Tablets are still trying to find their place in the world. Are they productivity tools, media consumption devices, or are they all-purpose, do-anything magic slabs with a bevy of sensors and radios allowing you to unlock the powers of the universe? Air Display leans more towards the latter, turning your tablet into a secondary touchscreen display for Windows or Mac.

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The app works via WiFi, which means that not only can you save a scarce video-out port on your machine, but you can also use the display from anywhere within WiFi range. Unfortunately you can't use your tablet's own on-screen keyboard to interact with your apps but Air Display can send touch input to the Windows OS. Windows 7 includes some rudimentary touch features and if you don't have a touch screen display (read: most of you), this will give you a chance to try them out.

The input constraints, unfortunately, mean that Air Display will be best suited for secondary displays. Think of it as a heads-up display. Instead of alt-tabbing back and forth to see who's online when, or to check your stats/stocks/fantasy football/OCD numbers of choice, you can have all this information available at a glance. At least, that's the idea.


In Practice

Unfortunately, the implementation isn't quite as reliable as one would hope for a $10 app. While I had no problem getting it to run on my Xoom, Cameron tested it out on an Acer A100 and a Transformer Prime and was unable to get the app to work properly on either. He was able to get it working on a Galaxy Tab 10.1, however. In both our cases, enabling Air Display immediately switches Windows into basic mode, disabling Aero and screwing up any custom themes (to be fair, the app's description tells you this in advance: "Aero and DirectX will be disabled while connected to Air Display, and re-enabled upon disconnection").

We reached out to Avatron regarding the issue getting the app to run on the Acer A100 and Transformer Prime. We were told that the CEO had been informed of the issue. Hopefully this means the problem will get fixed and the devices will be supported.

It's also worth noting that, since the display is being streamed via WiFi, the framerate on the second screen isn't great. Mouse movements and keyboard strokes aren't quite 1:1, but they work sufficiently for basic apps like chat programs. The secondary display would be great for apps you want to keep visible but rarely interact with, like a calendar, to-do list, or analytics window.

In addition to the trouble we had with half the tablets we tried it on, I also experienced some bugs once I turned the app off. Twice, after disabling Air Display, my desktop would no longer accept clicks from my mouse. I was able to move the cursor just fine, but clicking wouldn't work until I restarted the machine.

Currently, Air Display is a great concept, but a few too many bugs are making it difficult to recommend. We hope this will change with further updates, as nobody really quite cracked the second display problem just yet (but we really want them to).

Where To Get It

Air Display is only available on the Amazon Appstore at the moment, unfortunately. The primary disadvantage here is that you don't have a refund window. Amazon has been known to provide refunds if you contact them directly, so if you purchase the app and it doesn't work on your tablet, you might not be up the creek. Still, for an app that's this flaky about working properly, it's hard to describe paying $10 for it as anything but a gamble.

Furthermore, because the Appstore is available only in the U.S. (unless you use a workaround), this means Air Display is also available only in the U.S. Why not release it in the Market, Avatron?

Then again, while Air Display may be a bit of a risk right now, we like the concept. And for what it's worth, I've been able to use it every day this week without any major problems besides the previously mentioned mouse issue. If you're feeling lucky, or don't mind playing around with software that's not quite perfect yet, go download the app. Otherwise, keep an eye on Air Display and wait 'til they get the kinks worked out.

Update: Air Display is now also in the Market:

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • Liam Vain

    Is there anything that does this in reverse? I want my laptop to be a second monitor for my tablet.

  • Andy in Indy

    What is the advantage of doing this instead of just using an RDP or VNC program? Can I extend part of my desktop onto my tablet?

    • SiliconAddict

      those apps only clone the existing display on your PC, it doesn't extend it.

    • Nyle

      I was thinking the same as I dont see a 7" or 10" monitor as that useful. I'd rather use Teamviewer to remote my machine.

  • SiliconAddict

    And I supose there is no return policy for Amazon if the app doesn't work?

    I have a Touchpad with CM7 and a Transformer. I would love to get one of those setup for a secondary display as I game.

  • Quentin

    There are others out there that can do this... iDisplay and Screen Slider come to mind.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Indeed, though both of them have a 3-star average in the Market. Nobody's got it figured out perfectly yet.

  • http://www.geekchoice.com Dagmar Schnietz

    I can't think of any app worth paying $10 for. Nope, can't think of one paying that much for.

  • Darrin

    Android Market link:

    It works well on the Mac, though I'm still trying to find if there is a way to use it over USB. There are articles online about doing so with the iOS version.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Thanks for the link, looks like they uploaded it to the Market after originally getting in touch with us. I've updated the post.

  • d3vkit

    And nothing at all for Linux distros. I could really use this at work, but they don't want my money bad enough.

  • http://avatron.com Dave Howell

    Hi. Developer here. We went live on Android Market just yesterday. On Android Market of course, you can return within fifteen minutes of purchasing. I recommend installing the Windows or Mac drivers before purchasing, so you don't have to waste time doing that. Just visit http://avatron.com/d on your computer to get the drivers.

    I apologize to anybody who's on a device that isn't working with the first version. Please know that we had 100% success with the dozen Android tablets we bought for our QA lab. But as you probably know there are hundreds of Android devices. And since the release, we've heard reports from a handful of users who have had issues like those reported in this blog post.

    We think we've identified the issue; you can expect a fix very soon. Thanks for your support!

    Dave Howell
    Avatron Software

    • William N.

      why are you charging $10 while others charge $.99 or $1.99? don't you think $10 is a little steep for this program? Just seems like if i wanted it i would go and find a download for it. lower the price and you might make some kind of money. you can safely charge $1.99 $2.99 or possibly $3.99 at $10 you might as well just expect little people paying for it and mostly download it elsewhere. just a tip. hope you listen :P

  • http://avatron.com Dave Howell

    For anybody who's seen this black screen issue on certain Android tablets, please update to our latest, version 1.5.3. Just went live this afternoon in Android Market. This fixes the black screen issue and some other, smaller bugs. We've submitted the fix to Amazon Appstore as well, but it is in Amazon's review queue now.

    Gotta say, I like the fast updates on Android Market.


  • NewToTablets

    I really wish I would've read this review before purchasing this. I guess I was a bit too naive.