1.6.3.4. If you're so inclined, there's a Windows one on version 1.4.5.4. After installation of the companion desktop app, to run Duet Display you connect Mac and iPad with a Lightning cable and then start both the iOS and the macOS Sierra companion app.

When you connect to set it up, your Mac screen flickers a few times as Duet works to get the correct resolution on both computer and iPad screens. There's a menubar app that lets you override those resolution settings and to set other options such as how your Mac should regard this extra display.

On an old late-2012 iMac, getting a 12.9-inch iPad Pro to talk to the Mac took around 45 seconds through a Thunderbolt dock, and about 5 to 6 seconds when directly connected. That was consistent each time we tried it across Duet Display's resolution and frequency selections, even when tested on a 2016 MacBook Pro, so Duet Display is not really built to be continually connected and disconnected.

You can still press the iPad's home button and go to other iOS apps while it's connected, though, and Duet Display will work it out when you get back in far less time than the original connection.

Macs have always handled multiple monitors very well. With Duet Display or any other external screen, you can choose to have your Mac's display mirrored. Much more usefully, you can use it to literally extend the Mac's display.

Connect your iPad with Duet Display running and you can drag a window from your Mac's screen over onto the iPad. You can use it to store palettes from apps like Photoshop or Pixelmator. Slide your email or To Do app over to it.

This extra real estate is the primary reason to buy Duet Display. Perhaps if you're teaching someone how to use certain software it might be useful to mirror your screen.

You're unlikely to use it for presentations, though, as the iPad must remain connected via a Lightning cable and even short, quality ones can cost too much. If you're a big presenter, get an Apple TV and use AirPlay, and use that instead.

Nonetheless, any time when you need to see more information at once or it will just help your productivity to be able to glance over at some detail, you will benefit from having Duet Display.

For instance, If you're the sort who likes to tweet about films while you're watching them - the most common such tweet being "What did I just miss?" - then this is also for you.

Does your workplace use Slack? Toss that over on to the iPad, and work on your main screen, unfettered. Got a home server? Use an old iPad as a small touchscreen to interface with iTunes instead of running it headless and using screen sharing to control.

Duet Display is probably at its best when you are working in one single, heavyweight application. You can drag app windows and controls over to your connected iPad screen. However, you can only be certain of actually seeing the ones belonging to the current app.

There's no obvious way to predict which pairs or collections of apps will play nice. Generally speaking, apps that espouse multiple-monitor support as a selling point should be fine.

We don't recommend gaming through Duet Display. However, windowed or full-screen movies play fine on our test rigs, which included a 2012 27-inch i5 iMac, a 2012 quad-core i7 Mac mini, a 2012 i7 Retina MacBook Pro, and a 2016 i7 Retina MacBook Pro.

The makers do note that Adobe software has some problems, though we didn't see any -- but inconsistent behavior from Adobe applications with third-party utilities should surprise nobody. What you can be certain of, is that any one app you're using can spread out across your Mac and iPad screens.




It doesn't have to be an iPad: You can connect your iPhone to Duet Display and have it be your Mac screen's extension. It's less useful because certain windows like image tools are arguably too small, but you can do it. What you can't do is connect more than one iOS device to your Mac at a time, though the makers say they're considering this for the future.

This convenience of a second display that you connect only when you need it has been true and enjoyed since the app first launched toward the end of 2014. Once it's running and you're dragging windows around, the new version 1.3.7 for iOS feels faster than before. That's a boon rather than a needed improvement, though -- it has always been fast enough, and faster than some wireless options that we'll be examining in coming days.

Nonetheless, the snappy feel of it would be reason enough to upgrade, particularly as this version is free to existing users.

Like the late-night hucksters used to say, there's more. Assuming you're running macOS Sierra, you can elect to have Apple's Touch Bar on your iPad.




The addition will be of less use to you if you have a MacBook Pro with an actual Touch Bar. Try as we might, there's just no good way we found position an iPad so that it's as convenient as the real thing. Yet, if you are using it for palettes or as a video scrubber on the iPad screen, the Touch Bar display is just another form of those.

Using this new version of the app and also paying an annual $20 subscription gets you another significant benefit. Duet Pro, as the subscription is called, is specifically for making your connected iPad also become a drawing tablet for your Mac. It's how to use your Apple Pencil on your Mac.

While the Apple Pencil can be used with Duet Display's base application without the subscription, and so can your finger, the $99 peripheral functions as little more than a dumb $1 stylus without the add-on. The yearly add-on brings palm rejection, and pressure sensitivity for both macOS and Windows.

We feel that while there is a very slight amount of input lag as compared to using the Apple Pencil natively within iOS or using a very expensive Wacom tablet, the functionality is still far better than most other options.

Artists we've spoken to and let fiddle with our hardware don't find the lag to be a deal-breaker, prefer the Apple Pencil in Duet Display to some of the lower-end Wacom offerings, and vastly prefer it to a drawing tablet with no display.

Duet Display 1.3.7 requires iOS 8.0 or higher and normally costs $19.99 on the App Store but is on sale for the holiday season for $9.99.

The iOS requirement eliminates the original iPad, which is stuck on iOS 5, from using the Duet Display. However, tests even on the iPad 2 and 3 with the old 30-pin connector were smooth.

Caveat emptor: recently a very similarly named app with the same icon, same description, and same links to websites but different developer, has appeared on the App Store to capitalize on the press surrounding the update. AppleInsider's link is to the genuine article.

You'll also need the free companion macOS Sierra app which is available direct from the maker's website, as is the Windows version.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    Like (I suspect) many people, I'm stuck with Windows at work but use a Mac at home.  I just wish Duet would work with Citrix for when I connect to the work servers.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 28
    Mahnud Mahnud Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Will this work with a 13 inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar that is also connected to the new LG 5K display? It's unclear to me whether this would constitute a third display that's not supported.
  • Reply 3 of 28
    jdwjdw Posts: 1,333member
    The yearly add-on brings palm rejection, and pressure sensitivity for both macOS and Windows.
    Why must I pay for an endless subscription for only that?  Are those features constantly evolving such that one must pay for them endlessly?
    neo-techdoozydozenpulseimages
  • Reply 4 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,861administrator
    Mahnud said:
    Will this work with a 13 inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar that is also connected to the new LG 5K display? It's unclear to me whether this would constitute a third display that's not supported.
    A 13-inch display can support as many monitors as you have graphical horsepower to drive it. For instance, if you plug the 13-inch into a dock with multiple 1080P displays, you're good to go.

    So, in short, yes.
    doozydozenwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,861administrator

    jdw said:
    The yearly add-on brings palm rejection, and pressure sensitivity for both macOS and Windows.
    Why must I pay for an endless subscription for only that?  Are those features constantly evolving such that one must pay for them endlessly?
    If you need the features, you're probably happy to pay for it. If you're not, then you won't. Software development isn't cheap.

    The way the app store works, is you can't charge for updates unless you make an entirely new app. If you do that, then there's no way to offer upgrade pricing from previous versions without promotion shenanigans or creative use of the software bundle feature.

    I'm sure that Apple Pencil refinements will be the vast majority of the developer's work going forward, and as such, it makes sense for that group to bear the burden of the development cost.
    jdwdoozydozenmacgui
  • Reply 6 of 28
    Mahnud said:
    Will this work with a 13 inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar that is also connected to the new LG 5K display? It's unclear to me whether this would constitute a third display that's not supported.
    I have two auxiliary displays hooked up to my iMac 5K. When Duet is running on my iPad Pro, I can only drag windows to to iPad. Duet won't let me utilize my other displays. I must choose between two 24-inch displays or the 12.9-inch iPad screen. Duet loses this one.
    doozydozenpulseimages
  • Reply 7 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,861administrator
    Mahnud said:
    Will this work with a 13 inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar that is also connected to the new LG 5K display? It's unclear to me whether this would constitute a third display that's not supported.
    Just tested with a 13 MBP with TouchBar and a 4K, and it was fine. I'll test with the 5K when it gets here, probably over the weekend.
    Mahnud watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 28

    jdw said:
    The yearly add-on brings palm rejection, and pressure sensitivity for both macOS and Windows.
    Why must I pay for an endless subscription for only that?  Are those features constantly evolving such that one must pay for them endlessly?
    If you need the features, you're probably happy to pay for it. If you're not, then you won't. Software development isn't cheap.

    The way the app store works, is you can't charge for updates unless you make an entirely new app. If you do that, then there's no way to offer upgrade pricing from previous versions without promotion shenanigans or creative use of the software bundle feature.

    I'm sure that Apple Pencil refinements will be the vast majority of the developer's work going forward, and as such, it makes sense for that group to bear the burden of the development cost.

    I have Duet running on a 12" iPad Pro and it's OK.

    I suspect that:
    • the rumored early 2017 iPad Pro will include the ability to connect directly to a Mac and be used as an auxiliary display, auxiliary KB/Trackpad and as a graphics tablet I/O.
    • Adobe, Pixelmator, AutoDesk, Apple, etc. will supply Mac and iPad Pro apps that operate stand-alone and/or interconnected.
    • there is a great potential for image editing on the iPad Pro for industries such as healthcare/patient care, Drafting/Construction, etc.

    Sadly, this will take all the wind from Duet's sails.

    edited December 2016 doozydozenbigpicssirozha
  • Reply 9 of 28

    I have Duet running on a 12" iPad Pro and it's OK.

    I suspect that:
    • the rumored early 2017 iPad Pro will include the ability to connect directly to a Mac and be used as an auxiliary display, auxiliary KB/Trackpad and as a graphics tablet I/O.
    • Adobe, Pixelmator, AutoDesk, Apple, etc. will supply Mac and iPad Pro apps that operate stand-alone and/or interconnected.
    • there is a great potential for image editing on the iPad Pro for industries such as healthcare/patient care, Drafting/Construction, etc.

    Sadly, this will take all the wind from Duet's sails.

    It will probably also crush Wacom sales too.
    edited December 2016 doozydozen
  • Reply 10 of 28

    jdw said:
    The yearly add-on brings palm rejection, and pressure sensitivity for both macOS and Windows.
    Why must I pay for an endless subscription for only that?  Are those features constantly evolving such that one must pay for them endlessly?
    If you need the features, you're probably happy to pay for it. If you're not, then you won't. Software development isn't cheap.

    The way the app store works, is you can't charge for updates unless you make an entirely new app. If you do that, then there's no way to offer upgrade pricing from previous versions without promotion shenanigans or creative use of the software bundle feature.

    I'm sure that Apple Pencil refinements will be the vast majority of the developer's work going forward, and as such, it makes sense for that group to bear the burden of the development cost.
    It could have certainly been a 1 time in app purchase. It did not have to be a $20 a year subscription. $20 is about all these features are worth. It's all I paid for Astro and it does everything (and wirelessly too) but the touch bar and I'm sure that's coming soon.
    stantheman
  • Reply 11 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,861administrator
    It could have certainly been a 1 time in app purchase. It did not have to be a $20 a year subscription. $20 is about all these features are worth. It's all I paid for Astro and it does everything (and wirelessly too) but the touch bar and I'm sure that's coming soon.
    Take it up with the developer. Sure, it could have been, but it isn't. Because you think that $20 once is all that these features are worth does not mean that everybody does, or should, feel that way. The race to the bottom for software prices is short-term good for the consumer, but bad for the future of the industry.

    I bought it to test it out. I don't need the added features it brings, so I'm not buying a subscription again.
    edited December 2016 stantheman
  • Reply 12 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,861administrator


    I suspect that:
    • the rumored early 2017 iPad Pro will include the ability to connect directly to a Mac and be used as an auxiliary display, auxiliary KB/Trackpad and as a graphics tablet I/O.
    • Adobe, Pixelmator, AutoDesk, Apple, etc. will supply Mac and iPad Pro apps that operate stand-alone and/or interconnected.
    • there is a great potential for image editing on the iPad Pro for industries such as healthcare/patient care, Drafting/Construction, etc.

    Sadly, this will take all the wind from Duet's sails.

    Point 1: that would be quite cool, but I doubt its going to happen (and haven't heard anything remotely approaching it), and it won't be retro-active to older iPads.
    Point 2: Related, I'm surprised that there aren't more iPad as a satellite input device apps, like you describe here.
    Point 3: Yes. There's a new hospital in California that's gone all-in on iPad/Apple TV for patient care and information, and a number of other facilities have used the iPad for a long time for data entry and whatnot.
    doozydozen
  • Reply 13 of 28
    It could have certainly been a 1 time in app purchase. It did not have to be a $20 a year subscription. $20 is about all these features are worth. It's all I paid for Astro and it does everything (and wirelessly too) but the touch bar and I'm sure that's coming soon.
    Take it up with the developer. Sure, it could have been, but it isn't. Because you think that $20 once is all that these features are worth does not mean that everybody does, or should, feel that way. The race to the bottom for software prices is short-term good for the consumer, but bad for the future of the industry.

    I bought it to test it out. I don't need the added features it brings, so I'm not buying a subscription again.
    I took it up with them by opting for another product. 
  • Reply 14 of 28
    Mahnud said:
    Will this work with a 13 inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar that is also connected to the new LG 5K display? It's unclear to me whether this would constitute a third display that's not supported.
    Not if you use scaled resolution on either your MBP or display. I have just bought Duet on the basis of this review and found that it turns my main display black as soon as I try to use my normal resolution for internal retina display or my external 4k display - ie. anything other than default.

    So the times when I would want Duet are when I need to see more on screen. So why would I make things worse by using Duet?

    Other than being useless for anything to do with productivity, it is quite slick, and it's a good way of trying out the touch bar.
  • Reply 15 of 28
    anomeanome Posts: 1,533member
    joebloggs said:
    Like (I suspect) many people, I'm stuck with Windows at work but use a Mac at home.  I just wish Duet would work with Citrix for when I connect to the work servers.
    Yeah, I noticed that with older versions - Citrix doesn't recognise the Duet display, which means I couldn't use my iPad to emulate my 3-screen work setup when working from home. I haven't tried the new version, but no reason to expect that's changed since it's presumably a Citrix issue rather than a Duet issue.
  • Reply 16 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,861administrator
    polish said:
    Mahnud said:
    Will this work with a 13 inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar that is also connected to the new LG 5K display? It's unclear to me whether this would constitute a third display that's not supported.
    Not if you use scaled resolution on either your MBP or display. I have just bought Duet on the basis of this review and found that it turns my main display black as soon as I try to use my normal resolution for internal retina display or my external 4k display - ie. anything other than default.

    So the times when I would want Duet are when I need to see more on screen. So why would I make things worse by using Duet?

    Other than being useless for anything to do with productivity, it is quite slick, and it's a good way of trying out the touch bar.
    I want to be able to reproduce this here, but I don't think I completely understand what your first paragraph is saying.

    Are you saying that Duet Display works fine when your internal Retina is scaled, and it doesn't work when its at native resolution?
  • Reply 17 of 28
    Hi. I have a 2014 rMBP 15" with 27" 4k monitor. When I set up Duet, it sees everything as a new configuration and resets the internal and external monitors to default resolution (same happens if I disconnect the external or go clamshell).

    When I try to set my 4k monitor back to my usual resolution, looking like 2560x1440 instead of 1920x1080, or the internal monitor to scaled second from the right, they both go black. I did Google the issue and found another report of the same behaviour.

    So no, it's the opposite of your last line. At "standard" resolution it works fine, but I don't use standard resolution, least of all whan I need to see more on screen.
  • Reply 18 of 28
    Bernie de KokBernie de Kok Posts: 3unconfirmed, member
    polish said:
    Mahnud said:
    Will this work with a 13 inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar that is also connected to the new LG 5K display? It's unclear to me whether this would constitute a third display that's not supported.
    Not if you use scaled resolution on either your MBP or display. I have just bought Duet on the basis of this review and found that it turns my main display black as soon as I try to use my normal resolution for internal retina display or my external 4k display - ie. anything other than default.

    So the times when I would want Duet are when I need to see more on screen. So why would I make things worse by using Duet?

    Other than being useless for anything to do with productivity, it is quite slick, and it's a good way of trying out the touch bar.
    I had the same issue with scaled resolution and contacted the dev.  Fix is while duet is running and after you get the black screen, disconnect the USB cable, reset your resolution to the scale you desire and reconnect the cable.  It then sorts itself out.  You only need to do this once.
    polish
  • Reply 19 of 28
    Because you think that $20 once is all that these features are worth does not mean that everybody does, or should, feel that way. The race to the bottom for software prices is short-term good for the consumer, but bad for the future of the industry.
    Subscriptions are a race to the top. 
    Renting anything is bad enough but renting software is a step too far outside of business use.
    VisualSeed2
  • Reply 20 of 28
    dcgoodcgoo Posts: 280member
    It worked great for me, all combinations of scaled resolutions.  Only problem for me was it calls for high performance graphics whenever it is running.  Disconnecting the iPad seems to leave high perf graphics enabled.  A reboot seems to clear it. Although it is a big battery hit if you don't notice it.
    edited December 2016
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