With the new MacOS 10.14 update and iOS 13 update, apple released a new exciting feature, the ability to turn your ipad into a portable monitor for your mac labeled Sidecar. Get it, cause it’s a tiny screen compared to your bigger one. But wait, there’s already an app out there that does that. Duet Display. The question then becomes why should I bother paying for something that costs $15 when Apple lets me do that for free already. And the answer might surprise you. Today we’ll be comparing Apple Sidecar to Duet Display and why you should use or the other. Let’s get started with a little review.
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Let’s start off by talking about compatibility, Apple side car only works with a limited number of macs and ipads that apple outlines on their support site and it’s really limited. Which means if you haven’t upgraded your apple gear in in the last 3 or 4 years and you’re hoping to turn your ancient barely functioning ipad or mac into a dual display workstation it’s not gonna work out. Sidecar is out of the question. Say your mac meets the requirements and your iPad doesn’t? Too bad. On the other hand, duet display works with a Mac running MacOS 10.9 and above, and iOS devices running iOS 13 and above which opens up a lot of different macs and ipads. Not only that but they have support for android and windows devices as well. I personally haven’t tested android devices with duet, but pairing my ipad to my windows desktop has been painless with the exception of some minor issues. So, in terms of versatility Duet Display is definitely more versatile with compatibility but I find that older macs and PCs struggle with running duet display at higher quality settings. And on lower spec machines can cause the screen to stutter.
Now, let’s compare usability. Sidecar can be used wirelessly or connected via usb. The display quality is good, it’s not “retina” quality but good considering my ipad’s size, lag is minimal, and you get some cool features like pulling up a touch keyboard, touchbar functionality, and a button to quickly move the dock across screens. Touch screen support is finnicky, some things you can use the touchscreen for, like scrolling through safari, but you can’t click on things with the display. On the other hand, Duet Display requires a wired connection from your laptop to your tablet unless you pay for the $20 a year “air” subscription plan, which sucks considering you’re already paid $10 for the app and the image quality is just as good as sidecar on its highest setting except the colors are a little more washed. But, Duet Display does let you choose what resolution you want your ipad to use, as well as the frame rate, and energy efficiency settings on both mac and pc. But, at its highest settings, I still don’t think Duet Display looks as good as Apple’s sidecar even if they offer. So, just keep that in mind.
On paper both seem fantastic offering sometimes unique benefits. I’ve had duet for about 2-3 years and I can tell you while it works great most of the time, it’s provided me some minor problems too. It messes with your computer’s drivers to get it to work properly. So some updates do weird things. Like one time my MacBook Pro would constantly have transparency turned off, I would of course, turn that back on because it made the UI prettier. Yeah, I’m a sucker for that aesthetic. But when I let the MacBook sleep and later open it up again. Same problem. Consistently. It didn’t fix itself until I either uninstalled duet or the app updated.
Another issue I’ve had with Duet is that for awhile, when using it on my pc, it would stop me from playing some games by outright crashing it, like Skyrim, The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age Inquisition. It really hated good western fantasy rpgs for some reason. Sidecar on the other hand, works mostly without issues, but lacks options to scale the ui or resolution, at least, on my 6th gen iPad. And I can’t seem to get sidecar set up with a physical connection. I’ll pin a comment if I figure that out.
So, in conclusion, yes. Sidecar is a great, free option of using your iPad as a secondary display. If you use nothing but newer apple devices, then it’s probably all you need. But Duet Display still has a place in this world. While it does sometimes cause minor driver issues, it still gives you the most robust control of turning your ipad, iphone, android phone, or tablet into a secondary display and has support for more operating systems. So, while sidecar is great, it won’t replace Duet Display, but it does compliment it really well.